Beam me up, Scotty! Porsche 911 Turbo S
Words by Ouseph Chacko
Photography by Gaurav Thombre
Select sport plus, stand hard on the brake, stomp the throttle. A ‘launch control activated’ message flashes on the dial to the right of the tacho. The engine levels off at 6500rpm and, when you get off the throttle, be prepared to be disappointed. There’s not much violence in the way the 911 Turbo S gets violent. Yes, your eyeballs get pushed back in their sockets, your kidneys get squeezed a bit and you momentarily get the wind knocked out of your lungs but, compared to the launch control circus that the Lamborghini Aventador is, the Turbo S simply shrugs its shoulders and gets down to it. There’s barely any wheel spin, it doesn’t sound like someone stepped on an elephant’s tail and there’s no one thumping you with a hammer at each gearshift. All you need is a light grip on the wheel and a steely gaze as the electronics and all-wheel drive calmly set you off into low orbit. The Turbo S defines itself in the way it clinically bends time with the same drama you reserve for brushing your teeth.
Okay, I may be underplaying things a bit too much so let me explain exactly what Porsche has achieved here. The stats show that at 3.1 seconds, the Turbo S is just two tenths of a second lower to 100kmph than an LP700-4, and while you chew on that fact the Turbo S is pulling 1.2g and squeezing blood to the back of your skull. Then, while the g-forces ease off slightly and your eyeballs settle back in their sockets, it whips past 200kmph, still pulling like a locomotive on cocaine.
The twin-turbo Ferrari 488 GTB is over 100bhp and 10Nm up on the Turbo S and with all that, you’ll only get to 100kmph a tenth of a second faster than the Porsche. The all-wheel drive, 600-horsepower Huracan is 0.1 seconds slower and you’ll have to look at cars like the Nismo GTR, the LaFerrari, the McLaren P1, the Veyron and Porsche’s own 918 to find numbers that beat the Turbo S to 100kmph. Oh, and the 3.1 second time is Porsche’s official figure. Reliable independent testers (not one, but many), have clocked the Turbo S at 2.6 seconds! Makes your hair stand on end doesn’t it?
The 3.8-litre flat six. Boosted by two variable geometry turbochargers. We know it is light years ahead of the engine in the original 930-generation Turbo that was unleashed in 1975. The engine in the S makes 30bhp more than the one in the ‘regular’ 911 Turbo and it does that by running higher combustion pressures, new valve timing and ignition tuning. Boost is up by 1.2bar and the rev-limit is increased by 200rpm to 7200rpm. Also, an overboost system features on the Turbo S for the first time and it increases boost by 0.15bar for 20 seconds when you ask or it.
This brute force finds its way through Porsche’s 7-speed dual clutch transmission to all four wheels via a quicker acting, electrohydraulic- controlled all-wheel drive system and Porsche says more power can be sent to the front axle now because the transfer case is liquid-cooled. I don’t know about you but I simply adore Porsche’s microscopical attention to detail and I know that’s exactly what makes a giant killer out of the 911.
If you are stupid or brave and find the space (not much is needed), the S will nudge 318kmph in seventh gear. A subtle chin spoiler and rear wing that extends above 120kmph (or if Sport Plus is selected) creates 126kg of downforce at 300kmph and, so, the Turbo S will do silly speeds without blinking an eye and it will do it all day long. Quite frankly, the Turbo S is simply too fast for our roads but I will also argue that driving it is not all about blazing speeds. With 552bhp and 750Nm of torque on overboost, the Turbo S is incredibly effortless. Say you’re following a long line of trucks up the Mutha road leading to Lavasa on the outskirts of Pune. In other fast cars you wait, take a peek to see if the road is clear, and only when you are absolutely confident there’s enough space, will you overtake. One truck at a time.
In the Turbo S you simply pull out and nail it. The brilliant all-wheel drive system and the weight of the engine behind the rear axle allow the 305-section rear tyres to properly hook up and blow you past the whole lot before you can fully grasp what happened. Full boost comes on the second the needle crosses 2000rpm and from then to the redline, it is one relentless rush. On the narrow roads up to Lavasa letting the Turbo S run wild in anything over second gear is terrifying. It causes tunnel vision, blurs your sense of speed, and makes everyone else look like they are reversing down the road. What’s also terrifying is the way the nose goes light when the boost comes on. It comes in so fast that you need to be careful not to light the wick mid-corner. The first time that happened, the car slid into understeer and it’s only the alert electronics and quick acting all-wheel drive system that saved me from making a high-strength steel and aluminium mess in the bushes lining the road. No, the way to get around a corner quickly in a Turbo S is to turn in on a trailing throttle, feel the weight settle on the outer wheels and, when you see the exit, prod the accelerator while you unwind steering lock. This way the fat rear tyres will hook up properly and the 245-section front tyres don’t have to deal with too much lateral force as the engine propels you to the next corner.
The whole Porsche dynamic rule book has been thrown at the Turbo S to manage its fat-ass 60 per cent rearward weight bias. To start with, there’s four-wheel steering. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn 2.8 degrees opposite to the front wheels to make the 991-generation’s 00mm longer wheelbase easier to maneuver and, over 80kmph, the rear wheels turn 1.5 degrees in the same direction as the fronts to help stability. There’s a rear differential lock and torque vectoring that brakes the inside wheel and accelerates the outer one to tug the car in to the corner and there’s Dynamic Chassis Control that keeps the car unbelievably flat when you are cornering hard. None of this makes the Turbo S as pure to drive as the mid-engined Boxster and Cayman.
Yes. I said that. Because the nose goes light when you’re really boosting, you lose some feel from that quick steering. Because you need to learn to manage the car’s odd weight distribution and walk a moderately thin line with its quick spooling turbos, some part of your brain is concentrating on doing that rather than simply enjoying the experience. You’re also distinctly aware that the car is covering for you with a heavy dose of electronic wizardry.
It doesn’t sound like a Ferrari V8 or a Lamborghini V10 and yet it still sounds lovely. The rasp of the flat six at idle is one of automotive history’s great sounds and the yowl it makes as it closes in on its redline is enough to make a herd of buffaloes run riot in front of me. The Turbo S’s standard carbon ceramic brakes are staggering and definitely saved them from being turned into steak!
That’s the thing about this car. Running hard doesn’t stress it out – no temperature warning lights flash, there’s no brake fade, the clutches don’t slip – it feels like it can take all the abuse you throw at it till the Pirelli P Zeros wear out. Other practical bits include the firm but not annoying ride – an AMG C63 S jiggles more than this supercar and, most of all, the Turbo S is an easy car to see out of. You don’t lose sleep at the thought of taking it out in traffic. The ground clearance is decent too – it cleared all the speed breakers on the road up to Lavasa and if you’ve been on that road, you know they aren’t small.
What’s more, the driving position is spot on, the interior is flawless in its build quality and it has creature comforts. Navigation is standard as is a BOSE surround sound system (our test car had the optional Burmester package), there’s LED headlights, paddleshifters behind that gorgeous three-spoke steering wheel, 18- way power seats, the Sport Chrono package (with a lap timer and dynamic engine mounts), adaptive dampers and a reverse camera. All of this comes in at `2.5 crores and yes, it’s worth it. Excuse me a moment while I dodge the many rotten tomatoes heading my way. Done lobbing? I say it’s worth it because it may not have the noise and flash of the Italians, but on everyday roads, in everyday weather and everyday traffic, the latter won’t see which way the Turbo S went. And that’s the thing about this car. It feels so normal to drive and so unintimidating that when you light it up, it feels almost otherworldly.