By on September 25, 2011

Good news, everybody! All that drama with the nice people at Porsche is totally over! Here’s how the phone conversation went:


Jack: STOP CALLING ME! It isn’t mine! I had a vasectomy! I told you beforehand! YOU SAW THE SCARS!

Unknown Caller: Jack, this is Gary Fong, from Porsche Cars North America.

Jack: What can I do for you, Mr. Fong?

Gary Fong: Jack, we want to put this all behind us. All us guys at the office put our heads together and decided that a guy who owns three of our cars, has put hundreds of racetrack laps on Porsches, has served as a driving instructor for dozens of Porsche owners, and has over a million readers every single month of the year deserves at least as much press access as, say, raw-dog random blogs with one comment per article. We’re going to start you off with one of the crown jewels in our lineup: the 2011 911 Turbo S. In Macadamia Brown, of course, and with a sticker of $186,985.

Jack: Gary, I feel this marks a new era of trust and cooperation between our companies, and the real winner of this will be our valued readers.

Gary: Jack, I couldn’t agree more. It isn’t about fluffing moronic racetrack oilers or providing free business-class air travel to people who couldn’t hold up the ass end of a pre-school bicycle rodeo. It’s about making sure Porsche fans, and customers, everywhere, learn the truth about our cars.

I was humbled by Porsche’s decision. And as I stepped out of my white 993 and prepared to experience the 911 Turbo S for the first time, I realized something:

The above scenario will never fucking happen in zillion years. Thank God for Dr. Sanjay Mehta and Larry Woo of RH Motorcars, the buyer and seller, respectively, of this extremely expensive and precious turbocharged Porsche; they were willing to let me take it out and run it up to triple digits. TTAC readers know Dr. Sanjay pretty well, of course, but Mr. Woo will be new to almost all of you. RH has an utterly fascinating inventory, ranging from delivery-mileage Testarossas to brand-new 458 Italias to the original street-spec slant-nose Porsche DP935. If you want to see more tests of RH’s inventory here in TTAC, take a moment to let Mr. Woo know. It’s only a 265-mile roundtrip for me to visit their main showroom and I’m willing to make that trip as often as required. Alright, enough thanking the sponsors, let’s drive the car.

What is a 911 Turbo S? Along with the infamous GT3 RS 4.0, the Turbo S represents about the last possible extension of the 997-generation Porsche. It’s a very, very rapid car. The color rags are obtaining quarter-mile times of 10.7 and 10.8 seconds, with trap speeds of 128-130mph. Even in a the current era of hyper-fast production cars, that should make you sit up and take notice. Thanks to the PDK transmission and four-wheel-drive, you’ll reach the quarter-mile mark ahead of the Carrera GT, McLaren F1, and Ferrari Enzo, although all of them will sail by some time afterwards thanks to superior aerodynamics.

Nominally speaking, the Turbo S isn’t the fastest 911 I’ve driven; that would be the Switzer GT2 P800, an 815-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive monster that once memorably bopped the ‘170’ mark on the speedometer as I was entering the mild kink on BeaveRun’s back straight. Unfortunately, nontrivial turbo lag and traction issues hamper the monstrous Switzer until third gear, and even then it’s a good idea to save checking your GChat convos until you’ve grabbed fifth and cleared one-fifty or so. I had the car step out on me once when we were already doing double the Ohio freeway speed limit.

The 997 Turbo S has no such issues. This is what I did: from a nice 5mph roll, I selected first gear in the PDK. After lo these many years, Porsche has finally fitted proper paddle shifters to the 911. No more thumbing your way through the gears. Larry gave me the go-ahead, and I engaged full throttle. The response was instantaneous and head-snapping. The road we’d selected was a narrow industrial-park blind alley which was made by laying thirty-foot concrete slabs end to end. The Turbo reached sixty in what seemed like four of them, bouncing madly around as the wheels lost and gained traction over each uneven gap. Time to shift.

Behold the magic of PDK: it works just as well behind a 530-horsepower Porsche as it does behind a 200-horse GTI. (And probably breaks just as often, but that’s a story for another time.) There was no discernible loss of thrust as the next gear clicked in. My mind had reset into FAST CAR MODE by then after two hours spent driving up in my relatively poky (13.8s quarter-mile) 993, so I had plenty of time to think about grabbing third. By the time I needed fourth, there was a rather large tractor-trailer swelling in the windshield, so I said to Larry, “I’m going to stop the car,” and I stopped it.

