We had been waiting for the 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo for some time. Ever since we first drove the new 991-series Carrera, it felt as if something was missing. Most cars in general, and non-GT3 911s in particular, feel engineered around the base model, so no matter how much faster other versions may be, few have turned out to be better cars.
But the Turbo and its Turbo S sister should be the exceptions, the cars that make the 911 range finally feel complete. This has nothing to do with their monstrous power outputs or at times barely believable speed. Instead it has everything to do with the fact that the greatest advances made by the 991 have been in its comfort, refinement and stability, assets that matter more to the long-distance business users who buy Turbos more than any other.
More, of Everything
No one's going to mistake a Turbo for a lesser model. While previous Turbo models have used the wider of the two body widths made available for normally aspirated 911s, the 991 Turbo has a body that's more than 3 inches wider than that used by the standard Carrera.
To put it into perspective, that increases the width of the 911 from less than that of a BMW 3 Series to greater than that of a 5 Series. With its haunches jutting almost horizontally over the specially widened wheel tracks, it looks steroidal in a way that's reminiscent of early 911 racecars on 15-inch slick tires.
At the front, it's hard to miss the enlarged air intakes and the first driver-deployable front spoiler. It's not just for show either, as it works in conjunction with the three-stage wing in back to reduce the Turbo's Nürburgring lap time by 2 seconds.
But of course most of that time (7 minutes, 27 seconds on standard road tires) comes from the powertrain. It still displaces 3.8 liters, but with stronger pistons, revised valve timing and a more efficient exhaust, power output is up to 520 horses for the standard Turbo compared to last year's 500 hp. On the Turbo S, additional boost pressure bumps output to 560 hp. Maximum torque for the standard model is 487 pound-feet, while the S boasts 516 lb-ft.
Porsche says the Turbo will go from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, while the Turbo S can shave a couple tenths off that number. In reality, however, we know how conservative Porsche is with its numbers and would expect a Turbo S on good tires and a decent surface to come close to 2.5 seconds.
Faster Than It Looks
Climb into other cars with this level of performance, like say, a Lamborghini Aventador or Ferrari F12, and the performance is merely part of a larger package you enjoy from the moment you first see the car. Such cars have a sense of occasion, a latent promise the 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S simply doesn't convey. Its cabin is similar to that of a Cayman costing barely a third as much as the Turbo, let alone the S.
Fire up the Turbo's flat-6 and it's a bit of a disappointment, as the Cayman has a far better-sounding exhaust note. On the Turbo, it's a distant hum that becomes a faintly annoying drone at a steady speed. And as long as you don't forget the back is more than 3 inches wider than the front, it's as easy to drive as a Cayman, too.
But when a straight opens up you'll be reminded of what makes a Turbo so special. It feels as if someone put their hand through the seat, wrapped their fingers around your spine and tried to rip you out of the back of the car. In the Ferrari or Lambo you'd be ready for it because of the V12 howling in your ears. In the Turbo S, you just go.
Slipping onto the Autobahn we managed to accelerate from 50 to 150 mph in one smooth, seamless, absurdly rapid shove, all without once leaving 5th gear. It also gets quieter the faster you go, the drone dissolving away as revs rise. All cars have a natural gait, a relaxed cruising speed at which they feel as if they're being nicely exercised but not unduly exerted. In the Turbo S, that speed is 150 mph.
Sharpened Weapon or Blunt Instrument?
Porsche has thrown an astonishing amount of technology at the Turbo to keep that much power always pointing in the right direction. Both models use the active rear-steer axle from the GT3, torque vectoring and a water-cooled center differential, while the S also offers ceramic brakes, anti-roll control and active engine mounts.
None of those change the fact that despite its hybrid steel and aluminium construction, the Turbo carries the same weight as the previous all-steel car. At 3,516 pounds, this Turbo is the first 911 coupe to breach the 3,500-pound barrier.
As a result, and for all its speed, the 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo is a less rewarding car than, say, a standard Carrera S. It doesn't sound as good, it doesn't rev so high and while the throttle response is astounding for a turbo motor, it can't compare to a normally aspirated engine.
And those extra pounds can be felt even when driven fast on the open road, let alone a closed circuit. The body floats a little over difficult crests and when you turn into slower corners, you can feel the car has an inherent desire to understeer before it unleashes its full battery of technology to overcome it. And by the time the four-wheel drive, vectoring, rear steer, anti-roll and stability systems have had their say, that urge is indeed mitigated and the Turbo will go where you point it.
Problem is, it never feels as natural as it should. This explains why, despite 85 extra horsepower and an ocean of additional torque, the Turbo S is no quicker around a racetrack than the GT3.
Fastest Doesn't Mean the Best
The fact that Porsche has managed to wrap such otherworldly power into a car as comfortable and civilized is certainly extraordinary. It also provides the Turbo with its unique selling point: There's no other car you could drive with such ease every day that feels close to as explosive as this. And because it delivers its performance with so little fanfare or theater, it's actually more startling as a result.
Its strengths mimic those of the previous-generation Turbo, with slight improvements in every respect. For a traditional Turbo buyer, this is the news he or she has been waiting for.
But is it the optimum 911 we had hoped for and even expected? No more than any previous Turbo. What makes it such a great Porsche Turbo is exactly what compromises it as a 911, a car that should be thought of first and foremost as a pure driving machine. Fact is that unless you really want a Turbo because it's the most powerful or fastest 911 in a straight line, or unless you live somewhere you really can cruise at 150 mph, you'd enjoy a Carrera S even more. And save more than $80,000 in the process.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.