So, what's the all-conquering 992 Turbo S like with less than 600hp?
By Matt Bird / Tuesday, December 1, 2020
After more than 40 years of the nameplate, and almost a quarter-century of four-wheel drive examples, we all thought we knew the Porsche 911 Turbo. It was monstrously fast, freakishly capable, supremely adept… and perhaps a touch remote given the typical touchy-feely 911 experience. The quickest 911, but never the most pleasant to drive. Then the 992 came along.
And though we obviously have the GTS, Carrera T and GT3 to follow, it's commonly accepted that the 650hp flagship is the best new 911 to drive, combining the ferocious performance we fully expected with a level of interactivity that we didn't. Now, with a standard Turbo along matching the old Turbo S for output (580hp), an inevitable question emerges: might a customer be better served (and £20,000 better off) by getting the regular model?
As you might expect, there's little to separate Turbo and Turbo S beyond the spec sheet numbers. Perhaps the only changes of note are that ceramic brakes and active anti-roll bars are standard on the S and optional on the Turbo. Otherwise, the notable upgrades for the S that had such a pronounced effect on its handling – including wider tracks, four-wheel steering, the reworked PTM all-wheel drive – are all present and correct here. Which is encouraging.
If there has been one upside to the past few months, it's our ability to test new cars in relevant surroundings. And not necessarily where the manufacturer would direct you. A conventional launch for this Turbo would have likely involved a smooth German racetrack, some smooth German roads, an immaculate lunch and lots of profanities about just how bleeding fast it is. The 2020 launch for this Turbo – a left-hand drive car because the UK press fleet will stick only with the Turbo S – involved tube, train and bus to Reading, two McMuffins and Berkshire B-roads with the temperature four degrees ambient. If the Turbo was going to impress, it's going to need to do it in – cliche alert – the real world.
Once upon a time, the notion of getting up early to drive a near-600hp 911 Turbo would have sounded like madness – much better stay in bed and wait for things to brighten up. In May sometime. Nowadays, a 992 is a long way from that. Crucially, though, while it's eminently usable, easier to operate than your iPhone and just as slick, the Turbo immediately feels a cut above a Carrera as a driver's car. Most noticeably that's through a firmer low-speed ride and a tad more road noise, but also a keener turn in and a flat-six turbo that can be heard more prominently. Even at ordinary speeds, the Turbo experience is a richer one than a regular 992
But, quite clearly, nobody has bought a 911 Turbo – or clicked on a story about one – for ordinary speed. And good news: even with power turned down by 70hp, a figure that must be the largest margin between Turbo and Turbo S ever, the 992 is ferociously fast. Like, insatiably, relentlessly, unstoppably rapid – tell anyone this was the ultimate 911 and the overwhelming majority would believe you, such is the car's ability to shrink distances and pile on speed as quickly as the numbers can be spoken out loud. Without a Turbo S for direct comparison it's hard to be definitive, but short of Chiron owners, nobody is going to be left unimpressed by the Turbo.
It's an exciting engine, too, requiring some patience before it huffs and puffs and blows your face off from a little less than 3,000rpm. From there to the limiter around 7,000rpm it doesn't let up, feeling for all the world like it's good for eight thousand as power just keeps coming and coming. A Turbo could have four gears and feel more than brisk; with eight here, including second that's done 20mph before the same gear in a Cayman, it feels borderline ludicrous. And while a GT3 will likely have nothing to fear from a forced induction 911 in terms of soundtrack, this is a more tuneful Turbo than ever.
That the way this car rides, handles and steers lives as long in the memory as its fierce acceleration speaks volumes about the achievement. It's a heavier Turbo than ever but one that feels more alive than it has in recent times, the increased track width working wonders on the positivity of the front end and the four-wheel drive ensuring stability without dumbing down the experience. Certainly not in chilly conditions, that is, as torque hurled to the front wheels can be felt helping out where required. Where rear-wheel drive might have been intimidating, Porsche's AWD system is just the right amount of involving – without ever deceiving the driver into believing they're invincible. The steering is very good, too, the rear axle perfectly incorporated into the wheel's response and with more feedback about the road surface than in Carreras. Same goes for the damping; Sport is initially abrupt but ultimately liveable, and Normal will suit just about everything, being keyed into the road yet without getting agitated. In these very specific conditions a long way from home, the 911 Turbo is a genuinely absorbing drive.
Sufficiently so for you to question the extra £20,000 needed for a Turbo S. Because nobody needs the ceramic brakes on the road, either for any improved performance or unsprung weight advantage. Same goes for the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control active anti-roll; its advantage in a great deal of driving is surely negligible – it's hardly like the Turbo is a wallowy, uncontrollable mess without it. Some will always crave the very pinnacle, the 205mph star of just about every YouTube drag race this year, and those people will love the Turbo S experience. But those after 'just' a 911 Turbo, will find arguably the most complete and, yes, desirable version of the breed yet. Given the Turbo's various accolades over the years, that's very high praise indeed.
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE 911 TURBO (992)
Engine: 3,745cc, twin-turbocharged, flat-six
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 580@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 553@2,250rpm-4,500rpm
Top speed: 199mph
Weight: 1,640kg (DIN)
MPG: 23.5 (WLTP combined)
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