Road test review: Porsche 911 Turbo


  • PORSCHE 911 TURBO
  • Base price: $345,800
  • Powertrain and economy: 3.7-litre turbo-petrol six-cylinder, 427kW/750Nm, 8-speed automatic, AWD, combined economy 11.5L/100km, CO2 264g/km (source: RightCar).
  • Vital statistics: 4535mm long, 1900mm wide, 1303mm high, 2450mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 128 litres, 20-inch alloy wheels.
  • We like: Utterly ferocious performance, engaging handling, seemingly impossible blend of GT comfort and supercar handling and performance.
  • We don’t like: Steering wheel-mounted mode selector feels cheap and plasticky, fuel consumption can be as aggressive as the acceleration…

If you were an impressionable car-mad kid in the 1980s, then the Porsche 930 was the ultimate expression of 911 that was plastered on your bedroom wall. Otherwise known as the 911 Turbo, the 930 introduced the world to a 911 that had bulging guards, wild performance and, of course, the “whale tail” spoiler. They still make one – of course – and while the whale tail may have shrunk over the years, the 911 Turbo still packs even more of a punch now.

So is the Turbo still the ultimate expression of the 911?

The whale tail may not be quite so towering these days, but the 911 Turbo still means serious business.

Damien O’Carroll/Stuff

The whale tail may not be quite so towering these days, but the 911 Turbo still means serious business.

Sort of? While the Turbo sits at the top of the tree in terms of price in the 911 line up and is indeed still the fastest 992 911 you can currently buy in New Zealand, I would argue that the 991 established the motorsport-derived and RWD GT3 (a 992 version of which has just been revealed) and the GT2 as the ultimate 911s.

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What the Turbo is, however, is certainly the ultimate expression of a road-going 911 in AWD grand tourer form.

You gotta have the ‘turbo’ script badge. Not a fan of the tacked on ‘911’ though.

Damien O’Carroll/Stuff

You gotta have the ‘turbo’ script badge. Not a fan of the tacked on ‘911’ though.

The first thing you notice about the Turbo after you fire it up for the first time is the more refined idle over a 3.0-litre 911 – while the 3.0-litre turbo engine retains the wonderfully characterful ragged edge of a flat six with an endearing coarseness to the sound that says “That’s right, I am a 911”, the Turbo’s 3.7-litre unit is more velvety and less belligerent in announcing itself.

Moving off the line is effortless and surprisingly, well, ordinary if you drive like a normal, well-adjusted human being, and the Turbo is a wonderfully refined, comfortable and effortless thing to potter around town in.

Even out on the open road it remains remarkable refined and comfortable, with a nicely compliant ride and docile manners.

Wait… comfortable? Refined? It really is a grand tourer, isn’t it?

The Turbo’s interior is everything you expect from a 911.

Damien O’Carroll/Stuff

The Turbo’s interior is everything you expect from a 911.

Oh yes, it is an exceptional grand tourer that can effortlessly devour kilometres while the occupants relax in superb comfort.

Well, that is until you flick the steering wheel-mounted dial into Sport or Sport+. Then it turns feral.

Slip the Turbo into Sport (or even better; Sport+) and you can literally feel the whole car tense up around you. It’s like it suddenly shrinks (in reality, both the front splitter and rear wing extend, technically making it bigger…), drops a significant amount of weight and gives up all pretence of rational, civilised behaviour.

And then you nail the throttle and world outside the car turns into a colourful blur with a sharp pinpoint of vision directly in front of you, because that’s all you brain can process as the Turbo blasts viciously forward. This thing is seriously fast.

Just how fast is ‘seriously fast’?

Those exhaust emit a serious howl when the Turbo winds up.

Damien O’Carroll/Stuff

Those exhaust emit a serious howl when the Turbo winds up.

Fast enough to make you question if it is even necessary. Only briefly, mind you.

The Turbo will rocket to 100kmh from a standing start in 2.8 seconds which, let’s face it, is entirely unnecessary, but it is also enough time to dispel such thoughts as the ferocious power just keeps piling on and each gear change increases the size of the goofy smile on your face.

But it is not so much the savagery of the acceleration that is the most remarkable part of the Turbo, but more the sheer unrelenting nature of it – every gear change, every corner exit and almost every point in its rev range reveals a relentless surge of power that just keeps coming until you lift off.

Okay, so its fast – but is it actually fun to drive?

The 992 Turbo meets its grandad – the 996 Turbo.

Damien O’Carroll/Stuff

The 992 Turbo meets its grandad – the 996 Turbo.

Normally here is where I would be expecting to write “not really”, but Porsche has managed to do something even more impressive than making a car that is an excellent AWD grand tourer also be a ferociously hard charger – it has made one that is actually fun to drive.

I have never been a huge fan of AWD 911s for the simple reason that they are too clinical – you lose out on the delightful adjustability of the RWD models because of a relentless amount of mechanical grip and traction the AWD system brings.

Sure, they are fast and go around corners in a mind-bending way, but they lack much in the way of fun.

The badge remains the same. As does the searing performance – the 996 is still a seriously fast car.

Damien O’Carroll/Stuff

The badge remains the same. As does the searing performance – the 996 is still a seriously fast car.

But Porsche have managed to keep a lot of RWD character alive in the Turbo and, as a result, it is a far more engaging driver’s car than any previous AWD 911 I have driven.

The AWD system is heavily biased towards the rear, giving the Turbo a nicely RWD-ish feel that allows the back end to be a lot more playful, while just enough drive is channelled to the front to keep it tracking faithfully wherever you point it.

The result is something that is ridiculously confident, yet is still refreshingly fun when you start flicking it through corners.

You can’t really see in photographs, but our 911 Turbo’s ‘Crayon’ colour is quite striking in the metal.

Damien O’Carroll/Stuff

You can’t really see in photographs, but our 911 Turbo’s ‘Crayon’ colour is quite striking in the metal.

Any other cars I should consider?

Porsche really has this price/performance sector all to itself, with anything with an equivalent turn of sheer speed from a supercar manufacturer costing at least $150,000 more than the Turbo, while their similarly-priced grand tourer options are significantly slower.

The $518,000 Ferrari F8 Tributo, $520,000 McLaren 720S and $605,000 Lamborghini Avendator S all rocket to 100kmh in under 2.9 seconds, but clearly cost more than the 911 Turbo’s $345,800 asking price, while the same brands more GT-oriented efforts for similar prices – the $427,900 Ferrari Portofino, the $376,900 McLaren GT and, I dunno, the $349,000 Lamborghini Urus, I guess (it’s the closest to a GT Lambo really offers), all clock in around the 3.5 second mark.

Just under $350k does open up a world of possibilities, and while it is quite expensive for a 911, it is a relative bargain for the performance on offer, and I would argue there isn’t much out there that can match the 992 Turbo’s incredible spread of talents for the same price. If at all.



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