Whether you like it or not, you must respect Porsches, specially those with the “Turbo” badge behind it. I have always said that this is the fastest car in the real world.
The Porsche 911 Turbo started its life on 1974, with rear wheel drive, a 4 speed manual gearbox and around 260 hp. Currently, the fastest 911 Turbo money can buy is the 991 Turbo S, with four wheel drive, rear wheels that steer, ceramic brakes and double clutch gearbox (PDK). With the help of launch control, a standard Turbo S will run the quarter mile in the mid to low 10 seconds and 0 to 62 mph occurs in less than 3 seconds.
You could argue a case for the Koenigseggs, Bugattis, Paganis etc. Nevertheless, unless you have a huge amount of money to spend on cars, there is no other option as cheap, fast and reliable in real world conditions other than a Porsche 911 Turbo.
Maybe the Nissan GTR. It is a honorable mention. In a boxing match, one could say that Nissan has thrown a good one or two rounds, however, if the Japanese fellow was once cheaper than the Porsche, it was never as reliable.
I have had the chance of either driving or being on board of all 911 Turbo generations, aside from the 964 (I am accepting invitations). Each and everyone of them has a different personality, but they always had a strong link in between generations. As with all 911s the turbo has always been a work in progress.
- In the 930, only one turbo and rwd. Initially, it had a 4 speed manual and, later on, 5. The 964 debutes the first Turbo S model.
- 993 generation brings us the all wheel drive and a pair of turbos.
- In the 996 incarnation, the 3.6 Mezger engine receives water cooling, being able to handle heat more efficiently and achieve higher horsepower and torque, with less fuel consumption.
- In 2006, the 997.1 Turbo introduces variable turbine geometry, thus enhancing performance and reducing turbo lag.
- The 997.2 Turbo retired the Mezger and adopts a DFI engine (direct fuel injection). The engine’s displacement increases to 3.8 litters and is coupled for the first time with the double clutch gearbox PDK.
There is very special feeling about the Porsche 911 Turbo 997.1 because it represents the pinnacle of all everything Porsche has made to perfection for, at least, 30 years. It has the last turbo with a 3.6 Mezger engine (aside from the GT2 and GT2 RS of the 997 generation), which was originally meant for racing purposes, thus meeting stress tests other engines could only dream of.
This does not mean that the 3.8 DFI is not a good engine. It is very likely that it will be praised in the years to come, but it is still early to put it the same level of the previous Mezger in terms of reliability and figures it can achieve with modifications.
Let’s talk about the tested car!
THE PORSCHE 911 TURBO 997.1
The car was released to the public in the 2006 Geneva Car Show. Porsche showed the world the variable turbine geometry manufactured by BorgWarner. The 3.6 boxer 6 cylinders is basically the same one found in the 996, but with the new turbos, it could now achieve 478 Hp and 620 NM.
There were two versions: coupe and convertible. Gearbox options were manual a 6-speed or tiptronic. Sport Chrono Pack was another option that raised boost of the turbos for brief moments under hard acceleration.
You could also equip you car with carbon ceramic brakes (PCCB) that cost a fortune (still do).
There was no Turbo S version for the 997.1 Production ceased on 2009.
The car I drove was an original 2006 model with all options possible with a manual gearbox.
With the manual gearbox, Porsche claims the 911 Turbo 997.1 is capable of reaching 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and the alleged top speed is of 310 Km/h. As usual, these numbers are rather conservative. Porsche always sticks with the worst possible results it gets during its tests.
WITHIN THE 997.1 TURBO
You are inside the baddest normal series 911 you could buy on 2006. How does it differ from a Carrera? Aside from a “turbo” written in the middle of the rev counter, there is not much any other difference.
What I like the most when I enter a 911 from this generation is how simple they feel. There is not much to draw your attention or any gadgets that would prevent you from just turning the left sided key and going out for a drive. Materials and finish are a huge improvement over the 996 generation. All seems much firmer and better placed.
External visibility is awesome. For those used to cramped interiors or poor visibility from your average Italian super car, it is an ergonomic lesson. If on one side this is a huge upside, on the other, some may insist that the Porsche 911 Turbo does not feel really special. I can understand this argument. I think it is fair. But one should not forget that Porsche focuses on driving.
DRIVING THE 997.1 TURBO
If up until the moment you enter the car, adjust the seats and steering wheel, everything seems a bit “ordinary”, when you press the clutch and brakes, turning the left sided keys… not much else occurs. Nothing of deafening melodic sounds. It is all very subtle and silent. For those unaware of the nature of the beast, it is a struggle to believe that such a car is capable of delivering one of the most breath taking performances known to men.
Heavy clutch? Nope. A bit more loaded than a typical car. Long pedal travel. Much less heavier than the system found in the GT3s and GT2s. Anyone with a minimum skills with a manual will be able to drive it.
Gear shifts are short and easy.
