Wildsau’s Wheelhaus: 911 Turbo (997)

filtered front

Mach Schnell!

Recently I was given the opportunity to spend a weekend with a 911 Turbo with only 18,000 kms on it, told to drive it like I hate it, and not to hold back on the kilometers I put on it. I immediately turned the offer down.

Haha. I keed, I keed. I took this extraordinarily generous offer and I ran with it. Hard and fast.

Where do I start? How do you review a car that I could be rating by the skidmarks in my underwear?

How about a quick introduction to this beast, and then we’ll hit the road, where every Porsche belongs.

The 911 Turbo is the pinnacle of Porsche’s venerable sports car line. The 997 is the generation of the 911 preceding the brand-new one that debuted a few months ago in North America.

In this iteration, the shape continues to evolve but remains unmistakeable for a 911. Helen Keller could tell this is a 911. It’s slightly wider than before, and some surfaces seem more taut and openings to capture air flow seem as though they are stretched and as though they mean more business. The familiar shape has lovely 19″ rims, shod with 235/35s in front and gargantuan 305/30s in the rear. The engine, which hangs out behind the rear axle (a configuration that defies common sense), is a twin-turbo 3.6-Litre flat-6.

It puts out 480 HP @ 6000 RPM. As lovely as that is, it absolutely pales in awesomeness versus the torque that this monster generates. 460 lb. ft. of it. Sure, that’s impressive. But allow me to continue this one-upmanship. The peak torque is available to you from 1950 RPM all the way up to 5000 RPM. The effect is astounding.

engine bay

This car was equipped with the optional Sport-Chrono package – it includes a goofy stopwatch on the dash, which looks cool but isn’t really useful. What’s more useful is that, under full throttle, this option increases the turbo boost for up to 10 seconds, and swells the peak torque figure to 502 lb.ft. Yummy!

All that jam is connected to a sophisticated, and perfectly balanced, all-wheel drive system through, in this case, a 6-speed manual transmission. How much weight is that lump pushing around, you ask? A mere 3400 pounds. Sub-4 second runs from 0-100 km/h are as easy as pie, and it doesn’t take long to approach its top speed of 310 km/h (193 mph). Don’t ask me how I know that. OK, go ahead and ask. I can’t stop grinning.

Perhaps not as grin-inducing of a fact, yet a very important one, is that this car is rated at 18 mpg (13 L/100 km) in the city and 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km) on the highway. Astounding. Seriously. Think about that for a second. Those are decent numbers, but this thing could be used by NASA to test astronauts’ tolerance of space travel G-forces.

 

The Drive

Firing up the car, using the left-mounted key as Porsche’s nod to racing tradition dictates, awakens the delicious mechanical clatter of the flat-6. Though they haven’t been air-cooled for a long time, there are still similarities in the sound at idle, and it’s just fantastic. There’s a Teutonic seriousness to the engine note, as if it’s telling you it doesn’t have to resort to the shrieking of the Italians to get your attention. It’s louder at idle (and under load) than you might expect, but to me, that’s just gravy. I love it!

The first thing I noticed, before I had the cajones to step on it a bit, was that this car is freakishly easy to drive. It’s almost irritating in how docile it is around town. Stay off the go-pedal, and therefore off boost, and this thing drives like a stiffly-sprung VW. In a good way. No surprises, and frankly it’s more comfortable and competent as a daily driver than any supercar has the right to be.

Push in the light clutch, with its perfectly linear travel and feel, and slide the manual into first gear. First, you’ll marvel at its hot-knife-through-butter smoothness and next, you’ll be shocked at how simple the clutch take-up is to manage. Honestly, you could learn to drive a manual with this car – it’s that good and that user-friendly and it brings no attitude to the table. I found pedal placement to be the most ideal I’ve ever driven with, and that includes the dead pedal. The shift lever’s throws are quite long and occasionally it got grumpy between 2nd and 3rd gear under hard acceleration.

footwell pedals

The suspension is firm but remains surprisingly comfortable and smooth – especially in light of this car’s handling abilities. When you drive this car fast, which it happily does all day long, it almost feels like you’re cheating. You can do very little wrong, and it mates this handling with perfectly precise steering that gives you all the feedback you need to make the best decisions. That shockingly supple suspension can be spanked to track-readiness by pushing the Sport suspension button. The almost imperceptible body roll diminishes to none, and there is nothing a mortal can do to upset this car around corners. The price for this is that the ride becomes overly firm and also crashy over road imperfections. There’s no need for the Sport setting – it’s unreal in the normal setting.

