McClatchy Newspapers, Published June 18 2011
Auto Review: Street Beast
The all-wheel-drive Turbo S, with a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine that pumps out 530 horsepower, can be as docile as a puppy when you cruise around town. But it comes with this evil, addictive feature called “launch control”: Find the nearest dragstrip – or in our case, a long private road owned by a friend – and come to a stop.
Press the “sport plus” button, place your left foot on the brake and your right foot on the accelerator. Yes, all the way to the floor. Then take your left foot off the brake.
The Porsche, all four wheels clawing for traction, leaps forward like a pouncing cougar. The engine sounds like you are destroying it, and you’d think the double clutches in the transmission would fry like eggs on a Florida sidewalk, but there is no post-launch drama. This is what the Porsche 911 Turbo S is built to do, over and over if you like, and one reason it costs $162,460.
It is astounding how race-track-ready this Porsche is, despite the leather interior, Bose stereo, heated seats, power sunroof, navigation system, Bluetooth – anything you’d expect on a luxury car. By far the largest number of entries in sports car races like the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, or the 12 Hours of Sebring, are Porsche 911s.
Years ago I track-tested a full-on Porsche race car that later sold for well over $1 million. After climbing into the single carbon fiber seat and cinching up all the safety belts, I asked, “Where is the starter button?” The crew chief said, “This is a Porsche. Turn the key.” That Porsche would put a key in a 200-mile-per-hour race car suggests how serious the company is about maintaining that narrow gap between race car and street car.
That said, what kind of street car does the Porsche 911 Turbo S make? Actually, a very good one. There’s a “Sport” and the aforementioned “Sport Plus” button, either of which stiffens up the suspension and places the transmission shift pattern into a nervous, edgy condition that makes around-town driving feel like you’ve had far too much caffeine. But on the regular setting, the 911 is docile and reasonably quiet, with a ride that is comfortable on all but the roughest roads.
The 911 has a rear seat, but I’ve yet to actually try and wedge anyone back there. It serves mostly as a convenient, extra storage space, complementing the 3.7-cubic-foot trunk up front.
One of the most interesting aspects of the car is the PDK transmission, which stands for Porsche Doppelkupplung, meaning it has a dual-clutch gearbox. It operates like a regular automatic transmission, but with the internal clutches, the sensation is very much like a manual transmission’s operation, but you don’t have to shift, and there is no clutch pedal. There are levers on the steering wheel that allow you to shift up and down manually, but the PDK is so competent and intuitive, I just let it shift for itself.
The list of performance features is long and complicated, and includes PASM –Porsche Active Suspension Management – a super-sophisticated system that makes split-second adjustments to the firmness of the suspension, based on what the onboard computer is telling it. The all-wheel-drive system is transparent, as it should be, in normal driving, but very evident in “launch control” mode. The huge ceramic composite disc brakes are incredible, and in concert with the massive 19-inch tires, make the 3,500-pound car feel like it weighs far less.
Base price of the car was $160,700, and with heated seats ($525) and “Porsche crest on headrests” ($285), total price was $162,460, including shipping. This is a spare-no-expense car, and it feels like it.
But Porsche 911 turbo models hold an amazing percentage of their resale value for a very long time, and the 911 Turbo S is the sort of vehicle that I can envision crossing a collector-car auction block in 30 years, and selling for a sort of price a classic deserves. Is it expensive? Oh, my, yes. But when Porsche spares no expense in building it, they expect the handful of customers who can afford it to spare no expense, either. Good for them: They’re getting a remarkable car.
Porsche 911 fast facts:
- Base price: $160,700
- Price as tested: $162,450
- EPA rating: 17 miles per gallon city driving, 25 mpg highway
- Engine: 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged, 530-horsepower 6-cylinder
- Transmission: Automatic
- Length: 176.3 inches
- Wheelbase: 95.5 inches
In a nutshell: A future classic and priced like it.