I’d never want to pay the replacement tab for Porsche’s carbon-ceramic brakes, but the current ones have a pedal feel best described as “stepping on a steel block mounted on hydraulic rams.” In a few squeaks of the ABS we were motionless once again. Hell of a car.

Make no mistake; you would get used to the power eventually, the same way riders of Kawasaki’s ZX-12 all eventually decide to put nitrous bottles on the thing. My experience driving a few 800-plus-horsepower cars around sunny Powell, Ohio has taught me that there are actually plenty of places to rip out a quick 0-150 everywhere you look, even in suburbia. Your mileage, and ability to survive hitting a tree at warp speed, may vary.

The rest of the 911 Turbo S, excepting the very swank OZ center-lock wheels fitted to our test car, is standard Porsche. That means you’re paying $186,985 for a car that isn’t all that distinguishable inside from a $45,000 Boxster. This particular Turbo S had twenty-six grand worth of options. I uploaded the below picture at full-res so you can read them all.

Some of the highlights:

  • Leather bezel for navigation system: $2,225.
  • Changing the color of the stitiching on the seats: $1,100.
  • Special Cocoa leather: $430. I just want to point out that the “special Cocoa leather” was standard equipment on my Boxster S 550, which was modestly priced at $61,310. Nice of Porsche to charge extra for the stuff on a Turbo that bases at $160K.
  • Clear turn signals on the taillamps:$610. This is because clear plastic costs hundreds of dollars per square inch. Or at least it does in Willy Wonka’s Porsche Factory.

Good stuff, and Dr. Mehta will no doubt find that having a leather bezel on his nav system totally eases the kind of stress you feel after spending a whole day killing tumors with laser beams. You have no idea how often it’s pissed me off that my 993 has plastic surrounding the nav system. Actually, it’s plastic surrounding the area where the nav system would be if such a thing had been available. On my car, that area is reserved for… um, nothing. Just a totally empty space. Once upon a time, Porsches didn’t have “full consoles”. Example photo:

This above interior was considered quite the candy-ass thing by people who had this interior in their Seventies 911s:

I think they used the same shifter in the Chevy LUV.

Back to our Turbo S. What else can I tell you about it? It’s remarkably quiet, even given the Tubi aftermarket exhaust fitted to this model. The leaned-back windscreen in the current 997 really kills the wind noise compared to the old cars. The 997 interior, all jokes aside, is a tremendous improvement over the dismal 996 cabin. At the very limit, the Turbo S defaults to understeer. (Wink.) There isn’t much trunk space, because the front differential eats it all. Get a 911 GT2 if you need to carry large objects.

Naturally, I was charmed by the twin-blown S and was pleased that Dr. Mehta decided to make it a 40th birthday present to himself. (For my 40th birthday, which comes up any day now, I’m going to super-size lunch at McDonald’s and luxuriate in the additional volume of french fries.) There are really only two things about which I would like to quibble.

First, the price. It’s ridiculous for a car that shares most of its architecture with the Boxster to cost this much. Either the 911 Turbo is a ripoff, or the Boxster is subsidized heavily by Turbo profits. I bet you it isn’t the latter. The used market isn’t supporting Turbo prices the way it used to, and the used Porsche market is a very savvy market. Once upon a time, the Turbo cost way more because the engine cost way more, but that’s no longer the case…

…which brings me to Quibble #2. Until the “997.2”, all watercooled 911 Turbos had the old split-case GT1 engine that Switzer and others have regularly pushed past the 1000-horsepower mark on stock internals. It’s one of the great engines of this or any other time, and I’ve put a micrometer on disassembled ones myself and marveled at the craftsmanship. The 997.2, however, has a direct-injected 3.8-liter variant of the standard Carrera engine. No more thousand-horsepower tunes, no more ten thousand racetrack miles between oil changes, no more season after season of vicious abuse without so much as a whimper. In the standard Carrera, which had been afflicted for over a decade with suicidal garbage engines possessing the deranged delicacy of Natalie Portman’s character in “The Black Swan”, the new mill is a blessing; in the Turbo, it ain’t. More worryingly, it raises the possibility that somebody with access to Craiglist and TPC’s phone number can spend $45,000 and blow your brand-new 997 Turbo S away using an ’03 996 Turbo and a mid-range tune kit — and you won’t be able to “tune up” to match. True, PDK will keep you ahead of pretty much everything up to the quarter-mile mark, but after that you could be in real trouble.

