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Preview: 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo

High-tech features make car compelling on road and stunning on track

PADERBORN, GERMANY?Next month, the Porsche 911 will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its reveal at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It took another 10 years to launch the first turbocharged 911.

They?re getting quicker at this, because the turbo version of the latest 911 series (dubbed 991) came only two years after the launch of the standard 991.

The Turbo will have its official public debut at Frankfurt this September, and hits Canadian Porsche outlets in December. Coupe only for the moment, but a Cabriolet is not far behind.

The base model, called simply 911 Turbo, starts at $169,200. The more powerful, better-equipped Turbo S runs $206,600.

At the media preview this week, Dr. Erhard M?ssle, general manager of the car?s development team, noted that the Turbo has always been about resolving apparently conflicting attributes.

Performance versus efficiency: the car has more power (520 hp in the Turbo, 20 more than the last generation; 560 in the Turbo S, a gain of 30), yet uses about 16 per cent less fuel and emits less CO2.

Exclusivity versus practicality: Walter Rhorl, former world rally champion and a consultant on the 911 project, noted that, with many high-performance cars, you need a second car for daily driving. But the 911 has the vestige of a back seat, decent trunk space, and is comfortable and tractable enough to be an everyday car.

Tradition versus innovation: A 911 has to look like a 911, its engine has to be in the rear. But that doesn?t mean it can?t include state-of-the-art technology, such as the PDK dual-clutch gearbox, a virtual gear ratio system, active aerodynamics front and rear, and four-wheel steering that may actually be worthwhile.

Of course, a Turbo has to look different from other 911s ? otherwise, your neighbours won?t know you spent the extra cash.

So the new car has a different nose, with bigger air intakes, full LED headlights, big side air scoops, larger and unique wheels (some with centre locking, like race cars), significantly wider rear fenders, and, of course, the latest variation on the whale-tail rear-deck spoiler.

About the active aerodynamics: Porsche has offered deployable rear spoilers for years. New for the 991 Turbo is an active front spoiler.

Push the Spoiler button on the centre console (or exceed the automatic-deployment speed threshold) and not only does the rear spoiler stick itself out, but inflatable tubes under the front of the car lower the front spoiler, too, in two stages based on how long you want your jail sentence to be (or maybe you?re on a race track).

This feature alone was able to shave two seconds off the car?s lap time on the Nurburgring?s infamous Nordschleife. Not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but an indication of how far Porsche goes to squeeze the last little bit out of these cars.

Several Japanese car makers messed around with active four-wheel steering in the 1990s, but the benefits proved too marginal to be worth the cost: in weight, complexity and packaging.

The Porsche system involves two small hydraulic actuators that turn the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at speeds below 50 km/h, to increase agility on city streets and when parking.

At speeds above 80 km/h, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts, improving stability, especially in a high-speed lane-change.

You won?t likely notice anything at high speed other than that the car is much more stable than previous 911 Turbos. But when parking, you will probably be surprised by the reduction in turning circle by a substantial 0.6 metres.

Pre-launch speculation was that the Turbo engine might exceed 600 horsepower. With a turbocharger, you can pretty much get any amount of power you want just by turning up the boost until the thing blows up real good.

Porsche instead went more for usable urge, by increasing torque. You can actually watch the plot of torque output on the instrument cluster.

Suffice to say that the car is blindingly fast: 0-to-100 km/h times will be in the three-second range; the S might even get into the high 2s.

With all the driving I?ve done in Germany, I couldn?t believe there was a town big enough to have an airport capable of landing jets that I had never even heard of. But Paderborn it is.

Porsche chose this spot for an exceptionally good reason: the local Count is something of a car freak, and has spent the past six years designing and building a private race track called Bilster Berg Drive Resort. It?s not for racing, it?s just so he and his buddies (and paying club members) can thrash their high-performance cars in safety.

Well, safety for local residents anyway. The tight, twisty circuit, with stunning vertical rises and drops, really puts a powerful car like this to the test.

Especially when the 911 Turbo still has a lingering reputation as a car that can bite you if you?re not careful. But the new one is simply stunning in its ability to devour linear space.

Yes, we left the nanny systems in place. But in Sport Plus mode, these systems allow you enough leeway to get the car nicely sideways, yet pull you back from the brink of high-speed forestry.

The new four-wheel-drive system increases the amount of torque available to the front axle, but also divides said torque into what it deems to be the most appropriate ratio, depending on what you?re attempting from behind the wheel.

Put the power down too soon, and the car will understeer (plow) a little. Lift to correct, and the car reacts instantly, yet predictably.

A couple of hot laps with the aforementioned Walter Rhorl left me stunned at how he can make a car go so fast while doing so little behind the wheel.

?The secret always is to steer as little as possible,? he said as we hurtled around the circuit. ?Every time you steer, you add heat to the tires and slow the car down.?

The car is equally compelling on the road. The power, the instant response of the PDK, the high grip level, the stunning brakes.

If there?s a faster, safer, point-to-point car than this, well, I?d take some convincing.

Yet the car is decently comfortable, and the luxurious interior, like all new Porsches, is beautifully designed and executed.

In sum, the 911 Turbo is an impressive technical achievement.

Sure, the performance gains over the former Turbo are not gigantic, and the price is substantial. You could buy three Corvette Stingrays for the price of a new Turbo S, not that I expect many Turbo S intenders to even give the Corvette a look.

But the Turbo remains the pinnacle of the 911 range. It?s not the rawest variant, but it is the fastest.

For most Porschephiles, it will remain the ultimate object of desire.

Transportation for freelance writer Jim Kenzie was provided by the manufacturer. Email: wheels@thestar.ca.

Porsche 911 Turbo

Price: $169,200 for Turbo, $206,600 for Turbo S

Engine: 3.8 L flat-six with dual overhead camshafts and twin turbochargers

Power/torque: 520 hp/487 lb.-ft. for Turbo; 560/516 for Turbo S

Fuel consumption L/100 km: 9.7 combined

Competition: Audi R8, Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Gallardo, McLaren 12C Coupe, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Nissan GT-R.

What?s best: Stunning super-car performance, loads of exclusive technical content, most liveable, day-to-day supercar you can buy.

What?s worst: Rear seat occasional in the extreme, exhaust note rather tame given the performance level, rear window wiper should be standard.

What?s interesting: No manual transmission? Get over it bucko ? the PDK shifts way better than you ever will.

  • Preview: 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo Subject: Porsche 911 Turbo pics 1 of 12 - Wheels - Norris McDonald On 2013-08-27, at 12:48 PM, Jim Kenzie wrote: Hi Gang: The yellow car is the base 911 Turbo, the silver one is the Turbo S. We drove the S mostly and, I think, the pics are better! The red interior is from the S model. Words to follow later tonight. Cheers, Jim Kenzie 911 Turbo S LF 34.JPG
  • Preview: 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo Subject: Porsche 911 Turbo pics 4 of 12 - Wheels - Norris McDonald On 2013-08-27, at 12:49 PM, Jim Kenzie wrote: Kenzie 911 Turbo S Interior 1.JPG
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