Guilty as ’charged: Porsche 911 Turbo S first drive, CAR+ March 2016

Published: 01 March 2016

► We drive the all-new Porsche 911 Turbo S
► Top speed has been raised to 205mph
► 0-62mph time drops to sub-3sec

Pinch-to-zoom functionality is the big news on this year’s 911 Turbo S. Pinch the air between the right pedal and the bulkhead and you’ll zoom from zero to 62mph in 2.9sec and not stop zooming until you’ve hit 205mph. And those are conservative numbers, 911 head honcho August Achleitner and my spine report in unison.

Want to know what your stomach feels like when you’re thrust into your seat so hard you can hardly hold your hands up to the wheel? Imagine taking a hump-back bridge at 60mph and discovering there’s a sinkhole on the other side leading straight to the centre of the earth.  

Objectively, the increase in performance over last year’s 198mph, 3.1sec pre-facelift S might not seem huge. An extra 20bhp on both the Turbo and S, courtesy of modified inlet ports, new injection nozzles and higher fuel pressure, is one element of facelift that’s substantially less extensive than the changes wrought on the newly turbocharged Carreras, but far from disappointing.

The 3.8-litre flat-six remains, but power climbs to 533bhp in the £126,925 Turbo and 572bhp in the £18,848 pricier S. The engines themselves are identical; the difference comes largely from the turbos. Both get variable geometry turbines, a technology usually only found on diesel engines, but while the regular Turbo makes do with 1.0 bar of boost, and an additional 0.15bar on overboost for a 524lb ft torque output (up 37lb ft), the S’s bigger blower generates an additional 0.2 bar in each case, and an unchanged 553lb ft.

Porsche 911 Turbo S

But the story here isn’t necessarily the step in pep, but that you can now tap into it more easily thanks to the new car’s lag-killing ‘dynamic boost function’. Lift off the gas momentarily, say in the middle of a corner, and instead of the throttle valve snapping shut as you’d expect, it now stays open, maintaining charge pressure (but no fuel), allowing you to stomp your foot down again and disappear down the road with little delay.

In the same vein, there’s also a Sport Response button located in the centre of the new manettino-style driving mode selector on the steering wheel. Give it a nudge while you wait for that epic overtaking opportunity to open up and the PDK transmission slots home the optimum gear for maximum go while a digital counter ticks down 20sec in the instrument binnacle. After that the DEFCON level reverts to five. Turbo lag isn’t completely eliminated by either bit of tech, but it’s modest enough never to spoil your sense of connection with the engine.

The PDK ’box and its excellent mapping is a big help there. Once again there’s no manual alternative, and while you can read how much we loved the Carrera S’s stick-shifter in this month’s Giant Test, I’m convinced the PDK suits the real Turbo’s engine character far better than a manual ever would. Similarly, you can’t imagine anyone sane of mind wishing the Turbo delivered power to the rear wheels alone, not when the four-wheel-drive system gives you so much scope for play.

On track you can take more liberties than a Google accountant, flinging the Turbo into a corner on the brakes, killing the understeer by getting the weight moving, and then climbing all over the throttle. On the road, you keep it tidier: slow-in, fast-out in classic 911 style to minimise the understeer and then capitalise on the traction to slingshot down the next straight. And here’s what it all adds up to: at the Nordschleife in the hands of Porsche’s own test drivers, this leather-lined luxury coupe is 3sec quicker than Porsche’s own race-ready GT3 RS.

Porsche 911 Turbo S

Like the facelifted Carreras we drove last year, the new Turbo benefits from Porsche’s new-style 3D taillights, neater door handles and a revised engine grille, featuring vertical, rather than horizontal strakes. There are new lamps in the nose and finally, an optional suspension lift-kit that allows you to hike the front end 40mm in the air at the press of a button to prevent that nose grounding out on steep driveways.

Finding that button isn’t the work of a moment. The cabin design is unchanged, handsome, and mostly of excellent quality, but as with all modern Porsches the centre console is home to too many small, identical-looking switches for functions like the sports exhaust, dampers and rear spoiler. Far more appealing is the new touchscreen multimedia system. A beautifully flush-fitting seven-inch display now offers gesture control, a map that responds to smartphone-type inputs, and, thanks to Apple’s CarPlay, lets you control your apps too. 

No one could rationally argue that they need more performance than even a Carrera offers, so would you really want to blow £19k more stepping past the Turbo to the S, as two out of every three UK buyers likely will? The standard Turbo is an impressive machine, with 3.0sec 0-62mph capability and excellent body control. But the S adds carbon ceramic brakes, along with Porsche’s dynamic roll control suspension and those sexy centre-lock wheels. Throw the extra performance into the mix and you’ve got a car that’s demonstrably more exciting and no less usable than the standard machine. And despite its sub-exotic 911 origins, a worthy foil for any senior-league supercar.

The specs: Porsche 911 Turbo S

Price: £145,773
Engine: 3800cc 24v flat-six, 572bhp @ 6750rpm, 553lb ft @ 2250-4000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Performance: 2.9sec 0-62mph, 205mph, 31.0mpg, 212g/km CO2
Weight: 1600kg
On sale: Now

Up against

Better than: AMG GT S – The Merc lacks a 911 chassis
Worse than: 918 Spyder – Worse than a hypercar, but not by much
We’d buy: McLaren 570S – Simply because it feels more special
Love: Eyeball-squishing performance, usability, new nav
Hate: More styling sizzle and fewer buttons please
Verdict: Still full phat. The Range Rover of supercars
Rating: ****

Read more from the March 2016 issue of CAR magazine

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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