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Porsche 911 Turbo 2013 review

The 911 Turbo is so good it's difficult to write about without getting accused of being caught under the Porsche spell.
EXPERT RATING
9

There are Porsches -- and then there is the Porsche 911 Turbo, the pinnacle of the performance-car maker’s line-up. With a drive-away price of close to $500,000 for one with all the trimmings you could be forgiven for scoffing at such an automotive indulgence from such a tall poppy.

But the 911 Turbo genuinely is one of a few cars in the world that epitomise how far the automobile has come in 125 years. The “haves” respect it, the “have nots” wonder why such a vehicle exists -- and query who would spend that much on a car when you could buy a house.

It might be hard to believe but cars with this level of automotive excess tend to spawn technologies that eventually filter down into more affordable models. Car-makers can take a punt with new technology because the development cost, in effect, gets under-written by wealthy buyers.

The new 911 Turbo, for example, has a couple of fuel-miser tricks not yet seen on other cars (see technology) even though it’s at its best when using fuel at a greater rate than most other cars on the road.

But there is one other important aspect of the 911 Turbo that might even take some of the hate out of the haters. It’s a silent -- if a little conspicuous -- contributor to the public coffers. About $150,000 from each one of these Porsches is diverted to the Federal Government in the form of Luxury Car Tax and import duties. So when Porsche has a good year and sells 120 or so 911 Turbos, it’s pumping more than $18 million annually into schools, hospitals, aged care and or saving whales. Hey, I tried.

Value

In this league value genuinely is a relative term. If the $359,800 starting price of the 911 Turbo isn’t enough to give you an ice-cream headache (not only because of the lack of rounding in this stratosphere, but the stratosphere itself) then consider this.

The 911 Turbo S costs $81,500 more ($441,300) than the regular model and yet is only 0.1 second quicker from 0 to 100km/h (3.1 versus 3.2 seconds for the record). It’s the most expensive one-tenth of a second in the car business.

That price premium also buys carbon ceramic brakes (typically a $20,000 option), racing-style single-nut wheels, LED headlights and a more liberated engine (it revs higher and makes more power).

If you want the wind to blow in your hair (or over your scalp) a convertible is available in Turbo and Turbo S guise for a $29,000 price premium over the equivalent coupe. And before you know it you’ve wound up with a half-a-million-dollar mid-life crisis.

The price wouldn’t be such an issue if not for our gouging government and one small but symbolic sin of omission from Porsche. Inexplicably, a rear-view camera is an optional extra on all 911 Turbos. And yet they’re standard on a $23,990 Hyundai hot hatch. Seriously, how could a company full of so many smart people who make such a fantastic car make such an oversight?

Technology

Not many cars automatically cut the engine in stop-start traffic to save fuel and also have launch control to burn fuel as fast as scientifically possible. But that’s the case with the new 911 Turbo.

Press a button, put your left foot on the brake, floor the accelerator and then watch all hell break lose as you step off the brake and on to what feels like a landmine. Actually make that an anti-tank missile. By jingoes does this thing go like the proverbial slingshot. And by jingoes I said something a lot more colourful than by jingoes when it actually happened.

Fortunately we got to test it again and again and again. It was like being at the start of rollercoaster ride -- but one in which you’re allowed to keep going until you get giddy. The thing is, though, I didn’t get giddy and the cars kept copping the punishment.

It’s a stark contrast to the launch control system on some other performance brands. BMW and Ferrari, for example, have in the past either rationed how many launch starts you’re allowed to try or just flat out disallow it. BMW M5s have ended up on tow trucks, Ferrari minders have discouraged journalists from experimenting with launch control because “it’s hard on the car”. That it is. But the Porsche seems to be able to handle it.

Porsche isn’t just clever with technology that makes its cars fast, it has also come up with some ingenious ways to save fuel when the 911 Turbo’s not being driven flat out. The engine deliberately cuts out once you slow down to 7km/h. Below 65km/h it will deliberately slip the clutch on the automated PDK gearbox to create the most economical way to deliver power when driven gently.

The back wheels are discreetly angled inwards (up to 2.8 degrees) in tight turns at speeds below 50km/h. This also cuts the turning circle by 0.6m to 10.6m, says Porsche. Above 80km/h the back wheels are discreetly angled in the same direction of travel to improve high speed cornering and lane-changing. It’s fair to say it’s difficult to detect. But a feeling of sure-footedness is apparent.

Most modern cars are designed to slip through the air easily but given that the 911 Turbo has a top speed in excess of 300km/h -- and planes take off at 250km/h -- Porsche has had to get better at finding ways to keep it on terra firma. To that end Porsche has come up with a front spoiler and a rear wing that poke out from the bodywork at the press of a button. It also means the front end won’t scrape on steep driveways because the rubber “chin” can retract.

For the technically minded the new Porsche 911 Turbo in standard mode has a coefficient of drag rating of 0.31Cd, and in performance mode 0.34Cd. In layman’s terms when all the 911 Turbo’s aerodynamic aids are deployed it pushes more air out of the way than a Holden Commodore (despite having a fraction of the big sedan’s surface area to cut through the air).

