2021’s Top Ten Tech Cars: Porsche 911 Turbo S
Fast as lightning, stable when wet
Among modern sports cars, there's fast, and then there's the Porsche 911 Turbo. I've driven many generations of this Autobahn brawler, but I still wasn't quite prepared for what Porsche could do with 477 kilowatts—640 horsepower.
I tested the all-new 911 Turbo S at my “neighborhood" track, the Monticello Motor Club in the Catskills region of New York. On Monticello's 4.1-mile tangle of curves, the Porsche showed how 46 years of engineering evolution have transformed a car whose 1975 original was known as the Widowmaker for its twitchy handling. This Turbo dances so lightly around a racetrack, imparting such immediate confidence and security, that I was tempted to fiddle with its Burmester audio system at triple-digit speeds, with more than 1.1 gs of lateral handling grip.
Those digits pile up quickly and with face-searing force. A big reason is the use of the secret sauce of Launch Control. Dial the Porsche's drive-mode knob into Sport or Sport Plus settings; squeeze the brake, then the accelerator, which makes the twin-turbo, boxer-six engine hum at a steady 5,000 rpm; release the brake pedal, and shazam: The 911 pins its driver to the seat back like a moth against a windshield. It goes to 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) in 2.2 seconds, among the fastest sprints in production-car history. The quarter-mile (0.4 km) takes 10.1 seconds, at which point the vehicle is traveling at 137 mph (220 km/h). A driver could launch the Porsche from a stoplight at 34th Street in Manhattan and hit that speed by 39th Street. (Theoretically, officer).
Getting all that power out of just 3.7 liters of displacement demands a turbocharger that crams in 1.6 kilograms of air per square centimeter (22.5 pounds per square inch).
Fortunately, the Porsche stops as quickly as it starts. Up front are carbon-ceramic brakes and 10-piston calipers, to clamp enormous 42-centimeter rotors. The eight-speed, dual-clutch gearbox remains an industry benchmark for its speed and near-spooky shift logic. Stability is assured with a host of technologies, including four-wheel steering; an all-wheel-drive system that can transfer up to 500 newton meters of torque to the front wheels; and lightning-fast magnetic dampers for its Porsche Active Suspension Management.
Porsche Active Aerodynamics integrates new cooling flaps for a three-section, pneumatic elastomer front spoiler. Together with a lightened and enlarged carbon-fiber rear wing—forever a Turbo design signature—the moving components adjust for a full range of road conditions, speeds, and driving modes. That includes a new Wet mode: If acoustic sensors in the wheel arches detect spray from the road surface, the aerodynamic profile adjusts, a message appears in the instrument cluster, and the driver can activate yet another Wet mode (let's call this one “Wetter" mode) to ensure maximum stability. Under hard, high-speed braking, an air-brake function repositions that front spoiler and rear wing for maximum drag and downforce and shorter stopping distances. The active aero even adjusts in response to the sunroof being open.
Such wind-whipping thrills don't come cheap. The Turbo S coupe starts at $204,850. My options-stuffed, metallic-blue tester topped $234,000. It's a lot or a bargain, depending on your perspective. The 911 Turbo is already an Internet-video sensation for out-accelerating pricier McLarens, Ferraris, and other supercars, even Tesla's “cheetah" mode Model S. For the additional price of a GoPro camera, almost any Porschephile can moonlight as a YouTube influencer.