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Taken objectively, the last Porsche 911 Turbo was all the sports car you’d ever need. Its jet speed and sure-footed handling combined with all the boring-but-true facts about being reliable and easy to live with make it nigh on perfect. But cars aren’t the most rational of purchases – supercars much less so – and thus such completeness can come across as a little strait-laced. In short, the 991-generation 911 Turbo was sensationally talented, but lacking in fun compared to even base Carreras, never mind the GT2 and GT3.
You could argue it’s the natural by-product of lobbing indecent amounts of power at a car with all-wheel drive and multiple driving aids. Age-old things like ‘driver involvement’ sometimes take a little bit of a backseat. Given the wild reputation of the original 911 Turbo, the whale-tailed 930 of the mid Seventies, it felt like there was ground to make up.
Without skipping to the end too much, the 992 Turbo – launched in 2020 – has filled that gap. But it’s done so while piling on even more power, squeezing in additional driver assistance tech and – somewhat unfashionably – gaining weight in the process.
The end result is a base 911 Turbo offering a 572bhp peak for a smidge under £135,000 while the halo Turbo S is a 642bhp, £156k car. For context, the outgoing Turbo S was a 572bhp car. Things have really stepped up a notch here. To the point the 992-gen Turbo S offers a 205mph speed, while both rungs of the Turbo ladder offer a 0-62mph time comfortable below three seconds.
No manual, of course, and it remains all-wheel drive with the same eight-speed PDK ratios as in the 992 Carrera. The key change is the final drive ratio has been lengthened to allow the Turbo S to crest 200mph and beyond. There’s an electronically controlled diff at the back and a hydraulic one in the centre of the car. Rear-wheel steering is standard as is Porsche’s two-mode Active Suspension Management. And, as is the vogue these days, the front and rear wheels are of different sizes. Instead of 20s all-round like last time, this car gets 20s at the front and 21s at the back.
The aero package has also evolved with the changes to the wider, longer car. The adjustable front splitter and wider rear wing – both of which automatically go to max attack in Sport Plus mode, but can be set independently – add a claimed 100kg of downforce at the Turbo S’s claimed 205mph top speed. Doesn’t sound like that much, but it’s a good balance of added stability without shredding fuel economy.
Differences between the Turbo and Turbo S are vanishingly small, and all the absolutely essential tech is standard on both. The £22,000 grand premium of the latter essentially gets you even more adjustable sports seats plus standard carbon-ceramic brakes and PASM active anti-roll bars – plus 70bhp, 7mph and 0.1sec advantages in the big three Top Trumps stats. If you want to spend yet more money, both are available as Cabriolets for an additional nine grand or so.
It’s important to remember where the 911 Turbo sits in the Porsche range. This is absolutely not meant to be the ultimate expression of Porsche performance. Those are the GT cars built by the motorsport division – the delectable GT3s and the mighty twin-turbo GT2 RS. The Turbo S is designed to be the ultimate road-devouring exec express. Comfort and ease of use are on a par with performance and handling here.
And judged on that basis, this new car appears to have hit the very centre of the bullseye. Getting going – setting the seat and wheel, pairing your phone etc – is fuss free. Much easier and simpler. Which is how the whole car feels as you pull away. Solid, sorted, unflappable. There’s none of the usual 911 busy-ness to the controls, the suspension is quiet and there’s a general sense of calm in the cabin.
With the electronically assisted steering damping out most of the road imperfections and the engine muted out back, it is deceptively, wickedly fast. Just easing onto a motorway, you can look around to change lanes and look down at the speedo to see you’ve effortlessly crested, well, never mind. Where you’d normally know thanks to the engine and road noise, in the new Turbo, you just don’t.
This makes it an exceptionally easy and comfortable GT car in which to unfurl hundreds and hundreds of miles – we did 700 in a day without any complaints. But it doesn’t explain anything about the other side of its character. This is equally impressive in an entirely different way. You have to dial in Sport or preferably Sport Plus mode to really wake it up. But when you do, every sinew in the car tightens up nicely.
It feels like the wheelbase shrinks a couple of inches, 250kg gets jettisoned and the turbos go from meek to wild. But in reality the splitter and wing extends and the gearbox hangs onto ratios longer. Either way, the effect is electrifying, the car drawing from apparently bottomless wells of grip and power. This isn’t just a bit faster over the road than the outgoing model, it’s way faster than the raw numbers would suggest – and far more composed, too.
Too composed? Well, Porsche has had the good sense to dial in more fun than before, too. It’s as if the Turbo engineers have been copying the GT3 team’s homework. Sure, there’s so much grip from the AWD, even the Turbo S’s prodigious pace won’t ever catch you unawares. But if you start deliberately ramping everything up and loosening the ESP (on circuit, of course), this thing will deliver all the thrills and spills we’ve frequently craved, but not always discovered, in a Turbo chassis. It even sounds quite good – not always a given in heavily turbocharged performance cars with so much ease-of-use built into them.
Over to Chris Harris, who was on hand to help us crown the 911 Turbo S as Top Gear’s Performance Car of the Year in 2020.
“There aren’t many opportunities to use everything on offer but, when you do, the effect is mind-scrambling. I haven’t driven a car that can demolish any asphalt surface – track, A-road, B-road, motorway – the way this car can. There’s genuine personality too. It still feels real 911, from the steering to the staggering brakes and flat-sixy intake noise that yowls into the cabin.
“The price is loopy, but then so are its capabilities and after three days at Anglesey in all weather conditions the 911 Turbo has constantly impressed us all and claims our title of Speed Week Champion 2020.”
The last 911 Turbo S really stretched the abilities of the 991 platform, to the point where you couldn’t reasonably see how Porsche could have significantly improved it. This 992-based Turbo and Turbo S prove there was plenty more left in the tank. This is a car which is quicker, grippier and more capable than ever, but also more sumptuously involving than it’s perhaps been since the mid-Nineties. It’s the most interesting 911 Turbo in several generations. So much so, it’s our favourite performance car of 2020.