The Porsche 911 has been an aspirational sports car for exactly 50 years, since it was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963. Yet for all the love afforded it, this icon of the upwardly mobile classes has never been thought of as what you’d call true supercar material. But that might well be about to change.
Turbocharged 911s have always delivered a fearsome amount of performance in a pretty compact package, and the current incarnation of the 911 now has a turbo model of its own. Two, to be precise; the Turbo and Turbo S. Both use the same 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged flat six engine, but the faster S has a mighty 552bhp and 516 lb ft of torque – although there’s an overboost function which serves up 553 lb ft for short bursts.
If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Squeezing 552bhp into a 1,600kg car is going to deliver spectacular performance, particularly when all that power is harnessed so well. The Turbo S uses the same four-wheel drive system already seen in the 911 Carrera 4, alongside the superlative seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox. A further refinement to the gearbox includes “virtual” gears – additional ratios created by a degree of clutch slip to boost efficiency.
Efficiency might seem pretty unimportant in a car like this, but the fact that the Turbo S is still capable of 29.1mpg when driven with restraint just illustrates its remarkable versatility. Just like any current 911, the Turbo S offers a very civilised drive when required. The seats are comfortable and very supportive, the gearbox operates seamlessly and that mighty engine is quiet when you want it to be.
That might sound like a recipe for a dull machine but, in truth, even a car like this will spend the majority of its time being driven sedately in town, in traffic or on its way to somewhere possibly more exciting. When you’re in the mood to just get home with a minimum of fuss, it is happy to oblige and more than capable too.
That’s only half the story however. You get a hint of what’s on offer even when driving normally; give the accelerator a delicate extra squeeze away from the lights and even with plenty left in reserve it pulls away as if it’s being towed by a passing jet plane. But to really experience what it can do, you need slip the transmission into manual mode, hit the Sport Plus button and get ready. Gearchanges are speeded up, the active dynamics system stiffens the suspension and the active aerodynamics are deployed for increased downforce.
The results are spectacular. The engine responds instantly to the accelerator and, whatever the revs, delivers a breathtakingly emphatic shove forwards. It never lets up either; the next gear snaps in instantaneously to give one long, huge surge of acceleration for as long as you dare flatten the pedal.
You can experience the full force of this by initiating a launch control start; simply squeeze the brake with your left foot, floor the accelerator then release the brake. All four wheels dig down and put all that power to the road in an instant. Such are the forces at work, it is genuinely dizzying in first gear and 62mph passes in 3.1 seconds, but it feels even faster than that.
Even more amazing is how that terrific performance is so benign too. Our test route included many laps of a racetrack, and despite the power and expense, the 911 Turbo S could be hurled about with virtual abandon. The four-wheel drive, the gearbox and the dynamic stability control combine to allow full use of the immense power but leaving the driver feeling fully in control and bursting with confidence. Few cars could be driven so hard and so quickly by a driver unfamiliar with both the car and the circuit.
It is the duality of its personality that makes the 911 Turbo S so compelling. It is as comfortable and useable as many ordinary hatchbacks yet, given the space, it’s fantastically entertaining and outrageously fast. Sure, it’s not cheap, but it’s as good as getting two cars in one.
CAR Porsche 911 Turbo S
PERFORMANCE Max speed 197mph, 0-62mph 3.1 seconds
MPG (combined) 29.1
CO2 EMISSIONS 227g/km