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Porsche’s 911 Turbo has long been claimed as the most versatile supercar, blending performance with usability, we take a look back at how things started for the Turbo
The Porsche 911 is probably the most iconic sports car of all time, with its various iterations the 911 band goes from the bog standard Carrera all the way up to the maniacal GT2 RS. However, the GT2 RS and the GT3 RS are track focused cars. They have stiff suspension, bare bones interiors and very twitchy handling. All this makes for a very quick lap time, but what if you want to just drive around the city in something that is comfortable, easier to drive but equally fast straight line? Well, that’s where the Turbo comes in.
The first time Porsche experimented with a turbocharger was not on the road but rather on the racetrack, under the hood of the iconic 917/10. Soon after, Porsche realised the benefits of turbocharging and slapped one onto a road car which gave way to the first 911 Turbo. Porsche’s very own supercar.
The first 911 Turbo really pushed the boundaries for what a Porsche could be at the time. Adding a turbocharger meant that the 911 was supercar fast. The 930 Turbo was based on the G-Series platform, but got a wider track, flared fenders and the iconic whale tail integrated rear spoiler. With 295bhp of power (1974-1977 models had 256bhp), thanks to a maximum boost pressure of 0.8bar, the Turbo was a highway mile muncher. The numbers only tell half the story though, cars with turbochargers always have some amount of lag before the power kicks in. Some cars disguise it better, some don’t. The 930 Turbo had a particularly pronounced lag and an equally thunderous turbo kick. This meant that the 930 Turbo was an extremely hard car to master, it would snap oversteer, get it’s tail out at every chance possible but it was extremely rewarding if you got it right. The 930 Turbo was the first Porsche to be coined the Widowmaker, a title its motorsport-inspired sibling, the GT2, inherited soon after.
The 964 had a pretty hefty bodykit on the outside to tell it apart from the standard Carrera. Similar to the 930, the 964 Turbo got flared arches and a wider track coupled with the whale tail spoiler. There were also a pair of oval exhaust pipes to distinguish it further from the Carrera. From 1991 to 1992, the 964 Turbo had a 3.3-litre unit in the rear, producing 315bhp. From 1993, Porsche gave it a larger 3.6-litre engine which produced 355bhp and was more fuel efficient. There was also a Turbo S in this generation, although it was a limited run lightweight special. It produced 381bhp and 490Nm in Turbo S guise.
The 993 generation was the last of the air-cooled Porsches. However, the 993 Turbo did mark a few firsts for the Turbo series. It was the first one to feature twin-turbocharging, with a smaller turbo to cut down lag and all-wheel-drive to make the Turbo easier to get to grips with (pun intended). The 3.6-litre unit in the 993 Turbo produced 402bhp as standard. In 1996 Porsche introduced a power upgrade kit, bumping up the output to 424bhp. In 1998 the power kit would bump power up to 443bhp. All 993 generation 911 Turbos were coupes , but Porsche did a super exclusive run of just 14 Turbo Cabriolets that looked immensely cool thanks to their large rear spoiler. The 993 was also the first Turbo model to feature all-wheel-drive, with a system derived from the iconic 959.
Personally one of my favourite Porsche generations, and one of the most controversial among Porsche aficionados. The 996-gen cars were the first water-cooled Porsches, they were heavier than before, sounded worse and not many people were fans of the fried-egg headlights either. The 996 Turbo's engine was derived from the 911 GT1 racecar that won LeMans in 1998. The 3.2-litre flat-six with twin turbochargers produced 414bhp. The 996 Turbo was also the first ever series production Porsche to break the 300kmph barrier. The Turbo S was even more powerful, producing 443bhp thanks to larger turbochargers.
I know I said the 996 was one of my favourite generations. Well, the 997 was my favourite. I think Porsche absolutely nailed the styling this time around, it looked athletic and taut. The 3.8-litre flat-six produced a staggering 493bhp in standard Turbo spec and 523bhp in the Turbo S. The 997-generation Turbo also utilised variable turbine geometry or VTG, which allowed the turbos to spool up sooner even at lower engine speeds, reducing lag.
This was a huge step up over the 997 Generation cars, both in terms of performance and technology. The standard Turbo produced 513bhp and the Turbo S produced 552bhp of power, putting it slap bang in the middle of supercar territory. Thanks to all-wheel-drive, the Turbo S could put most supercars to shame from a standstill, with a 0 to 100kmph time of just 3.1 seconds. This is the first time Porsche’s PDK transmission was standard on the Turbo. The 991 generation cars also featured active aerodynamics in the way of the retractable front and rear spoilers with three different stages for high speed stability or maximum downforce for the track. For some even this much performance was not enough and collectors like Bhoopesh Reddy, better known for his collection of cars under the name Bren Garage, managed to get a Techart kit for his 911 Turbo S. The Techart GTstreetR kit makes his Turbo S output 710bhp and 920Nm and gets additional aero work to make it stick to the ground. That makes Bhoopesh's car one of the fastest Porsche's in the country!
In 2016 Porsche brought out the 991.2 lineup which saw the full model range get turbocharging, except for the GT3 and GT3 RS, and updated styling. So now, it wasn’t just the 911 Turbo that was turbocharged, but the whole 911 range right from the base Carrera! That said, no Turbo badging was put on the entire range since that is reserved for the flagship of the 911 series production range. The refresh carried through for the Turbo as well meaning tweaked looks and while it had the same 3.8-litre flat six, power figures now stood at 532bhp for the Turbo and 572bhp from the Turbo S thanks to larger compressors.
Just to give you an idea of how closely linked the 'Turbo' name is to flagship Porsches, in 2019 Porsche slapped the badge on to the Taycan even though it has no turbochargers, or even a combustion engine for that matter.
The latest and greatest, the poster boy for the current generations, the 992 Turbo is faster than ever before. The 3.8-litre flat six develops an astronomical 641bhp and 800Nm of torque, in Turbo S guise. This translates to a 0 to 100kmph time of just 2.7 seconds, and we all know how understated Porsche’s official performance numbers can be. It gets an eight-speed PDK as standard as well as a more advanced traction control system. The front track is 42mm and the rear track is wider by 10mm which should improve handling, as will Porsche’s latest stability management system.
Porsche’s latest 911 Turbo is bloody quick, a worthy successor to an equally quick bloodline for their time. The Turbo remains the fastest car among the series production 911s, while continuing to be daily driveable thanks to usable cargo space and the fairly compliant suspension. You can also check out the history of the Turbo’s deranged, motorsport-inspired cousin, the GT2. If you fancy a 911 that can go off the beaten path, there has been a slew of off-road 911s recently, we found the best ones for you to check out!