As it was when Porsche made the move from air- to water-cooled engines in its 911, the decision to change over to smaller, turbocharged engines in the revised 991 has raised its own controversies and questions among the Porsche faithful. Among those: wither the venerable 991 Turbo? How would the top-of-the-line 911 change in this new lineup, and would Porsche find a way to retain the mystique of the model known in its early years as the "widowmaker"? We had an opportunity to spend some time with the 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S recently, and while the tail-happy days of the 930 are long gone, the latest 991 Turbo proves itself worthy not only on the track, but on the street as well.
The '17 911 Turbo is quite similar to the previous car from the outside, but the differences are there to be found. You'll be able to spot design cues shared with the new '17 911 Carrera and Carrera S models, such as the redesigned front fascia with its additional louver in the middle air intake, side air blades, and LED front lights. The most obvious unique design notes on the 911 Turbo are the larger front air intake (which angles outward from top to bottom, as opposed to the 911 and 911 Carrera), and of course the requisite 911 Turbo spoiler. On the '17 model, the Turbo's rear spoiler works in conjunction with a front spoiler to make "Porsche Active Aerodynamics" (PAA)—more on that in a bit. Staying with the back half of the car, the extra-wide rear fenders (1.1 inches wider even than those on the Carrera 4) also include large ports to feed more air into the intercoolers. The rear fascia features the 911 Turbo's most dramatic departure from the previous model—and the rest of the 911 lineup—with dual sets of tailpipes at either end, extra outlet ports for optimal charge-air cooling, and a redesigned rear decklid with a central air intake vane sandwiched by striking black vanes on either side.
Porsche has put an emphasis on balancing state-of-the-art performance, technology, and efficiency in the '17 911 Turbo and Turbo S. And with that PR statement, what we really mean is that the list of available gizmos and gadgets grows ever longer for 2017. Like all '17 911 models, the Turbos come with Porsche Communication Management (PCM) providing online navigation, real-time traffic information, Connect Plus, and automatic post-collision braking. The standard Sport Chrono Package comes with four driving modes: Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual. The Individual setting allows the driver to combine settings from the Porsche Active Stability Management (PASM) and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) systems (if both are equipped—PDCC is standard on the '17 Turbo S but optional on the Turbo). The driver can now select the driving mode through buttons on the new "GT Sport" wheel, a generous hand-me-down from the 918. Also on the new steering wheel is a button that allows access to 20 seconds of Sport Plus mode, regardless of which drive setting the 911 Turbo is currently in.
Where the 911 line has transitioned to smaller, turbocharged engines, the '17 911 Turbos keep the 3.8L flat six-cylinder with twin turbochargers. Both the 911 Turbo and Turbo S gain 20 hp: The Turbo is rated at 540 hp and 523 lb-ft of torque, with the Turbo S coming in at 580 hp and 553 lb-ft. The extra horsepower of the Turbo S comes from a set of turbochargers with larger impellers—a first for the Turbo S. The Turbo S also has a slightly higher redline than the Turbo (7,200 rpm versus 7,000). From what we could gather with our (very) limited seat time, both cars retain the driveable-yet-explosive character of their immediate forebears, despite subtle updates. Like those cars, turbo lag is all but eradicated thanks in part to Porsche's Dynamic Boost.
The PDK transmission now includes the race car–like shifting found in the 911 GT3 and GT3 RS; in manual mode, you pull back on the stick to upshift and press forward to downshift. In practice, it's agreeable (we didn't have a previous setup handy to compare). That said, the paddles offer a great opportunity to keep both hands on the wheel during blastoff in a 500++hp machine. A new integrated centrifugal pendulum smooths out the engine performance at low revs, making it possible to cruise at lower speeds in higher gears to increase efficiency. As you might expect, none of this has any perceptible effect on driveability.