All quibbles aside, however, this is a very satisfying car, and we didn’t need a free plane trip or quality time with Porsche’s PR pimps to find that out. It only took ten seconds and a not-quite-open space of road. The company itself may be occasionally loathsome, but the Nine Eleven itself can still shine.

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35 Comments on “Review: 2011 Porsche 911 Turbo S PDK...”

  • avatar

    Dr. Mehta FTMFW!,


    (although, nothing is likely to ever top him getting some Veyron time onto this blog)

    +1 to Larry Woo, also

  • avatar

    I want to comment but my mother taught me that if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I don’t know why but I’ve never been able to get excited about “supercars.” Never put Porsche, Lambo, or Ferrari on my walls as a teenager – always read the articles about those sorts of vehicles dead last in a magazine. I will add that the exception to this “rule” is I will read anything written by Jack Baruth.

    Now a hyped up splitcase GT1 engine powered 911 that’s been turned into a hairy chested beast of an intstument of speed, that I could get excited about. Anything with a $100,000 price tag, meh. I’d rather see a hotrod. (Miata with an LSX, 40 Merc with a flathead Ford, ect…)

    • 0 avatar

      I have to say I agree with you. As a kid, I found modified average cars more compelling, perhaps because I was inspired by the fact that somebody made it. Quite a few kids in high school had “cool” dads with Porsches and the like and a few made it into the school parking lot. The stupidity we had in them was what made great stories for the reunion 20 years later, but your view is the same as mine.

    • 0 avatar

      Dan, the attraction of the air cooled cars is that they aren’t automotive divas. Get in and drive the damn thing. No need for excessive warm up periods, no complicated routine to light it off, no expensive maintenance every few thousand miles(that happened every 30k miles).
      JB has the one to have, in ‘ordinary’ 911s, the last and most refined version of the air cooled Porsches. Pricing on ebay reflects that – 993 prices compare to 996 prices.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I wasn’t saying there was anything wrong with the air cooled cars. In fact I wouldn’t mind one because they can be easily modified. I WAS saying that I don’t care for the “divas” of the automotive world.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed as well.

      But I’d go a step further and say the supercar articles would rarely if ever get read by me.

      Always preferred reading about cars the average person could theoretically afford minus anything about minivans.

    • 0 avatar

      I feel the same way about most “supercars” and Porsche in general, with the exception of the 911.
      I’m not so much into newer models. The 944, 928, and 911 always have a spot in my favorite cars list.

      “I will add that the exception to this “rule” is I will read anything written by Jack Baruth.”

      I’m with you 100%

  • avatar

    So does this mean the engine is prone to IMS failure? Forget it then.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s not how I took it. The new Carreras benefit from the new engine, so routine failures should be a thing of the past. But this turbo car no longer has the overdesigned engine of old turbo cars, with its ability to handle modifications easily. Instead the new turbo has this engine, which may be adequate for garden variety 911s – and stock turbo cars – but it can’t take the strain of modifications to the turbo system…

      • 0 avatar

        Is it really so sure and simple that new engine’s modification is not possible, have people tried anything and failed?
        Or maybe they did got 650 hp out of it but not 800 and so labelled it right away as complete failure?
        IMHO the fact that same type of engine is used in lesser models doesn’t automatically mean that motor is POS.
        PS. Too much brown on that Porsche, different,(light-)color interior would be better looking, no?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        To answer a few questions:

        1) The new Carrera engine is designed in such a way as to eliminate the IMS and the resulting failures. Mike Levitas of TPC called it “a great improvement” in a conversation we had some time ago.

        2) The reason there aren’t any 800+ horsepower DI turbos is simple: trying it makes them blow up. There are untold riches out there for the first guy to make big power out of them. Nobody’s done it safely yet.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d give more time to tuning companies, I can see that 650 hp kits are available in Germany, probably some crazier non-German co. will trick 800 hp output also from the new motor family. “Powerkit IV mit ca. 650 PS und 910 Nm für 997 Turbo/S 2.Generation mit PDK- oder Schaltgetriebe, Motronic-Update mit Sport-Klappen-Endschalldämpfer, 2 x 84mm Doppelendrohre Edelstahl poliert, 200 Zellen Sport-Katalysatoren, Sport-Fächerkrümmer, Sport-Luftfilter, modifizierte VTG-Turbolader, grosse Ladeluftkühler, EU- oder Export-Sound, Ansteuerung der Klappen wahlweise über separaten Taster oder „Sport“-Taste (Voraussetzung Sport Chrono Paket), verstärkte Kupplung für Schaltgetriebe bzw. eine Verstärkung der PDKLamellenkupplung wird benötigt”

