Porsche 911 Turbo S essentials: King of the Hill

What is it: Porsche 911s have been among world’s best-driving enthusiast cars for years, while the all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo and Turbo S are among the best of the lineup’s best. Of the 24 (!) 911s available, the Turbo S sits near the top. With the Turbo’s 3.8-liter, twin-turbo flat-six producing 540 hp and the S version cranking out 580 hp, only the zany 911 GT2 RS offers more of … everything.

Key Competitors: Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Audi R8, Nissan GT-R Nismo

Base Price: $191,750 As-Tested Price: $193,440

Full Review: Porsche 911 Turbo S first drive

Highlights: The Turbo S was redone for the 2017 model year, when 911 Turbos got a 20-hp bump and what Porsche calls Dynamic Boost function. Its job is to maintain turbo boost pressure during load changes for better throttle response. The Sport Chrono Package is also now standard, with normal, sport, sport-plus and individual modes.

Our Opinion: Been a while since I drove the beloved (by me, at least) 911 Turbo. Flipping through the Autoweek archives I’ve called it “my favorite Porsche.” Over the years I’ve written: “I love the way the car looks with its scoops and spoilers and such.” “The driving position is perfect.” “The car is just such a screamer — 60 mph arrived before I knew it.” On and on I went. I’m not the only one around here at times expressing 911 Turbo love, by the way. We once wrote, “Nothing beats Porsche’s 911 Turbo” and called it “the world’s best over-the-road machine.”

That was then. What about now, all these years later?

I stand by what I’ve written lo these many decades.

My first day in the latest Turbo here in Detroit is a sloppy, rainy mess, so the goal is to not prang it. It’s not the Turbo I’m worried about, it can certainly handle anything the weather is going to throw at it. It’s not my less-than-awesome driving skills. The car can handle anything I’m going to do. No, it’s the punks (texting of course) in the clapped-out Sentras and rickety old Omnis who can’t see out the windshields because their wipers are shot. I just know one’s going to hit me.

In news that surprises no one, the 992-generation of the Porsche 911 Carrera will get a convertible version. The only real new news is that its top will open a bit quicker, in 12 seconds as opposed to …

So I’m cooling it, not mashing the accelerator, stomping the brakes, throwing it into corners … none of that. What I am doing is watching those around me — carefully.

And I am actually learning a few things. I learn that the 911 Turbo is perfectly happy just subtly (or at least as subtle as a bright yellow, 580-hp Porsche can be) cruising around. It’s flexible and comfortable, with a ride that is somehow firm but not bone-rattling on Detroit roads. The car is making no demands of me. Its all-wheel drive is laughing at the rain and standing water. We wrote at the car’s launch that “its comportment, at least from the driver’s seat, can be as nondescript as a 580-hp sports car can be.” Exactly right.

The next day is thankfully dry, so time to have some fun. For starters, the car is an absolute rocket. Power comes on instantly, or at least as instantly as you’d want. Off the line (0-60 in 2.8 seconds!!), mid-range, top-end speed, doesn’t matter. Whether I’m in normal, sport, sport-plus mode — that doesn’t matter either. It seems like I just think about accelerating and the next thing I know I’m soaring over the road faster than I can say Hurley Haywood. Yet the Turbo is so easy to drive — so calm and forgiving, it always feels slower than I’m actually going.

Two things stand out: One, I like the PDK transmission. Blasphemy, you say? Nonsense, I respond. It can shift quicker and smoother than I can. Not once during my time behind the wheel do I think a manual transmission would better serve the driving experience.

Two, the steering feels perfect to me at all speeds. There’s a purity to it one simply doesn’t find in other cars. It’s light and quick and direct, but not overeager. It’s just right. If there’s a car for sale right now with better steering than a 911 — any 911 — please let me try it.

We have a few naysayers in the office. No one argues the car is fast and crazy grippy. But some complain it’s too heavy. Others that it’s too safe-feeling. They like their 911s to have more edge, more rawness.

As for me, I continue to be gobsmacked by what Porsche accomplishes with the 911 Turbo every time I drive one. I can’t think of another car I’d rather drive every day. It’s probably the first thing I’d buy if I won the lottery.


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