Let's talk branded acronyms. Porsche Active Aerodynamics (PAA) controls the front and rear spoilers using three basic modes. Having the front spoiler retracted allows extra clearance for getting over speed bumps or into tricky driveways (there's also an optional hydraulic lift system for the front axle to give an extra 1.5 inches of clearance if needed), but the spoilers can be deployed in more dramatic settings as speed increases to more firmly plant the car. Porsche claims the difference between the PAA "Sport" and "Performance" settings alone can take up to 2 seconds off the 911 Turbo S' Nürburgring lap time. Porsche Traction Management (PTM) and PDCC work to reduce wheelspin, body roll through turns, with PDCC contributing information to the active rear axle steering. Able to vary the rear wheel steering angle anywhere from 2.8 degrees opposite of the front wheels or 1.5 degrees in the same direction, active rear axle steering is said to give sharper, more precise action at lower speeds (or when parking) and greater stability during lane changes at highway speed. But frankly, because of how well all this technology has been integrated, we're really not sure how much of the steering precision could be attributed to the gadgetry on the back axle. Twenty-inch wheels are standard for both 911 Turbo models, with the S getting unique seven dual-spoke wheels to the Turbo's 10. The 911 Turbo's wheels are also a half-inch wider than the previous model.
The tweaking and the tech pay off when you look at the numbers: Porsche claims 0-60-mph times of 2.9 seconds for the Turbo and 2.8 for the Turbo S—scary when you take into account how conservative the company usually is when it speaks of 0-60 times. Top speed is listed at 198 mph for the Turbo and 205 for the Turbo S, and Porsche claims fuel efficiency has been increased by 6 percent on the Euro cycle (there are no EPA figures available at this time).
We didn't get to spend a lot of time in the '17 911 Turbo and Turbo S, but both cars make an impression quickly. What immediately jumps out is how balanced both are—580 hp can feel like a hell of a handful in certain cars, but in the Turbo S, it feels somehow approachable; wieldy without ever letting you forget the firepower you have at your foot. The torque in either '17 911 Turbo is ridiculous, and the delivery is such that the car feels immediately usable both on the track and on the street. When you have to make that merge or pass on the highway, you'll be able to, regardless of the incline, the elevation, the weather, how fast you're going, or for that matter, what drive mode you're in. If you're on the track and scrub a little too much speed going into a corner, just mash the gas on the way out. Solved.
More than ever, the 911 Turbo is a "really fast 911." That's to say, evolution has, over the decades, merged its core personality with that of its considerably more docile Carrera siblings—just with a whole heck of a lot more speed baked in. That's a good thing, for the most part. Nostalgia is fine and all, but nobody really wants the power delivery of a '70's 911 Turbo, wherein you pushed the pedal down for a laugh and the car made you wait for the punch line—famously keeping you in suspense until right about mid-corner. We won't come right out and say "new pair of pants," but you see where we're going.
It's not like the similarity happened suddenly—it's been a gradual merging of personalities over the model years. As Porsche engineers find ever more ingenious ways to make 580 hp usable, the trade-off just might be a little bit of unique character. That said, though, it's a feat of engineering that all of the electronics and geometries can work in tandem to create that exact, user-friendly 991 personality.
With the 991's EPS rack in place, steering feel isn't dissimilar to the Carrera 4 models we drove around the same track. Driving the Carrera 4 and Turbo S back to back showed how dramatically the raw oomph of the extra torque changes the experience, and therein lies the beauty of this new 911 Turbo. The functionality granted to it by Porsche's stability systems practically renders the Carrera pointless as an alternate personality choice. Now, the only reason not to buy the turbo instead is because it costs twice as much. Admittedly a good reason. What we're trying to say is, there's no reason to aspire to a Carrera anymore, because the 911 Turbo is just like that car, but much, much faster. Daresay it used to be, you might have chosen the Carrera even if you had the money for the Turbo, because you preferred that personality. Not in 2017.
So forget the good old days when an errant thought behind the wheel of a 911 Turbo meant immediate disaster, and forget the 0-60 times and other performance specs—none of that matters to the '17 911 Turbo. It doesn't care if you're in stop-and-go traffic, if you're commuting, or if you're hitting the open country to let off some steam. You could let your mom borrow it without too much worry or warning (depending on the mom, of course). It has no "sweet spots" you need to bear in mind. It's simply ready to break all the laws of nature and man for as long as you can keep the nerve to break them, and to cruise to that nice tapas spot down the way when you've hit your limits. It's casually immense, and for those who have the means, it's a hell of a thing.