The 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S is the most powerful Porsche 911 ever made. But how is it to drive?
We went to South Africa to find out, and put in a few hot laps at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit.
First, we had to get there through Johannesburg traffic. Fortunately, while the Turbo S can make 580 horsepower when you mash the throttle to the floor, it’s docile to drive on regular roads.
There’s a Drive Selector button on the steering wheel, as is the case with all the new 911s that have the Sport Chrono package. It’s an option on the less powerful Carreras and Targas, but comes standard on the Turbos.
We left the selector on Normal for driving on the road. This smooths out the bumps and relaxes the steering and transmission.
The Turbos are only available with PDK (Porsche DoppelKupplunggetriebe) dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic transmissions. Carreras and Targas can be ordered with manual transmissions, but it’s just not as quick to choose gears as with the PDK.
It’s very comfortable inside, but so it should be. The Turbo's pricing starts at $181,800 and the Turbo S at $214,800. Both only come with all-wheel-drive, to better handle their considerable power.
There’s not much room in the back for anyone except small children, but 2 2 drivers don’t usually care about such things, anyway.
Both are available as soft-top convertibles, which cost an extra $14,000 each.
When we got to the track, the asphalt was still wet from morning rain so we took it easy while the water evapourated. The all-wheel-drive systems got a workout on the slippery surface.
This year’s all-wheel-drive system is said to be improved by using a new organic material on the clutch plates, for better grip and quicker activation of the individual drive wheels. We’ll take Porsche’s word for that, but it worked very well.
We shared time with the new Targa, on the right here, which has the smaller, 420-horsepower engine but also comes standard with all-wheel-drive. Instructors familiar with the track led the way in the GT3 RS on the left, the race-ready 911 that comes stock with a roll bar and 500-horsepower naturally-aspirated engine.
Porsche engineers wouldn’t speak of their plans for the GT3 RS, which is now the only 911 to not have a turbo-charged engine. Will it be updated with a blower? They wouldn’t say.
Like all the other new 911s, the two Turbos now make 20 more horsepower from their six-cylinder engines. The Carreras and Targas have smaller engines than before, down to a turbocharged 3.0L from the previous naturally-aspirated 3.4L engines, but the Turbos retain their 3.8L displacements.
The Turbo now makes 540 horsepower, and the Turbo S makes 580. That’s good for 3.0 seconds and 2.9 seconds respectively from standstill to 100 km/h, but you’ll need to activate launch control to achieve a time like that. These times are both 0.2 seconds quicker than the previous generation.
It’s almost impossible for a driver to tell the difference between the two Turbos. They’re both insanely fast, and they’re both enormously rewarding to drive. They have different stock wheels and a different chrome finish on their four exhaust tips, but that’s about it. Here, the blue car is a Turbo, the yellow car a Turbo S.
They’re easily recognizable from other 911s, however, by their permanently extended rear spoilers – which extend even farther at speed – and their three-panel air intakes on the rear lid, as well as air intakes on the rear fenders for the intercoolers.
Both Turbos are 28 mm wider at the rear wheels from other AWD 911s, and 72 mm wider than 2WD models. The stock 20-inch wheels are 305/30s at the back, making them a half-inch wider than before.
The large wheels hold large brakes. Both Turbos have ceramic brakes as standard, with six-piston, 380-mm discs at the rear.
After the track dried out, we sped up the laps on the track. Top speed for the Turbo is now 320 km/h, and 330 km/h for the Turbo S. We nudged 200 km/h on the straight, but that was enough.
The Turbos now feature “Dynamic Boost,” which holds the throttle valve open for a while when you take your foot off the throttle, such as when slowing for a corner. Because the valve is still open, the turbocharger stays spinning under pressure and gives instant response when you apply the throttle again. The Turbo S actually has a different turbocharger from the Turbo, for the first time. It has a larger flywheel, making it a bigger unit.
Also for the first time, the automatic shift lever now operates in the same direction as a race car: push forward to downshift, pull back to upshift.
We drove on the track in Sport Plus mode, which tightens everything up and only activates the driving assistance functions if you begin to lose control. The car slid a few times on some of the corners, but never in an unpredictable way. You don’t have to fight with the new Turbos – they’ll do all the hard work for you.
When we finally drove home again, those ceramic brakes made a terrible screech as they wore themselves back in from the fast lapping.
Although the Turbo S costs $33,000 more than the Turbo, some of that price difference is absorbed by options coming as standard. If you don’t want to spend hours configuring your car just so, then order a top-of-the-line Turbo S so you don’t have to bother with such choice.
Even so, there are still enough options to drive the price past a quarter-million dollars if you’re not careful. Want your Turbo in Miami Blue? That’ll be an extra $3,590, plus tax, of course. It’s up to you.
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