  • avatar

    my question is if these cars are no longer using the old 911 GT1 block, what are the 911 GT3 RSR and GT3 Cup racecars using, as well as the 911 GT3 (RS) street cars? Are they still using a NA version of the old block while the Turbo has gone to the new one?

  • avatar

    Breaking news: Porsche Turbo is fast and unreasonably expensive. Film at 11.

  • avatar

    Like Dan and a few others, I’m not big on super cars but there ARE a few I might get behind, assuming money grew on trees…

    One being either the Porsche 924 or 928 hatchbacks or the plain jane non turbo 911, or heck even the older 4 cyl 912.

    As a body, I’ve always loved the basic shape of the 911/912, have for decades and one of the reasons was in the Big Chill (1983) where in the beginning, William Hurt’s character, Nick Carlton drives up in a faded purple 911 or 912 from I think the early 70’s and later is found fixing something up front.

    The mere fact that it’s a Porsche and daily driven and let to fade like a bread and butter 4 door said something and for that reason alone, I’ve always had a soft spot for a little panache and extravagance every now and then when one can afford it.

    Great review as always Jack.

  • avatar

    “Get a 911 GT2 if you need to carry large objects.”-JB

    Possibly the best piece of consumer advice ever imparted.

  • avatar

    I’ll have a 356, thank you.

  • avatar

    Daaamn, I thought that you two had made up, cool head had prevailed, and there will be world peace after all. Guess not…

  • avatar

    What do you think of the gearbox for a car you drive daily and to the track? Would you put it over a manual transmission in the same car?

    Can’t imagine doing 170 mph at the back stretch kink at Beaver, crazy!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Speaking personally, I love the PDK but I would be hideously afraid to own one.

      I’ve been considering buying a used 996 or 997 Turbo off and on for the past two or three years. I would absolutely spend my own money on the plain manual box. It’s very strong and it’s very well-understood, plus it’s become rather easy to operate over the years.

      As bizarre as it sounds, I think daily driving in traffic might be harder on the PDK than all-out track work. There’s a lot of clutch-slipping going on when you’re doing 5mph down Main Street.

  • avatar

    Guy around here has one of these… Great looking car, red with black wheels, sounds amazing. But even if I had more money than I knew what to do with, I think I would rather have a few classic Porsches rather than this.

  • avatar

    I admire the author for being conservative regarding his 993 acceleration stats! Most tests peg the 272bhp 993 at mid 13’s for the quarter at 104 mph or so…

    Also a quick aside: In 1997 R&T tested a 993 RUF CTR-2 with a time of 11.4 @ 133.7 mph. This Turbo S is certainly within spitting distance of even that monster. Pretty incredible.

  • avatar

    ‘Jack: Gary, I feel this marks a new era of trust and cooperation between our companies, and the real winner of this will be our valued readers.’
    I Lol’d.
    When Porsche reached the limit with aircooled cars, shouldn’t they just have kept building the 911 as a novelty car and gone back to the v8 RWD project they started in the 70’s ? Or is that what the Panamera is? Or will they get the Boxter/Cayman thing right soon?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      It wasn’t a novelty at the time. It was an experiment, Porsche thought maybe their air-cooled rear engine days were numbered because of anticipated noise regularions an other things in the US. Those regs never matterialized and they kept improving the pancake engines they were making.

      • 0 avatar

        Once again has the fear of anticipated American regulations ruined car production. I actually didn’t know that.
        But they gave up aircooled engines didn’t they?

      • 0 avatar

        How about European pedestrian protection regulations making European cars have blunt, ugly front ends?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        From what I’ve read, it was actually *Euro* drive-by noise regulations that killed the air-cooled engine. Euro noise regs are apparently very strict. One odd by-product of those regulations: my 1995 Porsche 911 has a very loud horn, but the 1996 model has a squeaker at best.

