NY TIMES CONTRIBUTOR | EMMY WINNER

2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S

September 15, 2016

 

I have two vivid memories of the Porsche 911 Turbo-

There was the first one I ever saw, parked on Superior Street in Duluth, MN in the spring of 1976. It was brown. Brown never looked so fast.

The more recent encounter was a new 2017 Lava Orange Turbo S model at Thunder Hill Raceway outside of Sacramento, CA. This one I drove. Hard.

That brown first-generation Turbo belonged to the son of Jeno Paulucci. Jeno made his initial fortune creating Chung King canned Chinese food. Yep, Chinese food. By an Italian American. In Duluth.

The entire town was sure the son would kill himself and others with that powerful coffee colored machine. After all, it pumped out a seething (for the day) 245 horsepower and was known for its tail-happy dynamics. All I knew is that I now foolishly wanted a whale tale on my dad’s Delta 88.

While all 2107 911s are turbocharged, the Turbo is the 911’s 911. Equally at home grabbing a gallon of milk or slaying supercars on closed courses, all four wheels propel the S coupe model tested from rest to 60 miles-an-hour in 2.8 seconds. Stuttgart produces more aggressive cars such as the 911 GT3 RS, but the Turbo has balance.

Imagine what the good folks of Duluth would think of 580 horsepower (more than twice as much!) and up to 553 pound-feet of torque produced by the 3.8-liter flat-six engine. Granted, at 3,527 pounds it weighs some 850 more than the original Turbo. With more computing power than was available to the entire state of Minnesota in the late 70’s, the Turbo’s electronic nannies virtually assure the 911 will always remain shiny side up.

Thunder Hill is nearly five miles of off-camber corners, elevation changes, and blind whoop de doos. Hurley Haywood, arguably America’s most decorated endurance driver, offered two Info McNuggets- “I use the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission in auto mode. You can’t do any better”. Secondly, “Trust the car, it will save you every time”.

And with that, the assembled group of journalists ease onto the track slowly, and then, well, very fast. Pushing the Sport Response button on the steering wheel provides 20 seconds of engine overboost and aggressive shift calibration. Top speed is 205 miles an hour. I regularly flirted with 140 miles an hour at the end of the long straight section before massively scrubbing off speed to enter turn 1E. Ceramic brakes, standard on the S, do not fade. At all. Even under constant punishing.

Did I mention it was 104 degrees?

These conditions can trigger gauge cluster messages that suggest stopping for a Coke while the drivetrain cools down some. Not so with the Porsche. There’s a distinct feeling the Turbo S is built twice as strong as it needs to be. The eight cars on hand, including a few Cabriolets, ran constantly for five hours stopping only for fuel. The sole hiccup? A windshield rock chip.

Hurley, was right. The PDK gearbox (the only one available) is a savant. Porsche’s electronic power steering provides good road feel, a rare for the tech. My fingertips and keister knew exactly when all four tires were drifting in a controlled and precise way that the first Turbo never knew. The stability control feathers in as deftly as a Jedi mind trick, going full Darth Vader only when the driver does something stupid, which I’ll admit to. Once. I’ll claim professional evaluation.

With no servicing whatsoever, I drove the tangerine Turbo away from the track south to Monterey, CA for the Pebble Beach Concourse weekend. Then, picking up my son in San Jose, we motored northward along the coast. I volunteered to deliver the Turbo S to the Seattle press fleet. Again, it’s about full evaluation.

In 1,200 civilian miles I learned the Turbo S is livable as an everyday car with a ride quality a skosh firmer than a standard 911. Porsche’s new touchscreen user interface with Apple CarPlay is a welcome improvement. The cabin is moderately quiet and fuel economy is good for an overachiever. Seeing 26 miles-per-gallon on specified premium fuel, it beat the E.P.A. estimate of 19 city, 24 highway. We were not lollygagging.

A base 911 Turbo retails for about $160,000 and the Turbo S tested will lighten your lunch money account of 196K. That buys a lot of pizza rolls. Jeno Paulucci created those too.

 



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