The new 911: the ultimate geek car

 
Ryan Borroff
This tech-heavy, street-legal racer will have petrol-heads panting with anticipation

IT’S bonkers fast, isn’t it?”, says my co-driver as we climb out of the latest Porsche 911 Turbo S. We’ve been chasing Alex Riberas, one of Porsche’s junior drivers, around the race track at Bilster Berg, Germany, at appropriately blistering speeds.

It’s a tricky circuit, packed with blind hairpin bends, dips and extreme cambers. It’s easily the most challenging track I’ve driven and it very nearly threw me off. The new 911 Turbo S is fantastically easy to drive quickly, but a track like Bilster Berg can expose your failings. It certainly did mine – and I wasn’t the only one, judging by the amount of gravel on the track by the end.

It’s the 40th year of the 911 Turbo, the most expensive and technologically advanced of the 911 range. The Turbo S is the model Porsche has marketed as its flagship since 1973. Designed to be a street-legal racer, these days it blends extreme performance and everyday usability. Never has a 911 Turbo been as easy to drive as this one. You can pootle about at low speeds, should you wish. I suspect you could even commute in it with no risk of back pain.

Porsche has now ditched the manual version – this one comes with the carmaker’s dual-clutch semi-automatic gearbox only – which removes yet another thing you would otherwise have to waste time thinking about. This ensures things happen very, very quickly. I’d have probably ended up in the gravel if I’d been wrangling with a gear stick as well as trying to brake fast enough to take the corners.

Purists will be happy with its performance. The engine is monstrously powerful. The bi-turbo 3.8-litre flat six delivers 560hp to the car’s four wheels. The Turbo S model is the quickest accelerating road going 911 ever. Zero to 62mph can be dispatched in just 3.2 seconds if you spec the car with the Sport Chrono package, which almost everyone will. It can then take you up to 198mph. At this kind of speed, time will almost certainly begin to slow down; I’m sure if I owned one I would end up getting younger.

Even the lesser Turbo model can reach 62mph from standstill in 3.4 seconds, which seems a comparatively small performance hit for a considerable cost saving (the Turbo model is as much as £22,000 cheaper than the Turbo S). Other than a variation in stopping power between the two cars, especially on track (the Turbo S has ceramic brakes), I found it tricky to tell them apart. The truth is that unless you are a very, very good driver, you’re not going to need the level of performance the Turbo S delivers.

It’s packed with tech. Rear-wheel steering aids cornering agility (and parking) by turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels when cornering (Porsche claims it has the same effect as shortening the wheelbase). You won’t notice this trickery when you’re driving, but it means you can corner at higher speeds and turn more quickly into the corners.

Active aerodynamics reduces drag by deploying a splitter at the front, which diverts the air around the vehicle. It has three heights; first the splitter remains in “normal” non-deployed mode, second it descends for higher speeds and finally it can be set to its track-focused lowest. At the rear, the wing can change its shape to improve stability.

It is, though, a little funny looking. Those air intakes at the rear have more than a little Cayman about them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but its shoulders are literally square – they come out at a 90 degree angle. To my eyes it looks as if it’s wearing ill-advised 80s shoulder pads.

What’s the trade off for all of this gadgetry? Well, it’s a colder, more ruthless 911, with less character than previous generations. It’s a 911 for geeks, albeit New Balance wearing, Silicon Roundabout-working, Hoxton-dwelling types with plenty of hard earned cash to throw about. Just as well there are a lot of them around.

THE FACTS:
PORSCHE 911 TURBO S

PRICE: £140,852
0-62MPH: 3.1 secs
TOP SPEED: 198mph
CO2 G/KM: 227g/km
MPG COMBINED: 29.1mpg

THE VERDICT:

DESIGN Four Stars
PERFORMANCE Five Stars
PRACTICALITY Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars