The Porsche 992 Turbo S is the most exciting member of the 911 range
And not only because it's the most powerful model the breed has ever known
If ever there was a car plagued by Dissociative Identity Disorder, the Porsche 911 Turbo would be it. Soon after hitting the streets in 1975, it developed a mean reputation, thanks to tail-happy handling made worse by ill-spaced gear ratios and glacial turbo lag. If you didn't know what you were doing (most yuppies hadn't a clue), you ran the ever-present risk of exiting stage left backwards into a tree, wall or lamppost. As such the original 911 Turbo - the 930 - became known as the Widow Maker.
Zuffenhausen's enfant terrible continued to keep millionaires on their toes until it was discontinued in 1989. Then in 1991 its successor, the 964 Turbo, arrived on the sports-car scene with a more clean-cut demeanor and milder manners. I drove one a few years ago and couldn't believe how obliging it was - even on damp roads chasing down a considerably more powerful 911 R.
It felt refined and liveable and no longer all that interested in flinging you into roadside furniture, which is probably why Detective Mike Lowrey (aka Will Smith) used one to hunt Miami scumbags in the action drama movie Bad Boys.
Things got even more civilised when the gorgeous 993 Turbo launched in 1995, armed with what would become one of this flagship model's most defining features - all-wheel drive.
Traction and ease of use were now the name of the Turbo game, with each subsequent generation becoming more polished, more luxurious and, crucially, more accessible to the average driver. By the time the 997 Turbo graced Porsche showrooms in 2006, those ill-tempered 930 genes had been bred out of the mix.
Unfortunately, this evolution proved to be a double-edged sword. For what this 911 gained in usability, it lost in dynamic driver appeal. Sure, it was always quick in a straight line but through the curvy bits it felt somewhat ponderous and disinterested. Almost like a German muscle car.
And with Porsche focusing their efforts mainly on the 911 Carrera and GT models, the Turbo continued to drift deeper into an automotive no-man's land: a lost soul unsure of its purpose or role in life.
PACKING TO THE MAX
So what of the new 992 Turbo S? Now available in SA, this swollen-arched supercar is the most powerful model the breed has ever known, courtesy of a newly developed boxer motor that muscles out some serious numbers.
It's based on the engine found in the standard 911 Carrera but modded to the maximum with bigger bores, a redesigned charge-air cooling system with added intakes (four up from two), and meatier variable geometry turbochargers fitted with larger turbine and compressor wheels.
So what does this all mean? It means that when you bury your right foot this Porsche rockets down the asphalt like a jet fighter without wings. It is ridiculously fast. Fast in a way that makes your inner juices pool towards your spinal column - especially when you call upon the launch control system.
And while it'll hit 200km/h in the time it takes normal cars to reach 80km/h, the most mind-boggling thing about the Turbo S is that it never seems to run out of steam. It just keeps on pulling until either the road or your nerve runs out. And it does so with minimal drama.
Aside from muted pops ricocheting through the sports exhaust system between gearshifts (a bespoke 8-speed PDK transmission handles cog-swapping duties), this 911 goes about the business of speed with the elegance of a grand touring car.
So far, no real surprises then. I knew this thing would be biblically rapid and so did you. But what I didn't anticipate was how effervescent it would prove both up and down the legendary Franschhoek Pass.
A maker and breaker of dynamic dreams, this deliciously squiggly piece of bitumen spaghetti can, within a few short corners, prove or disprove a car's handling ability and the 911 Turbo S quickly exceeds all expectations. Simply because for the first time in many years Porsche has been able to equip this star model with a chassis that matches the pedigree of the engine to which it's mated.
As you'd imagine, this 911 comes with all the engineering wizardry you'd expect to find stuffed inside a modern Porsche, including active suspension, rear-axle steering and dynamic chassis control. Combined with active roll compensation and staggered wheel/tyre sizes (20-inch 255/35 front, 21-inch 315/30 rear), the Turbo S changes direction with a delicacy that belies its 1,640kg kerb weight.
Yet the biggest delight comes in the way Porsche has managed to turn up the feedback, especially with regards to the steering that now floods your fingertips with notably more textured road feel. This massages your confidence and sees you going into - and out of - corners harder and faster than you'd ever have dared (or cared) in Turbo models past.
Fast Facts on the 2020 Porsche 911 Turbo S
• ENGINE: 3,745cc twin-turbo flat-six
• POWER: 478kW at 6,750rpm
• TORQUE: 800Nm from 2,500-4,000rpm 0-100KM/H 2.7 seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 330km/h (claimed)
• PRICE: From R3,849,000
Further aided by prodigious traction (clever active aerodynamics meet sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 Super Sport tyres), this pass of the gods can now be attacked with gusto usually reserved for the marque's GT cars - and the reward for doing so is exhilarating.
Even braking performance rivals what I've experienced in track-focused animals like the GT2 RS: those standard ceramic composite anchors scrubbing off licence-revoking speed with minimal fade.
And yet on the flipside of the coin, the 911 Turbo S feels as comfortable and everyday easy as a Golf R. It rides with fluidity, sports a luxurious and cosseting interior, and when fitted with the optional front axle lift system, has the ability to navigate even the most compromised city environment.
This Porsche truly can be all things to all people, which is quite phenomenal considering the extent of its brain-warping performance. But more importantly, its existence revitalises the Turbo nameplate with an identity and personality all its own.
Stepping out from the shadows, this wayward model has morphed into the most complete and exciting member of the 911 range.
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