To save you doing a web search, the new Holden Commodore’s aero rating is 0.30Cd. By comparison a Toyota Prius is 0.25Cd -- but the best mass-production car in the world is the new baby Benz sedan, the CLA, which has a rating of 0.22Cd.

Central to the success of the new 911 Turbo, however, is its epic engine. The twin-turbo horizontal six-cylinder engine has 383kW in the standard model and 412kW in the Turbo S. But power is nothing without torque and to that end the new Porsche 911 Turbo has had a generous serve.

On second thoughts, it’s been downright greedy. The standard car has 660Nm (that’s more than a HSV V8) but that reaches a peak of 710Nm in performance mode. The Turbo S has a 700Nm helping of torque in standard mode -- unleashing 750Nm at the press of a button and a 20-second flooring of the throttle. How does all this power behave in such a light and nimble package? Stay with us.

Design

The formula for creating a 911 Turbo is a familiar one: start with a standard 911 and then make it wider, lower and slightly longer, giving it a bigger footprint. Various weight saving measures mean the new 911 Turbo is almost the same weight as before (1595kg to 1605kg, depending on the model) despite being loaded with extra technology.

Safety

Six airbags, ample grip and enough acceleration to make sure you’re safely back on the correct side of the road after overtaking in as short a time as possible.

Driving

I’ve never before accelerated so quickly in a car that the glovebox popped open. But that is just how much G-force is going through the new 911 Turbo on take-off. Be assured that the Germans know how to make gloveboxes to the same standards as the rest of the car, and possibly the world’s best. But it’s fair to say Porsche may need to fit a stronger latch to the glovebox lid on the new 911 Turbo. Or supply a lighter owner’s manual.

Other manufacturers may talk up the hype but few deliver it as convincingly as Porsche. The straight-line acceleration of the new 911 Turbo is the closest mere mortals will ever get to experiencing the sheer brutal energy of a top level dragster, a high-powered motorcycle, or Felix Baumgartner’s fall to earth from the edge of space.

And yet, of course, a Porsche is never only about straight-line speed. The 911 Turbo has new levels of agility attributed to the automatically adjustable suspension, new tyre technology and the extra aerodynamic downforce which, incidentally, Porsche claims trimmed 2 seconds from its Nurburgring lap time to 7 minutes and 27 seconds on Pirelli P Zero tyres (7 minutes 24 seconds on Dunlop semi-slick road-legal racing tyres).

It’s little wonder the extra grip is there, with wider tyres front and rear than ever before. For the enthusiasts who’ve read this far the 911 Turbo’s front wheels are 8.5-inches wide and the rears are 11-inches. The Turbo S goes wider again (9-inches and 11.5-inches respectively) but the tyres are the same size on both models (front 245/35ZR20, rear 305/30ZR20).

The brakes are equally impressive. The standard 911 Turbo has crossed drilled 380mm discs front and rear while the 911 Turbo S has carbon ceramic discs (410mm front and 390mm rear). Both models come with six-piston calipers up front and four-piston calipers at the rear. On the private race track Porsche hired, a 4km ribbon of road that’s likened to a miniature Nurburgring (with equally scary bumps, sloping corners and blind curves over crests) the 911 Turbo felt frightening and yet strangely comforting.

The senses are overloaded by the blurred scenery, the thwack in the back every time you floor the accelerator, and then the chest pains from the seat belt every time you slam the brakes. It’s as violent as you want to make it. And then you realise you should have been picking twigs out of your teeth long ago. The car’s stability control management system can’t control the laws of physics, but it comes damn close. It makes ordinary drivers look like a pro. But when a pro gets behind the wheel, you don’t see which way they went.

Verdict

The new 911 Turbo is so good it’s difficult to write about it without getting accused of being caught under the Porsche spell. But I have panned Porsche in the past for building the Cayenne SUV (the original was terrible, the second-generation model is much better).

And I have ridiculed Porsche for introducing diesel engines -- after the company said it would “never” do it (the latest ones are excellent). I even got banned from driving Porsches, for a short while, after we dared to compare the performance of the Porsche Cayenne V6 SUV with a Toyota Tarago V6 people-mover (the Toyota was quicker in a straight line).

So my praise for this Porsche does not come lightly. It’s one of the best cars I’ve ever driven, the best of its breed and I’m genuinely sad that I will never be able to afford one. It quite simply is an epic car -- and deserving of all its hype and glory.

Pricing Guides

$169,944
Based on 8 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$149,990
Highest Price
$189,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Carrera 3.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $104,170 – 119,680 2013 Porsche 911 2013 Carrera Pricing and Specs
Carrera 4 3.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $111,100 – 127,710 2013 Porsche 911 2013 Carrera 4 Pricing and Specs
Carrera 4 S 3.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $127,710 – 146,740 2013 Porsche 911 2013 Carrera 4 S Pricing and Specs
Carrera S 3.8L, PULP, 7 SP MAN $149,990 – 189,900 2013 Porsche 911 2013 Carrera S Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9