Seek out any corner, and approach it at any speed you want. The Turbo will make it happen. Make it tight, and if you’re on the throttle, it’ll kick out the arse end. Turn off the traction control, and it will kick it out a whole lot more, but long before you start heading for the ditch, the front tires retain their tenacious grip and pull you forward whilst the rear tires spin, your tail end tucks back in neatly, and you continue to head in exactly the direction you pointed yourself in. No fishtailing, just the one kick through oversteer, the simple correction, and you’re slingshotting ahead. Just as rad as drifting this thing through tight arcs is taking a wider line through the turn. There’s no appreciable understeer, and if you’re wide enough, no oversteer. Just perfection.

front

Oh right, the going straight part. Push the hammer down, and the effort this machine puts forth is nothing short of herculean. There is no end to the tsunami of torque, and it’s seamless once you’re on boost. 100 km/h arrives exactly at the end of 2nd gear, and in less than 4 seconds. I timed a 0-200 km/h run to take 11.9 seconds. Keep in mind that there are cars that take that long to get to 100 km/h. Acceleration is something this car loves to do – push down the throttle in any gear, at any RPM, and this car is all over it like Kirstie Alley on a meat pie.

What’s bringing everything back down to earth? Enormous 6-piston monobloc brakes in the front, and 4-piston ones in the rear. After repeated braking from high speeds, there was no fade to speak of.

side profile

 

Interior, Tech/Convenience, Rear Seats, Storage

Do you really care about these aspects when it comes to a 911 Turbo? Nein.

Do you really care that Porsche’s traditional instrument cluster doesn’t allow you to see the two outside gauges without moving your head or that the center stack ergonomics are horribly busy and impossible to use without taking your eyes off the road?  Überhaupt nicht. 

Sure, it’s got all the amenities, including a nav system, a BOSE stereo, blah blah blah. Here’s the truth. I never listened to the stereo once. Why would you?!

Materials are first-rate, and fit and finish is flawless. The seats are simply the best I’ve ever sat in in a vehicle -period. They’re heated, power-adjustable, and the side and thigh bolsters are adjustable to your body – for a perfect fit.

front seats

Yes, there’s a sunroof, and a sweet Alcantara-upholstered ceiling panel. Storage – pffft. There’s a small front trunk, and if you fold the rear seatbacks down, you can easily throw a couple of small cases or bags back there. Other than that, you’ll have to make do with a couple of tiny compartments in the center console. Automatic climate control? Check.

That’s right. I said rear seats. They’re actually usable for kids, but there are no LATCH connectors for child seats. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, PORSCHE?  Tsk tsk. Luckily, you can keep this car on boost and just keep the kids pushed back into their seats with the torque.

rear seat

The things that matter are done right. Steering wheel? Flawless, manually adjustable with nary a button to be found on it. Tach? Huge, easy to read and front and center – where it belongs.

steering gauges

The Verdict

How a supercar (that can reliably post ridiculous performance numbers over and over) has the gall to be this comfortable, and dare I say it practical, is beyond me. It’s a car that will lay most anything to waste, yet be perfectly competent as a daily driver or on an extended road trip.

I drove this car hard – I slid around corners, I did hard launches, I drove it at speeds that were triple the speed limit. Yet I never felt I was approaching the limits of this marvel of engineering, and I never felt as though it might bite me back.

It’s simply the most perfect vehicle I’ve ever had the opportunity to drive. On boost, this car is an absolute monster, pushing you back in the seat like an airplane taking off and seemingly never running out of breath – off boost, it’s as docile as any $20,000 car can be. And yet, it manages to balance this strange dichotomy without a hitch, pulling off both personalities flawlessly.

front headlight

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. She’s a mini-van lover, but she really enjoyed the drive, and commented on the lumbar support and the lit vanity mirrors. Don’t look at me. She did complain bitterly that I was making it too loud and driving too fast. That’s when I let her walk the rest of the way home.

If you have a chance to drive one, or better yet, to pick one up on the previously-loved market, don’t hesitate to do it. I can’t recommend a car more than this one and I’ve never driven anything as good as this.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10, and I’m going to have a difficult time explaining in words how it’s less than a 10 out of 10. To say I loved it seems like the understatement of the year.

When you think of cars that will perform well and be comfortable at high speeds, you’d do well to consider any German automobile. But when it comes to superlatives, Porsche is the only one that remains and its reputation is well-deserved.

rear

Disclosure: I was entrusted with this car by one of my readers.

I can’t thank this person enough for that trust or for the generosity of the offer, including the instructions to drive it hard. Thank you so very much!

 For fun, I put together a short video of a minute or two with the Porsche, including a nice, solid acceleration run, as well as taking a corner – two times, neither time very fast, but showing how flat it handles and how controlled it is. Although the cornering doesn’t appear fast, if you look at how quickly the tractor or the camera guy disappears, you get an idea of how effortlessly this thing hustles. Also, check out the tractor-driving country bumpkin at 1:08 and 1:21 who throws up his arms in disgust when I cut in front of him. Good times, good times.