There’s a strong sense of déjà vu as I settle into the driver’s seat of the 992 911 Turbo S and trundle 100 metres along Runway 16L/34R at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport to the staging area for the first of two southbound runs towards Botany Bay.
The Porsche 911 and I have history when it comes to pointing at the horizon in search of big numbers, though I’ve never before pointed the nose at a body of water and pinned the throttle to the carpet. Our intertwined vmax history began when a Polar Silver 996 GT2 snuck me over the 300km/h line with a genuine 301km/h at Avalon airport in 2001. Since then, eight 911 models from each successive generation from 996 onwards, have taken me beyond 300km/h on at least 50 occasions.
After the 996 GT2, a 997 Carrera S took me to an indicated 303km/h on a German autobahn, after much effort, a schnitzel and a tank of fuel. The 997 Carrera S was the first ‘regular’ 911 with a claimed 300km/h top speed, and, purely for journalistic purposes, I set about trying to verify the boast. Late-afternoon runs were thwarted by traffic, so I retreated to a nearby village for a schnitzel dinner before a late-night attempt. The Carrera S would get to 275km/h with ease, but had to really dig deep beyond that, advancing beyond 285km/h a single digit at a time. After chewing through nearly a tank of fuel and several tantalising runs into the 290s, the Guards Red 911 made a final lunge at 300km/h, illuminating its fuel light at an indicated 303.
The 997 Carrera S and unicorn-rare 997.2 GT3 RS 4.0 remain the only naturally aspirated 911s to push me beyond 81 metres per second. And of all the times I’ve done 300 in 911s, it’s the RS 4.0 that holds the record for most runs on the board. In a 24-hour period on a non-stop drive from Stuttgart to Le Mans and back via breakfast in Paris, the GT3 RS 4.0 howled beyond 300 on 33 occasions. How can I be so precise? Because I had a Vbox running the whole time that I was on autobahns. The Vbox recorded a peak of 313km/h against the digital speedo’s claim of 324.
But, surprise, surprise, it’s the 991.2 GT2 RS that holds the prize for the biggest number. While many will claim that running at vmax in a straight line requires no skill, fully deploying 515kW and 750Nm for nearly 30 seconds is certainly a worthy thrill. Two different examples of Porsche’s 991.2 GT2 RS pushed me to speeds of 316, 334 and 341km/h – the latter on the car’s speed limiter into which it clattered still accelerating with conviction. My favourite memory of vmax chasing in the GT2 RS is that you need to grab top gear in the seven-speed PDK at 322km/h or bang-on 200mph in the old money.
And here I am again, nearly twenty years after the 996 GT2 took me beyond 300 at Avalon Airport, in another 911 at another airport. But how on Earth did Porsche Cars Australia (PCA), with the help of the staff at the nearby Porsche Centre Sydney South (PCSS) dealership, manage to shutdown Sydney Airport?
In a normal year, more than 44 million passengers take off or land at Sydney Airport, with the three runways hosting more than 300,000 flights. But like so much of the world, Sydney Airport has sat largely idle since March when governments around the globe flicked the switch to off in response to the pandemic. Since then, flight traffic has fallen 97 per cent.
Four months ago then, with the arrival of the 992-generation Turbo models on the horizon, a “far-fetched idea” was floated within PCA and PCSS, and then to the management at Sydney Airport. After three or four months of meetings, numerous site visits, calculations on what the Turbo S could run to and how much real estate it would require to stop, permission was granted for a fly-by.
I’ve been testing fast cars for a long time, but the ferocity with which the new Turbo S gets of the line is disorientating. The 996 and 997 GT2s that I performance tested years ago, required plenty of skill and a good dollop of luck to get off the line cleanly. And even if you got the rear tyres to hook up with j-u-s-t the right amount of over-rotation, you still had to execute a couple of perfect gearchanges to extract the best from the rampaging 911. With all-wheel-drive traction and the smarts of launch control, the 992 Turbo S delivers blistering and repeatable acceleration runs with ease.
In either sport or sport plus mode, you clamp your left clog on the brake pedal and give the throttle pedal a proper stab with you right. Launch control activates, revs flare to 4000rpm (in sport) or 5000rpm (sport plus) and once you release the brake, the nose lifts and your stomach drops. It takes concentration to not waiver on the throttle pedal, but to keep it buried. The acceleration doesn’t let up.
The 992-generation Turbo models are powered by a brand new 3745cc twin-turbocharged flat-six that isn’t related to the 3800cc engine used in the 991 Turbos and GT2 RS. In the top-spec Turbo S here, the engine makes 478kW at 6750rpm, which is down 37kW compared to the GT2 RS, but with 800Nm from 2500-4000rpm, the Turbo S pack 50Nm more muscle than the Widow Maker. Making the most of its all-wheel-drive traction, the Turbo S storms to 100km/h in a claimed 2.7 seconds. However, Porsche is notoriously conservative with its performance boasts and overseas tests have netted numbers as low as 2.4 seconds. Unfortunately, the long safety list precluded us from having our timing equipment in the car to confirm, but the high-grip runway allowed the Turbo S to get off the line in a way that I can’t recall experiencing before in 20 years of performance testing.
Porsche also claims a 0-200km/h time of 8.9 seconds which is about eight-tenths slower than what we recorded in a GT2 RS. Markers were set besides the runway at 400 and 1000 metres and the digital speedo of the Turbo S is indicating around 220km/h as the first marker flashes by. For comparison, when we performance tested it, the GT2 RS recorded a standing 0-400m time of 9.72 seconds at a terminal speed of 226km/h.
Above 200km/h the Turbo S is still accelerating in a savage surge, with almost instantaneous shifts from the eight-speed PDK. Sure, the runway is dead smooth, but the Porsche tracks arrow-straight despite a slight headwind running at about 30 degrees from right to left across the airfield.
At the 1000 metre board, the speedo is closing in on 275km/h – the GT2 RS recorded a 288km/h terminal speed at the end of the standing kilometre. I keep the Turbo S fully lit for a further 400 metres of so, just enough to catch the digital speedo flicker to 306km/h, but leaving plenty of safety margin on the 2.2km runway.
The transition from throttle to brake is barely recognised as a challenge by the Porsche, the Turbo S slowing with unfussed stability.
In fact, the new Turbo S doesn’t break a sweat. Hammering beyond 81 metres per second and hauling that speed down again makes up only a sliver of the car’s incredible bandwidth.