This year’s Porsche Driving Experience was initially headlined by the most exciting top flight 911 currently available; the 911 that seems to have endeared many manual transmission purists to flappy paddles; the 911 that sits at the top of the current 991 range; the 911 that revs to the moon and sounds like sex; the 911 they call the GT3. Yes, we were expecting to drive or be driven on a Porsche 911 GT3 but as you may have gathered by my tone up till now, those expectations were dashed. On any other day, under any other circumstance, we would’ve probably found ourselves drowning in the dark depths of an anti-climactic GT3 no-show experience; but no, not that fateful day, because we were rescued by a certain 911 Turbo S. Track temperatures were searing that February week but cooled to a less fiery 35 °C on the day of our outing. Undoubtedly demanding conditions for the sole left hand-drive Turbo S parked out in the pit area, which was joined by a Carrera S brought in to further make up for the absent lump of German ecstasy. Safety was cited as the main factor, and the reasons became obvious not long after, as news of flaming GT3’s began, well, catching fire, worldwide.
Credit to Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP) for still managing to pull off the entire track session, which was rather well-organized, on time, and before we knew it, the registered journos were belted up for an out-lap in the Carrera S.
You can never get tired of rediscovering just how well sorted Porsche 911’s are out on track, even in something as “entry level” as this. Admittedly, a Carrera S isn’t the most ideal track tool; the writer’s not criticizing it for a lack of enjoyment or anything, but its 400hp just feels more in its element out on city streets. On the day – when a 560hp, 3-second to 100km/h, 4WD sibling laid in wait – the Carrera S was relegated to feeling like a warm up… and admittedly, it was. There were the Carrera 4 and Cayman S available for the try outs, too.
We first noticed the 911 Turbo S‘ and its plush interior at the official debut at Porsche Kota Damansara last November. The Turbo S’ cabin is familiar, friendly, intuitive, as with all Porsches. An exclusive interior in a black/carrera red color combination, plus the sport seats with 18-way adjustment and memory. In addition, the seat backrest shells are leather upholstered with double cap seams and various elements in carbon look.
Several journos got a chance to get on the passenger side of the Turbo S, driven by a PCCA (Porsche Carrera Cup Asia) driver. It took a minute or two to settle into the left hand-driven layout at the Porsche Driving Experience. The Ed. was driven on the 5.543 km track by Rodolfo Avila and prior to the hot lap, he told Rodolfo to switch off the a/c and go all out. And, that’s exactly what he did…
Aside from being above average, Rodolfo was quite the guide, choosing to break the ice by telling the Ed. that the previous driver had picked up some rubber debris in the car’s Pirellis so we’d need to “drive them off”. No problem. The first 2 laps are kept conservative, yet even then, that 3.8-liter flat-6 produces so much push. Not sure what else to expect when there’s 700Nm to play with, which makes this heavier 991 version marginally faster than the 997 it replaces – 0.2 seconds quicker to 100km/h with a similar 320km/h top speed. Rodolfo hit 241 km/h on the straights, just for the record.
Rodolfo got a bit more comfortable in the remaining lap; finding more generosity with the throttle pedal. Throttle response was meaty and scalpel sharp thanks to the wonders of variable turbine geometry, pioneered in the 997 Turbo variant, and it’s a tech that allows the turbochargers to alter its fin angles for quicker turbine spool times at lower revs, and regulate back pressure higher up the RPM range. It isn’t new technology per se, but it’s never been executed at this level before.
Other tricks up the Turbo S’ sleeves include variable aerodynamic parts, with front and rear spoilers that adjust on the move; dynamic engine mounts; an overboost function; and Porsche’s full complement of driver aids as standard, including – PTM (Porsche’s all-wheel drive Traction Management system), PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), PTV Plus (Porsche Torque Vectoring), PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), and, not forgetting, Porsche’s fantastic ceramic brakes. Even under the heat and so many laps, they’re still biting down hard. Great for track purposes, but they need a bit of warming up to work well under everyday use. The Sport Plus mode lends more excitement to the driving experience as it allows quite a lot of rear slip before interrupting, but counter steer is still necessary.
However, of all the bits of innovation, it’s that new rear-axle steer system (also available on the missing GT3) that sets this new car apart. Rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels within 60 km/h and turn in the same direction as the front wheels at higher speeds for stability. The result is outstanding high speed composure and supreme all-round agility that most all-wheel drive cars only dream of. It’s clear that sheer pace is what the Turbo S has been engineered to do, and it has tremendous amounts of grip when kept tidy. They say it did 7:27 at the Nurburgring. We believe them. Then there’s the subject of refinement, and surprisingly, the Turbo S now actually feels more like a grand tourer; a bloody quick grand tourer. A “widowmaker” it most definitely isn’t, but 90% of potential buyers are going to appreciate this.
Yes, the Porsche 911 Turbo S is great, superb, extremely competent, and relentlessly fast. Anyone in the position to be an owner will be filled with the confidence of knowing that they own what can only be deemed as the epitome of the current generation of 911’s. But you know what would’ve been more enjoyable that day? Out on track? With so much room to play with? The Porsche 911 GT3.
Words by Doug. R. Tan
Porsche Driving Experience 2014 images