Porsche 911 Turbo Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
porsche 911 turbo review

Kirk Stingle, my favourite Porsche salesman, describes the 911 as the 'Swiss Army knife of sports cars'. It can cruise, thrash, potter, pose, park and ferry in all weathers, with equal aplomb. Get jiggy with the options list, and you'll enjoy all the latest luxury car toys and creature comforts. At the end of the financial year, a fully specced, top-of-the-range 911 is still cheaper than an 'entry level' Ferrari. Other than a winning lottery ticket, what more could you want?

Power. And so, on the seventh day, the zealots of Zuffenhausen created the 911 Turbo. And on the eighth day, they created the Power Pack. These factory enhancements increase the engine's peak output from a not inconsiderable 420bhp, to a monumental 450bhp. The zero to sixty time sinks to 3.79 seconds. Porsche calls the extra oomph an 'option', but c'mon, you know it isn't. Put it this way…

Crank the uber-Porker up to 3000rpms. The turbos are spooled up; the variable cams open for business. Press the gas pedal. The Porsche 911 Turbo shoots forward so quickly objects in front of you are closer than they appear. The power delivery is violent yet smooth: an iron fist in a velvet glove. Suddenly, the acceleration stops. That's because you've hit the rev limiter. It takes your brain a second to understand that yes, it really is time for another gear. Change up, and the fun starts all over again.

If you order the Turbo with a Tiptronic gearbox, it's best to wait until you encounter a completely open stretch of road. Either way, initially, it's simply a matter of point, shoot and hold on – for as long as your survival instincts suggest. Once the necessary neurological pathways form, driving down a familiar road is like watching your favorite movie on fast-forward. You begin to understand what's happening, and gain the ability to accurately calculate the exact moment to press play.

Equally important, you learn to trust the brakes. If the Turbo's go-pedal is a fast forward button, its brake pedal is, near as dammit, pause. The Turbo will stop from 60mph in just 2.4 seconds. I'm told there's no danger of your retinas detaching if you slam on anchors at serious speeds, but I'm not convinced. Anyway, if a car's only as good as its brakes, the Porsche Turbo is about as good as it gets.

That said, in terms of outright speed, the Turbo is no longer in a class of its own. I watched a BMW M5 keep pace with a Turbo all the way to 150mph. A de-restricted Mercedes S600 (with a Maybach-derived twin-turbo V12) can show Stuttgart's finest a clean pair of heels right up to the Porker's 189mph top end. But nothing outside of mortgage money Italian superwides – Pagani Zonda C12S, Enzo Ferrari – can match the Porsche Turbo in the corners.

Yes, I hear them: the owners of rally-bred exotica boasting that their machines can out-corner a 911 Turbo. At the risk of doubling my negatives, I'm not saying they can't. But the ones that can match the Turbo's speed can't match its cornering. The ones that can match its cornering don't have its speed. And the ones that claim to match both don't have the Turbo's user-friendliness. Even Sunday drivers can exploit and enjoy the Porsche Turbo's extreme levels of grip and poise.

This is where Porsche purists join the fray. They say Porsche's on-going campaign to tame the rear-engined 911 has made the driving experience too safe, killing all their fun (if not their wealthy friends). Which is true. If you're the kind of person who thinks running with the bulls in Pamplona is a good way to spend an afternoon, then yes, you'll prefer the old tail happy Turbo. The rest of us, drivers willing to trade macho bragging rights for longevity, will be more than happy caning a modern, stability controlled version.

In fact, the Porsche Turbo is the safest fast car made. You, yes, you, can drive this beast at speeds formerly reserved for young people who wear full-face helmets and fireproof jumpsuits to work. Driving a Porsche Turbo is, with a little practice, child's play. It may not provide the intimate driving experience of its air-cooled ancestors, but who wants to be on intimate terms with solid objects? There's more than enough neck straining speed and driver control to put a smile on the face of any keen enthusiast, and local law enforcement.

Yes, well, there is that. Aside from the Turbo's licence losing possibilities, the rear seats are its only significant shortcoming. They only accommodate small children. Given my girls' delighted giggles during a brief [safe] taste of the car's grunt, I reckon by the time they're too big for the seats, it won't be a problem. They'll want the keys.

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  • John stoddard John stoddard on Sep 17, 2006

    Excellent article. You say the turbo brakes stop the car in 2.4 seconds. Do you have this same information for ceramic brake option (PCCB) on this same car? This is a $8800 option and I wonder if adds any braking power to street driving? thanks, joh

  • MaintenanceCosts Despite my hostile comments above I really can't wait to see a video of one of these at the strip. A production car running mid-eights is just bats. I just hope that at least one owner lets it happen, rather than offloading the car from the trailer straight into a helium-filled bag that goes into a dark secured warehouse until Barrett-Jackson 2056.
  • Schurkey Decades later, I'm still peeved that Honda failed to recall and repair the seat belts in my '80 Civic. Well-known issue with the retractors failing to retract.Honda cut a deal with the NHTSA at that time, to put a "lifetime warranty" on FUTURE seat belts, in return for not having to deal with the existing problems.Dirtbags all around. Customers screwed, corporation and Government moves on.
  • Bullnuke An acquaintance of mine 50+ years ago who was attending MIT (until General Hershey's folks sent him his "Greetings" letter) converted an Austin Mini from its staid 4 cylinder to an electric motored fuel cell vehicle. It was done as a project during his progression toward a Master Degree in Electrical Engineering. He told me it worked pretty well but wasn't something to use as a daily driver given the technology and availability of suitable components of the time. Fueling LH2 and LOX was somewhat problematic. Upon completion he removed his fuel cell and equipment and, for another project, reinstalled the 4 banger but reassembled it without mechanical fasteners using an experimental epoxy adhesive instead which, he said, worked much better and was a daily driver...for awhile. He went on to be an enlisted Reactor Operator on a submarine for a few years.
  • Ajla $100k is walking around money but this is almost certainly the last Dodge V8 vehicle and it's likely to be the most powerful factory-installed and warrantied pushrod engine ever. So there is some historical applicability to things even if you have an otherwise low opinion of the Challenger.And, like I said up thread, if you still hate it will be gone soon anyway.
  • Carlson Fan GM completely blew the marketing of the Volt. The commercials were terrible. You'd swear they told the advertising company to come up with an ad that would make sure no one went out and shopped a Volt after seeing it!...........LOL My buddy asked why I bought a car that only goes 40 miles on a charge? That pretty much sums up how confusing and uninformative the advertising was.