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2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S drive review
We test what may be the best regular-production Porsche ever
Greg Kable 4:30 am, August 20, 2013
Simply put, the 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S is the fastest-accelerating road-going series production 911 we've ever driven -- faster than the latest 911 GT3, faster than the manic 911 GT2 RS and faster even than the homologation version of the 1998 Le Mans-winning 911 GT1.
In fact, the new 911 Turbo S is the fastest-accelerating road car Porsche has ever placed into open-ended production, full stop. With an official 0-62-mph time of just 3.1 seconds, it is faster than the Ferrari 458 Italia, surely its keenest supercar rival, for outright straight-line pace. And that's to say nothing of its claimed 0-124-mph time, quoted at 10.1 seconds.
No, it doesn't quite operate on the same exalted performance plane as the upcoming gasoline-electric hybrid 918 Spyder, which is very much a limited-production proposition. But, then again, neither is it priced in quite the same exalted territory.
The latest turbo is fitted with an updated version of its predecessor's twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter flat-six direct-injection gasoline engine with altered valve timing, revised pistons and increased combustion pressure. Sitting on motorsports-derived hydraulic mounts, the new 911 Turbo S powerplant develops a hard-hitting 552 hp. That's 30 hp more than the standard 911 Turbo along which it will go on sale in the U.S. in September and, in keeping with the evolutionary process, some 29 bhp more than the old 911 Turbo S, which didn't exactly come across as being in desperate need of any more firepower.
Torque, the defining facet of Zuffenhausen's original supercar over the years, is also up, by 29 lb-ft over the new standard 911 Turbo but is the same as that served up by its direct predecessor at 516 lb-ft. However, it is now delivered between 2,100 rpm and 4,250 rpm. In a new development that brings an added dimension to the driving experience, there's now an overboost function that serves to liberate even greater shove when the conditions permit. It increases the engine's nominal 17.5 psi of turbocharger boost pressure, taking it up to 20.3 psi and ramping up the torque rating to 553 lb-ft for momentary bursts of full-throttle acceleration between 2,200-4,000 rpm.
Wider fenders and a wider track give the new 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S an unmistakably imposing presence.
Another crucial change concerns the way the new 911 Turbo S gets its added reserves to the road. For the first time, the range-topping 911 does without a traditional manual gearbox, even as an option. Buyers are restricted to a standard dual-clutch unit -- the same seven-speed gearbox used in other recent 911 models offering both manual and automatic operation both through a traditional lever on the center console and steering-wheel-mounted paddles. There are a range of driving modes to choose from, including standard, sport and sport-plus.
The multi-plate clutch controlled four-wheel-drive system of the old 911 Turbo S has also been reworked with electro-hydraulic actuation replacing the exclusively hydraulic operation used up until now. The result, claims Porsche, is more rapid apportioning of power between the front and rear axles together with a torque-vectoring function to juggle the amount of drive that goes to each individual rear wheel.
While it is unlikely that anyone in the market for a car boasting the sort of performance caliber of the 911 Turbo S places a great deal of emphasis on overall efficiency, the inclusion of new fuel-saving technology, including a new stop/start system that cuts the engine at 4 mph as you roll to a standstill, as well as the coasting function brought to other 911 models, has clearly improved its credentials in this area. Fuel economy has improved by a claimed 3.6 mpg to 24.2 mpg.
But like other recent new 911 models, the new 911 Turbo S has also grown in size, gaining 2.2 inches in length, 1.1 inches in width and less than 0.1 inch in height. The main impression when you see it up close for the first time is the added width brought to the rear haunches, which extend out by 3.3 inches more than the front fenders to provide it with some serious visual intent and instant distinction.
All the classic styling cues are present, including uniquely shaped and profiled bumpers -- that up front now use hydraulically operated elements that deploy above 75 mph to reduce lift at speed -- wider sills underneath the doors, cooling ducts within the rear fenders and a prominent bi-plane rear wing that also extends out at 75 mph to counter the aerodynamic changes taking place up front. It also uses wider and larger center-lock wheels and tires as standard -- a set of 20-inch cast aluminum rims -- 8.5 inches wide up front and 11.0 inches at the rear, with 245/35 and 305/30 profile rubber, respectively.
Yet despite the increase in dimensions, a series of weight-saving initiatives, including the adoption of an all-aluminum body shell for the very first time, ensures the 44-pound increase in curb weight (to 3,538 pounds) is more than offset by the added output of the engine. Still, driving the 911 Turbo S is far from the white-knuckle affair the specifications suggest. The towering performance -- and let's not beat around the bush, this is one of the fastest point-to-point road cars ever placed into series production -- is delivered in a fashion that makes its deep reserves approachable and even exploitable in the right conditions.
The 2014 911 Turbo S offers an interior familiar to Porsche fans.
We drove the 911 Turbo S on a mixture of roads in the hills behind Stuttgart and on some unrestricted sections of autobahn -- the very same roads on which we experienced the new 911 GT3 recently. First impressions reveal a significantly more fluid nature to the handling than the old model, with even less body roll, a clear lift in overall agility, greater levels of purchase and mind-boggling traction as you get on the throttle out of corners owing in part to the inclusion of that torque vectoring function. There's an almost clinical competency to the way the new Porsche can be made to dissect challenging sections of blacktop. It romps from one apex to the next with rabid enthusiasm seemingly without any clear limit to its dynamic prowess and great neutrality. Its ability to carry big speeds through a series of corners without any premature breakaway is simply stunning -- clearly on a higher level than its rear-wheel drive sibling, which is arguably more fun to drive in isolation but not quite in the same league on pure ground-covering intent.
