Forking over the new 911 Turbo, Porsche stipulated no to-the-death comparison tests or precise performance measurements. Of course we honored that request. But what would you do with the most powerful Porsche coupe ever produced in a land blessed with speed-limit-free autobahns? In twelve hours we logged more than 1000 kilometers, burned $250 worth of premium fuel, enjoyed a leisurely tour of a bunker complex, survived a snow storm, and recorded several pertinent “observations.”
To make the fantastic 997 Turbo out of the perfectly good 996 edition, Porsche engineers first trimmed curb weight by eleven pounds with more aluminum, composite plastic, and high-strength steel. Revised ducting, belly pans, and a larger rear wing yield greater aero-dynamic downforce. The brakes are larger, and the new computer-controlled, on-demand all-wheel drive is capable of smoking the front tires on dry pavement. Variable-nozzle turbos build boost before 2000 rpm and kick peak output to 480 hp at 6000 rpm. The net result is an all-weather interceptor that outaccelerates all Aston Martins and BMWs, plus the Z06, the Ferrari F430, and the Lamborghini Gallardo.
The five-speed Tiptronic version is now the quickest Turbo to 60 mph, because it is capable of building boost before the wheels turn. Mash both pedals, release the brake, and suddenly the horizon ends up in your lap. With winter rubber scratching damp pavement and two people aboard, the sprint to 60 mph took 3.7 seconds of a 12-second-flat, 120 mph, quarter-mile run. After 23.6 seconds of accelerative euphoria, we lifted at 160 mph, not because we wanted to, but because the Continental snow tires are shaky above 150 mph. The fun ends at 193 mph, when six-speed Turbos reach the 6800 rpm redline and a governor inhibits the automatic.
The Tiptronic downside is an electronic mind programmed to seek upper gears and lower revs. The six-speed does the better job of letting the driver control vitality.
Our only handling quibble is that road feel is diminished by the front tires’ driving responsibilities. Give the stability control system a rest, and the traction program is happy to let you fling and hold the Turbo sideways when the mood strikes.
Thirty years ago, the original Turbo scared the bejeezus out of slow-witted owners. Twenty years ago, Porsche built a few 959 supercars to probe the future. The new sixth-generation Turbo, which goes on sale next month with a base price of $123,695, is that 959 forecast come true.