Hydraulic steering. Not to heavy. Not to light (unless you are going really fast, as I would find out later). It has a great feeling for road conditions.
At this point, if this was your first contact with the 911 turbo, you would be wondering where the drama is. Italian competitors would already have given all signs of how special you are for buying them.
Luckily, test place was approaching. An empty road close to an airfield. Engine at optimal operating temperature. Time to poke the 911 Turbo.
When revs go a little higher than 3200 rpm, you are violently pressed against the seats, as if you were punched right in the chest. Revs go up until the limiter at 6500 rpm. Second gear, turbos spooling and my chest is still pressed with violence. Third gear, I try to shift a bit earlier than the limiter, at 6200 rpm, to avoid the turbos losing efficiency. Fourth gear and the Turbo is still going at an incredible pace, feeling all that torque. Fifth gear and I am in owe. It never ends. Adrenaline pumping and my heart wants to jump out of my mouth!
I decide to calm down a little bit. The bite of the carbon ceramic brakes is up to the challenge of cutting pace down of the Turbo going speeds way beyond the 155 mph. I take the car down a few more miles playing between fifth and sixth gears. It does not matter how high is your gear, above 3000 rpm there is always torque. There is a little lag in response between lifting the throttle and pressing it again, which is kind of the nature of turbocharged cars of this age.
However, with a Turbo, you are never under the impression that perhaps you could be down a gear or two as you would in a naturally aspirated car.
I got it! Porsche never wanted to impress you by the sound of its exhaust note… or it looks… or the exotic interior. With the 911 Turbo 997.1, the business is all about feeling the pressure upon you chest whenever you decide to open the tap, hearing those turbos suck all the air available around it. If it was not for the torque and the chest punches, you would dare to believe the pace this thing can achieve.
All wheel drive gives a sense of stability to the Turbo that rwd Carreras can only dream about. Coupled with the hydraulic steering, you can really read the conditions of the road you going through and understand when grip is about to end. This does not mean that the front end of the Turbo is not light at all. At higher speeds you are always left with the feeling that perhaps you are challenging the laws of physics a bit too much. An Audi R8, a Merc SLS, a Lamborghini Gallardo or a Ferrari 430 certainly feel more down to the ground and stable above the 155 mph mark.
If you think that Porsches are all about acceleration, it is because you have not experienced the brakes. Specially with PCCB (carbon ceramic). The coolest thing about this system is that is will handle extreme driving conditions on the track or even when doing a top speed run much better than normal steel brakes. Back in the day, these systems needed to be properly heated up to function properly, but as from the 997 generation, it has superb response and feel even when still cold.
Given the performance figures of a 911 Turbo, I strongly suggest to spec a model with PCCB if you plan on taking the car to its limits.
Pedal, seat and steering alignment are perfect. Heel-and-toe is an easy exercise. They will never be as emotional as in a Ferrari, but will certainly bring the adequate balance for your cornering entry. This is all about function over form.
This is where the 997.1 Turbo’s excellence strikes you. This is superb speed machine. It is meant to be pushed further. To be driven on the edge. It is an adrenaline rush that addicts. You can clearly understand those guys that bought a turbocharged Porsche when they say they can never go back to naturally aspirated cars.
With all said and done, does this mean that the 911 Turbo 997.1 is the perfect sports car and the my dream acquisition? Yes and no. As a car that will simply blow your mind each time you want to go as fast as you can from point A to B, it is simply astonishing. It is ludicrously fast and versatile. There is enough power to vanish in front of many of its competitors V8s, V10s and V12s… in some cases even embarrass them.
Nevertheless, there is a certain sense of coldness in everything the 911 Turbo 997.1 does that makes you wonder whether there is anything else left to explore. Either you are going full bonkers or there is not much of a sense of occasion, an aspect in which its main rivals excel in comparison.
It is all very perfect, well engineered, fast and reliable. It is fast as hell, usable and versatile.
I truly believe that a car of this level should make you feel special in all senses, not only when you are going fast. If you are in the market for an amazing cruiser, capable of taking you over long trips in the fastest way possible with a bunch of ergonomics to offer, this is the best car your money can buy for several reasons:
- Incredible performance.
- The car does not wear you out after several hours of drive. Those deafening exhausts from competitors can be “exhausting” during long trips.
- The cabin is comfortable and visibility is awesome.
- It is actually fuel efficient and has great range.
If you feel things got a bit too ordinary for your taste, you will always have an adrenaline rush at the touch of the accelerator.
I know most of my friends that own a Porsche will curse me for saying this: this car is an astonishing performance machine and automotive engineering class, but I still feel it lacks a little bit on that “whole intangible aspect”.
I will certainly want to have a 911 Turbo at some point in my life, but I still feel that I have the time and space in my garage to enjoy a little longer those naturally aspirated engines I so happen to like. Perhaps a GT3 is more something that would trigger the right buttons for my at this point.