Reflecting the changes brought to other 911 models, the chassis is completely new, boasting a wheelbase that has increased by 3.9 inches in length at 96.5 inches and front track and rear track widths are also up by 1.9 inches and 1.7 inches at 60.6 inches and 62.3 inches, respectively -- all of which provides a much larger footprint than the superseded model. Further developments include a switchable PTM (Porsche Traction Management), which includes stability control and locking differential function; PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management or adaptive damping control in two distinct steps; PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), or hydraulically operated anti-roll bars to reduce body movements during corners. They all come as part of the Sport Chrono package, which is standard on the 911 Turbo S.
The most impressive achievement is how the PTM system works when left on, because it allows the 911 Turbo S to be driven up to the limits of adhesion without any premature electronic intervention in both dry and wet conditions. Only when the tenacious amount of grip is finally breached does it spring into action, and even then it is incredibly subtle. It doesn't attempt to reel you in when you're pushing hard but merely serves to provide a safety net when all options are exhausted. Even in sport-plus mode you are able enjoy the benefits brought on by the new chassis and all of its technical wizardry without the scare factor that accompanies the press of the button to disengage it all. Oversteer? You can get the tail to hang out in slower corners when the PTM is switched off, but it takes a good deal of provocation. And even then, the quick reactions of the four wheel drive system ensure it is only fleeting.
The steering is also new and, like much to do with this new Porsche, very much state of the art. The front electro-mechanical system is shared with other 911 models. But as on the 911 GT3, it operates in conjunction with an electro-mechanical rear-wheel-steer system. At speeds up to 37 mph, it steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction to those up front, enhancing low-speed agility. Above 50 mph, the rear wheels are operated parallel to the front wheels for added longitudinal stability as you up the pace. There's added directness, more consistent weighting and an inherent calmness in the way it operates, but the electro-hydraulic system lacks the overall feel, feedback and sheer confidence boosting factor of the old hydraulic system.
There's nothing much wrong with the ride, though. There's now a broader variance in firmness between the two-stage dampers and added control from the springing, too. It delivers truly impressive compliance for a car with such potent performance. The brakes, similarly, are seemingly over engineered, thanks in part to huge six pot front and four pot rear Brembo calipers that operate on 16.1 inch front and 15.4 inch rear carbon-ceramic discs that come as part of the Sport Chrono package. If there is a limit to their ability, you're not likely to come anywhere close to it on public roads.
But for all its enhanced back-road agility, it is on more open roads where the 911 Turbo is at its dazzling best. The engine is a remarkable feat of engineering and truly compelling on the run, providing both standing start and in-gear accelerative qualities bordering on preposterous for a series production road car. The initial response isn't quite as razor sharp as some supercar rivals; as the two turbochargers spool up to the maximum operating boost there is some telltale lag in the delivery low down. But when they do hit their nominal operating window and then extend into overboost, you are thrust forward with great force on a buried throttle at anything above 2,100 rpm -- the point where that prodigious amount of peak torque arrives. The action in lower gears verges on outlandish, while in higher ratios it is a little less brutal but unremitting nevertheless.
True, the latest iteration of Porsche's twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter six-cylinder boxer engine used by the 911 Turbo S doesn't rev with quite the same rabid qualities as Ferrari's naturally aspirated 4.5-liter V8 fitted to the 458 Italia. Nor does it reach such dizzying heights; the 7,200-rpm ignition cut-out is well short of the 9,000-rpm top end of its prime rival. But that hardly matters when the surge of torque is so omnipotent.
There is very little let up in the rush of speed until you are well into triple figures, by which time the longer wheelbase, widened chassis and some of the most advanced active aerodynamics brought to any road car combine to provide Zuffenhausen's latest supercar with vastly improved tracking ability and phenomenal longitudinal stability. The 911 Turbo S has always shown a penchant to wander a bit at higher velocities, owing to a relatively narrow track and inherent lightness in the front end due to a lack of sufficient downforce. Not this new one. A three-stage front spoiler works in tandem with a three-step rear wing to ensure vastly improved levels of downforce in standard, sport and performance modes. It is remarkably stable, even when approaching its claimed 198-mph top whack on an unrestricted section of autobahn, at which it is claimed to develop a rather serious 291 pounds of downforce. As an added benefit, the active front spoiler also improves the approach angle, meaning there will be less scraping of the front end on driveways and the like.
Porsche makes a lot about the acoustic qualities. And true, there is a more aggressive edge to the sound the engine now makes. However, it is not all-natural mechanical chatter through the rear bulkhead and exhaust blare out of the four tailpipes that help create the alluring effect. In a move that will likely have purists up in arms, Porsche has fitted a so-called sound symposer to the new 911 Turbo to generate a synthetic soundtrack. It is a success, providing added aural entertainment at any given point in the rev range, especially on the overrun where there is now an alluring crackle of exhaust. Still, it is far from the visceral attack launched by the 458 Italia's engine at full song.
Arguably better looking, a good deal roomier, more powerful, subjectively faster over any given road, infinitely more stable at speed, better riding and more engagingly agile, too: The new Porsche is a fantastically exciting car. It's also more sensible as an everyday proposition than a 458 Italia, for sure. But is the 911 Turbo S as desirable? Technically, it appears to have the edge. But despite its undeniable ability to tear up roads at speeds few current series production road cars could ever hope to match, it lacks the sheer occasion that comes with driving the Ferrari. That's not to say it lacks for excitement, just that it manages to pull it all off with so much latent ability that it all seems . . . well, easy.
2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S
Drivetrain: 3.8-liter, 552-hp, 516-lb-ft twin-turbocharged flat-six; AWD, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Curb Weight: 3,538 lb
0-62 MPH: 3.1 sec
The Porsche 911 Turbo S makes a case for itself as one of the best production cars of all time.
Maybe they should've added lightness instead of power...