If an automotive decathlon existed, the all-new Porsche 911 Turbo S would handily sweep the gold. But the medal wouldn't be earned on the performance of its 560hp engine alone; Stuttgart's new flagship would effortlessly win for technical innovation, poise, precision, convenience and comfort, too.
Forty years ago, Porsche introduced consumers to turbocharging with its first-generation 911 Turbo. Even though it was a calculated move to meet motorsport homologation rules, enthusiasts embraced the powerful rear-engine coupe and sales quickly exceeded expectations. The German automaker didn't know it at the time, but it had sown the seeds for a new industry benchmark, known simply as the Turbo, that would earn worldwide recognition.
Porsche has now introduced the new 911 Turbo model on the fresh Type-991 platform. Visually distinguished from its standard brethren by rear quarter panel air intakes, new bumpers and an aggressively flared rear end, the eighth-generation boasts a collection of technology purposely engineered to move the coupe from point A to point B as rapidly as possible.
As 911 tradition dictates, the flat-6 engine is hung aft of the rear wheels. For its role in the standard Turbo model, the VarioCam Plus 3.8-liter is fitted with two variable-geometry turbochargers to develop 520hp. For the Turbo S, it raises the excitement with additional boost (from 17.5psi to 20.3psi) and a slightly higher redline to produce 560hp - 30hp more than last year's 997 Turbo S.
Gone is the manual gearbox, taking some of the driver engagement with it, but few will find fault with Porsche's excellent seven-speed PDK that returns with youthful vigor. Newly engineered "virtual gears" allow the oil-bath clutches to slip (without wear) to provide gear ratios between the fixed ratios to eliminate lag. Shifts are barely perceptible in its softest mode, but choosing the most aggressive setting will deliver violent, lightning-fast changes that will have you checking the rearview mirror for shattered transmission parts - none ever materialized!
Rear-biased, permanent all-wheel drive with an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch (PTM) and torque vectoring differential (PTV+), ensure the power is put to the pavement, regardless of the road surface or conditions. And following on the heels of the recent 991 GT3, Porsche incorporated active rear axle steering on the Turbo. This electro-mechanical system uses wheel-mounted servos to steer the rear hubs in the same or opposite direction as the fronts (depending on speed) to improve initial turn-in, low-speed agility and high-speed stability.
The Turbo S is a significant $32800 jump over the standard Turbo, but take note of its extended equipment list. The standard goodies include adaptive damping (PASM), locking rear diff (PTM), active anti-roll bars (PDCC) and carbon-ceramic brakes (PCCB) behind half-inch wider 20" center-lock wheels.
The automaker's new approach to active aerodynamics (PAA) in the turbocharged models is not only innovative, but eliminates the need for a separate front axle lift system. Tucked beneath the front bumper is a rubber splitter, moved into one of three positions by a pneumatic bladder behind it. When stowed, the additional ground clearance allows the coupe to tackle speed bumps with ease. When deployed, either automatically or via a cockpit-mounted switch, the extended skirt works in conjunction with the raised rear spoiler to channel airflow and increase downforce.
A challenging alternative to the Nürburgring, less than three hours north of Frankfurt, is the new Bilster Berg Drive Resort racetrack. The rolling circuit provides 2.6 miles of corners, crests and straights expertly designed to unsettle even the most competent sports car. Driven to the course and forced to play, the Porsche seized the asphalt with the confidence and proficiency of a disciplined athlete.
On the track, the Turbo S is defined by its power and precision. Seemingly unconcerned with its 3516 lb curb weight, the 560hp coupe rockets precisely where it is pointed, and at a dizzying velocity (tighten the helmet chin strap because the acceleration with all four wheels clawing will drop your jaw).
Speed is assumed in a Turbo; what's more remarkable is its increased stability and balance through the esses, thanks to its longer wheelbase, rear-wheel steering and torque vectoring. Purists will be pleased to know the driving aids are virtually imperceptible as they work transparently behind the scenes. And while excess velocity is a happy problem, the carbon-ceramic brakes stand ready like a reassuring parachute.
More than satisfied with its supercar performance on a closed circuit, the Turbo S was aimed out of the gates towards the local countryside to crawl through cobblestoned villages, dodge tractors on dirt paths and stretch its legs on the Autobahn. The champ found the exercise elementary.
On public roads, the Turbo S is defined by its convenience, comfort and competency. With an upright seating position, unhindered visibly and generous luggage capacity (for the segment), the Porsche is a grand tourer without peers.
The traditional Porsche ergonomics make the car easy to use, while the soft leather and contrasting trim please the eye, but the active suspension and all-wheel drive systems emerge as the true heroes. The ride always remains on the firm side, but the chassis is rarely unsettled, regardless of what's beneath the tread blocks. And it's difficult to fault the well-balanced electro-mechanical steering; bets say few will even notice the change.
Many people want to know what advantage the Turbo S has over its premium competitors from Italy, England and Germany - again we can return to our athletic analogy where Olympian decathletes rarely hold world records in any single field. Instead, the winner demonstrates talent in a range of contests, and the eighth-gen 911 Turbo S is arguably the most experienced and versatile player in its segment.
2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S
Layout Rear-engine, AWD
Engine 3.8-liter flat-6 24v twin-turbo, direct injection
Drivetrain Seven-speed automated PDK dual-clutch transmission
Brakes Six-piston monobloc calipers, 410mm carbon-ceramic rotors f, four-piston, 390mm r
Suspension MacPherson struts f, multi-link r, electronic variable damping, active rear-wheel steering
Wheels & Tires 20x9" f, 20x11.5" r wheels, 245/35 ZR20 f, 305/30 ZR20 r Pirelli P Zero tires
Exterior Aluminum/steel construction, aluminum alloy hood, doors and trunk, adaptive aerodynamics
Interior Full leather, carbon fiber trim, Sport Plus (standard)
Max power 560hp at 6500-6750rpm
Max torque 553 lb-ft at 2200-4000rpm
Top Speed 197mph (limited)
Weight 3538 lb
MSRP $181100 (inc D&D)