Porsche 911 Turbo
Capable, purposeful and savagely fast. But is it too user friendly?
By sports car standards, the 911 is common. But you don’t have to be a Porsche anorak to realise the Turbo version stands out – it looks more purposeful and aggressive than other models in the range. A widened bodyshell and flared rear wheelarches are the first giveaway that something special lurks beneath this familiar shape.
The gaping intakes that feed the rear-mounted turbo intercooler dominate the side panels, while the bigger bumpers and extendable rear wing all shout speed. Fin-like front LED indicators are also specific to the Turbo, and there’s no doubt that, whether you think it’s stylish or not, Porsche’s range-topper has a unique look.
As you would expect from a company famed for its engineering excellence, most of the Turbo’s add-ons serve a purpose, either channeling air into or out of the mechanicals. It’s also the first 911 to have aluminium doors, which help to save weight. This loss of mass is impressive given that the Turbo is packed with more equipment than before.
The cabin is standard 911, and as with all Porsches, there’s a colossal range of options to choose from – at a price. The standard seats come with electric adjustment and offer exemplary comfort and support, while the driving position is hard to fault and all the controls are beautifully weighted and ideally located.
What’s more, it’s quite practical for a supercar – much more so than the Gallardo. There’s a surprisingly spacious boot in the nose, and the tiny rear chairs – which are of no use to passengers – can be folded flat to make room for luggage.
However, while the 911 Turbo’s packaging gives it the edge for user-friendliness, the cabin fails to get the pulse racing; it’s simply not a very exciting place in which to spend time. And this is not a criticism that can be levelled at the Gallardo.
Once on the move, there’s no doubting the 911’s supercar credentials, because the acceleration is simply mind blowing. The Turbo achieved the fastest 0-60mph time we have ever recorded – 3.5 seconds. It’s a testament not only to the four-wheel-drive traction, but also the mighty engine, which delivers 680Nm of torque – 170Nm more than the Lamborghini – from only 1,950rpm.
In fact, it’s the powerplant’s flexibility which stands out. Even at low revs in sixth gear, there is never any need to change down. The gruff 3.6-litre flat-six does wail at higher revs, but it’s never as tuneful as the Gallardo’s V10.
For such a savagely fast car, the Porsche is easy to drive and free from drama, and at sensible road speeds, the huge amounts of grip mean you hardly scratch the surface of its dynamic abilities. But while the steering is very direct, the Turbo lacks the precision and balance of lesser 911s.
And at the test track with the stability control turned off, driving at the limit requires skill. The Porsche feels heavier and slower to react than the Gallardo. Understeer can be an issue, and when balanced out with the throttle, any resulting oversteer requires quick steering inputs to correct. The optional composite brakes deliver fantastic fade-free stopping power, though, and the Turbo is an awe-inspiring piece of technology that delivers phenomenal levels of performance.
But it’s simply too capable. Only at speeds that are impractical on the public road does the 911 come alive and offer the involvement you expect. The question is, does that stop it being a more desirable supercar than the Gallardo?
Price: £97,840Model tested: Porsche 911 TurboChart position: 2WHY: The four-wheel-drive Turbo tops the 911 range, and its wide body gives a totally unique look.
Fuel efficiency isn’t a top priority when it comes to these machines. Nevertheless, we averaged 20mpg in the Turbo, which is excellent – it’s just a shame the 67-litre fuel tank is so small.
Let’s face it, a £100,000 supercar isn’t going to be cheap to own. But the Porsche’s first three services total a ‘reasonable’ £2,110. Mind you, overall running costs work out at £2.52 per mile.
Owning either of these models as a company car isn’t for the faint hearted. Thanks to its lower price, the Turbo would cost £13,697 a year – a £3,803 saving over the Gallardo.
Both of these cars have to be fitted with tracking devices before insurers will offer a quote. Even then, the best figure the AA could find for the 911 Turbo was £2,329.