The bad news about the new Porsche 911 Turbo is that its owners are probably going to get a lot of speeding tickets. The good news is that if they can afford its $110,000 price, they can probably afford the tickets.
The new, fifth-generation 911 Turbo is not only the fastest-ever street-legal 911, it’s also the most refined. Spooling up to 125 miles an hour—on the German autobahn, of course—is utterly effortless in this all-wheel-drive sports car. And the urge to push the needle deeper, to tap into its extraordinary acceleration, is very difficult to resist.
Traveling at the speed of three miles a minute is not to be recommended if you want to hang on to your driver’s license. But that velocity is so gracefully achieved that you’re always looking for any suitable stretch of blacktop. The 911 Turbo’s performance is simply intoxicating.
And you don’t have to work the six-speed gearbox constantly to get that sensation. So broad and strong is the torque spread that even in the very tall sixth gear, you can summon real thrust. Above 70 mph you can leave the Turbo in high gear, forget the lower ratios, and still crush most rivals. Of course, dropping down a cog or two serves up even more blistering performance. Subjectively, this 911 feels closer in character to a big-capacity motorbike than a civilized supercar that weighs 3400 pounds.
Porsche has worked hard on the aerodynamics to produce a lift coefficient of minus 0.01 at the rear (slight downforce). In combination with the new 911’s more predictable dynamics, the Turbo tracks dead straight above 150 mph and doesn’t need as many corrections or quite the intense alertness of the previous model (also an all-wheel-drive car), let alone the wayward early cars.
What’s missing are the charismatic engine and exhaust sounds of a 911. The two intercooled turbochargers have muted them to the point that it doesn’t sound like a Porsche. It’s tough even determining where the noises are coming from; close your eyes, and this could even be a front-engined car.
The water-cooled 24-valve 3.6-liter boxer is, in fact, a turbocharged version of the dry-sump 911 GT3/GT1 engine, rather than a blown and enlarged variant of the naturally aspirated 911’s 3.4-liter powerplant. It shares the block, the pistons, and the camshaft’s chain drive with the GT3 and uses the same head castings, smaller valves, and a different combustion-chamber shape. For the Turbo, Porsche’s VarioCam Plus system offers two intake timing positions rather than the infinitely variable setup of the GT3.
Each K64 turbo serves its own cylinder bank with up to 12.3 psi of intercooled boost. To cope with such high boost, the compression ratio drops to 9.4:1. Output is rated at 415 horsepower at 6000 rpm and, more significantly, 413 pound-feet of torque across a plateau from 2700 rpm to 4600. The boost is so progressive it’s almost linear. It begins building at 1800 rpm, kicks a little at 2600, and delivers a fevered torrent of power all the way to the 6600-rpm redline and on to the 6750-rpm fuel cut-out. Porsche boasts that this Turbo offers 15 more horsepower than the old one, apparently forgetting the limited edition Turbo S that had 424 hp.
Comparing Porsche’s own conservative test numbers, the new 911 Turbo’s 4.2-second 0-to-62-mph time bests the previous (400 hp) Turbo’s time by 0.3 second, and it beats the 911 GT3 by 0.6 second. Our last Turbo and Turbo S test cars both hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The new car’s claimed 189-mph top speed is 9 mph faster than the 993 Turbo and 15 mph up on the semiracing GT3. Icing on the cake: Porsche claims the new Turbo gets 18 percent better fuel economy than its 400-hp predecessor, which serves as justification for retaining the standard 911’s 16.9-gallon fuel tank. (The last Turbo held 19.4 gallons and was rated at 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway.) Still, make full use of the Turbo’s performance, and you’ll struggle to top 200 miles between fill-ups.
Visually, the Turbo is easily the most radical of the 996-generation 911s. The wheel arches are swollen by 2.6 inches, a bi-wing is created by an active rear spoiler that rises 2.4 inches when the car reaches 75 mph (contributing to downforce), and clumsy-looking air-inlet vents in the rear fenders feed air to the intercoolers. Vents reminiscent of the 959 supercar’s are situated behind the rear wheels, adding to the Turbo’s meaner, more squared-off appearance. Yet the nose is rounder and longer to accommodate a third radiator and larger, Ferrari 360 Modena–like air intakes. These changes reportedly increase cooling capacity by 50 percent. The headlights, unique to the Turbo, arch down into the bumper and utilize xenon illumination for high- and low-beam lighting. Porsche says the extra scoops, vents, and wings only bring the drag coefficient up 0.02 to 0.32 relative to the standard 911 Carrera.
Naturally, the new Turbo rides on the 911’s optional Sport suspension. The Turbo’s disc brakes are massive 13-inchers, cross-drilled and vented, with four-piston calipers at each corner. Later this year, for the first time on a production car, ceramic composite brakes, which weigh 50 percent less than standard discs, will be offered as an option.
Also for the first time, Porsche offers the Turbo with a five-speed Tiptronic automatic. The internal workings are purchased from Mercedes-Benz, and engine output is not reduced with the autobox. Standard is a wholly revised six-speed manual. In routine driving, just five percent of the power is delivered to the front wheels via a front-mounted viscous coupling, but front-wheel torque can increase to as much as 40 percent to discourage oversteer.
This 911 Turbo is remarkably easy to drive and simply flies around corners. Just to approach the car’s limits demands insanely high speeds, which eventually invoke Porsche’s electronic stability control system (PSM). Even if you switch off the PSM, the system turns itself back on during braking, modulating each wheel individually to correct any loss of traction. PSM can’t defeat physics, of course, but it provides the car with nearly drama-fee handling. The tires, noisy on coarse surfaces, hint at tramlining, and the ride is firm but not harsh.
The 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo, priced at an estimated $110,000, is a refined and comfortable cruiser. And if it performs as well or better than its predecessor, it will rank as the quickest production car available on our shores. If that doesn’t justify the price, what could?
2001 Porsche 911 Turbo
Vehicle Type: rear-engine, all-wheel-drive, 2+2-passenger, 2-door coupe
Base: $110,000 (est.)
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve flat-6, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 220 in3, 3600 cm3
Power: 415 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 413 lb-ft @ 2700 rpm
6-speed manual/5-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 92.5 in
Length: 174.5 in
Width: 69.5 in
Height: 51.4 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 48/16 ft3
Cargo Volume: 4 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 3400 lb
MANUFACTURER’S PERFORMANCE RATINGS (6-SPEED)
62 mph: 4.2 sec
100 mph: 9.2 sec
Top Speed (drag limited): 189 mph
PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY
European city cycle: 13 mpg