2021 Porsche 911 Turbo Review

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Once synonymous with the pinnacle of Porsche, the 911 Turbo is no longer the king of the hill. But with 427kW, it’s still a devastatingly fast car.

A red exterior over a black leather interior on a Porsche 911 Turbo presses all of the buttons for a car enthusiast. Sure, our test example is finished in the brand’s darker Carmine Red rather than the iconic Guards Red, but it’s still a proper bedroom poster spec. When the Turbo was revealed at the 1974 Paris motor show, it very clearly sat at the pinnacle of the 911 range – the silver show car was sold to an Australian enthusiast and resided here for a number of years before making its way to the United States. Nowadays, the Motorsport-built GT models are the apex predators of the range, and the Turbo isn’t even the king of the Carreras since the introduction of the Turbo S. Where does this leave the Turbo?

For those in the very fortunate position that money doesn’t really matter, buy the Porsche 911 Turbo S. But for those who find themselves with a heap of money but still scratching around for another $76,700 (before you tick boxes on either), you won’t feel short-changed by the Turbo. It is monumental.

In fact, I’d love to hear the pitch from the salesperson to get you across the line on the S. It might include the fact that the Turbo S is the pinnacle of the non-GT 911 range. The S packs 478kW (at 6750rpm) from its 3745cc twin-turbocharged flat-six, while the non-S makes 427kW at 6500. Then there’s 800Nm available from 2500-4000rpm, which trumps the Turbo’s 750Nm from 2250-4500rpm. Trust me, you’ll need a Vbox to split those hairs. Against the timing equipment, there is nothing in it to 100km/h (2.7 and 2.8 seconds, respectively), but the gap does widen from there. The Turbo S presses a 0.5-second advantage to 160km/h (5.8 plays 6.3) and 0.8 to 200km/h (8.9 to 9.7). All out, the Turbo S powers on for another 10km/h to a 330km/h vmax.

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Of course, the Turbo S is (marginally) better equipped than the non-S. That $76,700 gap narrows considerably when you match your Turbo to include the S-standard carbon-ceramic brakes ($20,190), LED Matrix headlights ($4020), 18-way adjustable front seats ($2120) and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control ($6750). That lot adds $33,080 to the Turbo’s $404,900 base price, still leaving you with $43,620 in your pocket, but knowing that the S maintains a power and performance advantage – each of the extra 51kW will set you back $855 once that list of options has been added.

The Carmine Red 911 Turbo that we tested sat at $453,280 before on-road costs and featured the standard (and still awesome) steel brakes. Speaking of steel brakes, the Turbo S (along with the departed but never forgotten 991.2 GT2 RS) comes standard with carbon-ceramics, so if you prefer the feel of steels, the non-S is your choice.

Okay, enough of the man-math, the 911 Turbo is mind-bendingly fast and dynamically capable. It also happens to ride with enough pliancy and cruise with such ease that you could comfortably point the nose at the horizon and take pages out of a road atlas over the course of a day (the one caveat being that those 315/30 ZR21 rear tyres drum up plenty of road noise). Don’t tap into the monstrous performance and the 911 Turbo is a very relaxed companion and a fine daily driver. Push the throttle to the carpet, and after an old-school swelling of boost pressure, the Turbo devours whatever piece of tarmac is laid before it. The spread of talent is enormous and matched or exceeded by very few cars.

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You could argue that one such car is the Turbo S. The tyranny of time makes a direct comparison impossible, but recalling my last drive of the S back in January, I am struggling to split the two big-T Turbo models. Both feature super sharp front ends that takes so much speed into a corner and so much throttle away from the apex. Hamfistedness will trip the 1640kg Turbo into understeer, but otherwise the front end is difficult to unstick in the dry. The steering wheel doesn’t chat to your fingers and palms in the manner you get from a GT3, GT2 or even a Carrera S – that’d be the front driveshafts diluting just a little of the message. But the Turbo is constantly updating you through the wheel, seat and pedals as to where grip and traction levels are at.

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In maximum-attack mode, you can float the Turbo into a corner on the brakes, ever so slightly mobilising the mass of the engine at the back to help point the nose into the apex. It’s a delicious feeling and one that I’d never grow tired of chasing. Some argue that to peel back the chassis to reveal this layer of involvement requires a level of commitment and speed that’s not appropriate on a public road. While the letter of the law would certainly agree, you don’t need to take your brain out to enjoy the Turbo (though it certainly responds if you do).

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I love that the Turbo (and Turbo S and GT2 RS) doesn’t try to hide its forced induction. Engineers work very hard to make turbocharged engines linear (Ferrari is particularly clever in this department), but sometimes you’ve just got to embrace the boost. The 911 Turbo is very obviously turbocharged, with the flat-six transitioning from a lull to a storm in a blink. If anything, this rush makes it feel faster than it is and it is so damned fast.

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Porsche asks $404,900 for a bare-bones 911 Turbo, and that kind of money gets you into some very serious metal – Nissan GT-R Nismo SV ($393,800), Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2 ($378,900), McLaren GT ($399,995), Aston Martin DB11 V12 ($420,219) and Ferrari Roma ($409,888). However, with the exception of the Ferrari and Aston, none offer the occasional practicality of the Turbo’s rear seats, which are vastly more spacious than those of the Roma and DB11. And that’s very much the point of the 911 Turbo. There may be faster, or more outlandish, or more practical cars for the money, but nothing comes close to the Turbo’s combined skillset.

Jesse Taylor

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Final Verdict:
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