      • 0 avatar

        I can believe that Euro noise regulations were a real issue. My 1991 (a 964, the penultimate air-cooled one just before the 993) had an easy way to gain 7hp. Swiss noise regulations resulted in a strangled air flow and the fix was swiss-cheesing the plastic air filter housing. I was amazed at the difference – the 7hp didn’t matter, but the change in sound was wonderful.

  • avatar

    What killed the air cooled 6 was it’s complexity and the labor required to assemble it. Next was the tighter emission requirements requiring leaner mixtures (an air cooled engine requires richer than stoichiometric mixtures for cylinder cooling) and last was the sound requirements.
    The increase in price on the 996/997 GT-3 and Turbo was to cover the increased labor cost to assemble the engine and the transmission. (Don’t forget, not only was the engine in the 996 NA cars a POS, the trans was worst) Most of the engine cost had been amortized over years of production. The newest engine design has gone back to a split case with NO intermediate shaft, the timing chains run off of the crank. It remains to be seen whether this design will stand up or not. My initial impression after looking at the drawings was that it might be able to do the job—and obviously Porsche thinks so or they would not have installed it in the new Turbo.
    The air cooled engines all had their issues, but they could be fixed and the potential beyond that was huge. The 996 engine issues can be fixed also but the engine really does not have any potential beyond that because of basic design limitations (ie: the flywheel assembly attached to the crank 4 inches behind the last main bearing support.

  • avatar

    The Singer Porsche retro hot rods are so much more attractive to me than this car. Not that I am even remotely in a postion to buy either of them, but still…

    I really liked my old Porsches because they are cars that an average person with a decent set of tools can actually work on. Even dropping the engine in a 911 is pretty simple once you’ve done it a couple times. There is something so real and accessible about the old cars, even the water pumpers and 930s. They are pretty basic cars at their core, and the hand-built nature of them is evident when you start poking around.

    Jack touched on it in the article and in his comments, but I really don’t see cars like this living on the way the older Porsches do. Too complicated, too, mass-produced, too many plastic parts, too many “dealer only” diagnostic tools. Obviously that’s true of all cars now, but having had so much fun working on my Porsches and those of my friends, the fact that the 911 is in that camp now makes me really sad.

    Anyway, this is a super-cool car for sure. Dr. Mehta will have a ton of fun with it, and I for one really like the brown metallic.

  • avatar

    The main reason the air cooled engine was discontinued was its complexity and the labor to assemble it. Second was the stricter emission laws requiring leaner mixtures, (air cooled engines require richer than stoichiometric ratios to cool the pistons/cylinders,) and last was the sound restrictions.
    The increased cost of the 996/997 GT-3 and Turbo models was for the increased labor to assemble the engines—- and the transmissions. (Don’t forget the engine was not the only POS in the 996)
    The new engine has gone back to the split case design and does not have an intermediate shaft–the timing chains are driven directly by the crankshaft. My first impression after seeing the drawings was that it might be up to the task, time will tell. Porsche obviously felt it was because they installed it in the new Turbo.
    The air cooled engines all had some issues, but they could be dealt with and then the potential was huge, after the issues are dealt with on a 996 engine there is no real potential because of basic engineering problems–ie: the flywheel being mounted 4 inches after the last main bearing( which leads to rear main seal problems) and other problems.
    My personal opinion is that we are not going to see any 996’s in vintage races in 25 years the engine is just not good enough—but on the other hand the 356 guys have been using the 36HP VW design 4 cylinder for years and making them fast—and reasonably reliable.


  • avatar

    Jack, I need your advice with this:

    The 991 Carrera with the “new engine” has 350hp and an official time to 0-60 of 4.6 sec. The new Cayman/Boxter is coming by the end of 2012 and the BMW M3 will be there shortly there after. They will not let Cayman S to be more powerful or faster than base 991 so I assume it will have similar performance numbers to the current car (320hp, 0-60 ~4.9 officially). The new F30 M3 will probably have something around 450hp or so with a rumored turbo 6 (probably with a better torque number than the current car too)

    So the question is, will the performance gap between the next gen M3 and Cayman S be even higher than the current gen cars (I remember you said M3 beating current small porsche range in the past)

    Given the oppoprtunity, will you go for an M3 or Cayman S for the next gen cars, and what would be the rationale behind your decision.

    I am a big Porsche fan, but your input will make a difference for me for my next possible choice of cars.


    (I know I am way off topic, but I thought you will never discuss Porsche in the future so would like to get your opinion using the opportunity)

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