Road Tests

One Week With: 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo

This is what it’s not: a car

The 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo is not a car. Well, yes, it has seats and four wheels and it moves under its own power much like a car, but anyone who thinks this brutal black bullet was conceived and built merely to convey humans from home to office to tennis club should immediately click off this Web page and head somewhere more suitable to their world view. Panda videos on YouTube would be good.

The Porsche 911 Turbo is not a car. It’s a life-changing phenomenon with windshield wipers.

I knew that the first time I saw a Turbo four decades ago. But back then it was only a hunch, an awareness that I was gazing at something truly unique, but a feeling based solely on the recently born Porsche’s fearsome reputation. I was only looking. Since then, though, I’ve driven numerous Turbos. And I’ve come to know. But even recent Turbos didn’t fully prepare me for this latest edition.

You see, the new Turbo is uncommonly fast. Conventions-defying fast. Pass-the-barf-bag, Space Mountain-scream fast. The first time I flattened the gas in this updated 2017 version, my skull smacked the headrest so hard I almost choked on my pituitary gland. We’re talking 0 to 60 mph in a mere 2.9 seconds, the sort of mind-altering, senses-baffling acceleration one normally associates with stepping into an elevator that isn’t there. That’s what you get when you combine permanent all-wheel drive, the traction of a rear-engine layout, an angry twin-turbo, 3.8-liter flat-six, and a cadre of fanatical German engineers who think Sir Isaac Newton was a wimp. Nor does the Turbo relent after blasting you well past highway speeds. Instead, it continues to rush forward in fervor, like it’s chasing something, as if its near-200 mph top speed was a million-dollar lottery ticket about to blow away in the wind.

2017 Porsche 911 Turbo cabin

One thing I realized right away: the rear-view mirror in this Turbo is needless weight. Nothing is ever behind you. The Turbo makes pace so easily, with such an air of confidence and calm, you’ll find yourself going 90 mph when you thought you were loafing along at 60. On empty mountain roads, the gap between “normal” and “Turbo” widens exponentially; the only thing that can hang with you is the sunlight. In a way, the rear end of the Porsche 911 Turbo has much in common with a yeti: people say it exists, but almost no one has ever seen it. Not when it’s moving, anyway.

An increase in boost pressure for 2017 bumps output in the standard Turbo by 20 horsepower, to 540. (Naturally, this being Porsche, there is an even more potent version: the Turbo S, which makes 580 hp.) A Dynamic Boost system improves throttle response, especially when exiting corners, by cutting only fuel delivery but keeping the throttle valve open when the driver lifts the accelerator; this helps maintain boost pressure even off-gas. It works: delivering its massive peak torque at under 2000 rpm, the Turbo pulls like a larger-displacement, normally aspirated machine — quick to leap on-throttle, then pulling with stunning ferocity once the turbos reach full boil. In Sport or Sport Plus modes (the four-mode Sport Chrono package is now standard), the response is even quicker. Part of that owes to overboost, a temporary increase of about 2 psi in turbo pressure that raises the torque peak from 486 lb-ft to 523. Because — you’re getting it now — 486 simply isn’t enough. Standard launch control makes maximum-accel sprints effortless.

The standard PDK seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is, as always, simply brilliant. I never left the lever in auto, always preferring to dab the paddles myself. It’s addictive, the satisfying blip as one gear changes to another in less than a blink, the steady surge of power, the sense that you’re completely in tune and in control of this barely tamed monster. A notable change for 2017: if you’d rather shift with the console lever instead of the paddles, Porsche has reversed the lever’s direction. Downshifts are now lever-forward, upshifts lever-back. This is how every sequential-shift racing car worth its slicks does it, and while it’s a bit mystifying why Porsche didn’t do this sooner, I applaud them getting it right now.

The chassis is capable of wringing the breath right out of your lungs. Updated Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and Porsche Traction Management (PTM) improve both grip and responsiveness — to the point that I believe in one series of tight mountain corners I may have actually cried out “uncle!” And I was still well under the maximum. Seriously, don’t even think of pushing this creature to its limits on a public road. The cornering forces are so prodigious, overstepping their bounds would be like leaping off a Tilt-A-Whirl at max fling. You’d finally come to rest somewhere in, oh, Chile.

What’s truly remarkable is how damn livable Porsche has made this thinly veiled track racer. New touchscreen with Google Earth and Google Street nav views. Comfy leather seats. Available premium Burmester surround-sound audio. Heated steering wheel. A list of customization and personalization options to fill a phone book (and drain your bank account to zero). And an overall level of refinement that almost — almost — makes you think “car.”

Forget that nonsense. Plaster the gas pedal again, rage against the g rush, watch the world outside the windshield blur into a bedlam of color and shadow and light, feel yourself be changed.

The new Porsche 911 Turbo is something else. And when you drive it, so are you.

2017 Porsche 911 Turbo Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $160,250/$167,225 (base/as-tested)
Engine: 3.8L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve flat-6/540 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 486 lb-ft @ 1,950 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Layout: 2-door, 2-passenger, rear-engine, AWD coupe
EPA Mileage: 19/24 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 177.4 x 77.9 x 51.0 in
Wheelbase: 96.5 in
Weight: 3,500 lb
0-60 MPH: 2.9 sec
Top Speed: 198 mph

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Buying Guide
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2017 Porsche 911

2017 Porsche 911

MSRP $108,600 Carrera 4 Cabriolet

0-60 MPH:

3.9 SECS

EPA MPG:

20 City / 29 Hwy

Horse Power:

370 @ 6500