PERFORMANCE testing is not the glamorous activity most people expect it to be. Not only is going fast in a straight line not terribly exciting once you’ve done it a few times, but the process is designed to be as scientific as possible. This means performance testing is rarely fun.
Truth be told, the acceleration runs are probably as enjoyable as it gets. But as a result of marketers’ (and the public’s) obsession with 0-100 km/h times, we have to try and get as close as possible to the manufacturers’ claimed times, which often proves quite a challenge. The faster the claimed time and the more powerful the car, the more pressure there is to achieve those times, as fractions of a second become important reading material and lead to bragging rights. Thing is, different manufacturers get to their claimed times in different ways. In some instances we suspect they test down a greased mineshaft…
That said, testing a high-performance Porsche is never a pain. Take the subject of this test, the new 911 Turbo S, for example. Through some slight electronic tweaking, its twinturbo 3,8-litre flat-six pumps out 22 kW more than a standard Turbo, a car that matched its claimed 0-100 km/h time of 3,4 seconds with stunning ease in our June issue road test. The 0-100 km/h claim for the new 911 Turbo S is 3,3 seconds. Achieving that would make it our new all-time acceleration champion.
So, there we were on the test strip with the Sport+ setting of the car’s standard Sports Chrono package selected. With the foot on the brake, one simply floors the throttle to tell the Turbo S’s launch control system that you mean business. It selects optimal engine speed automatically. You lift off the brake and hold on for dear life… Even with its all-wheel drive system and huge rear tyres there’s a slight scrabble as the 911 Turbo S catapults itself off the line. Then, in a few blinks of an eye, comes confirmation that the 100 km/h mark has been reached in a blistering 3,2 seconds – faster than claimed.
Faster than anything we’ve ever tested before. Easily. And that’s the key to the car’s massive appeal – the shattering accelerative ability is repeatable. Line up next to a 911 Turbo S at a traffic light and you’re virtually guaranteed to lose… Why other supercar makers don’t simply copy Porsche’s launch control system boggles the mind.
The other figures are just as impressive. The kilometre sprint takes 20,16 seconds, at which point the 911 Turbo S will be doing 261,8 km/h. Top speed is 315 km/h. And it stops just as brilliantly, too. The standard ceramic discs hauled the car to a halt from 100 km/h repeatedly in sub-2,6-seconds times – among the best we’ve ever recorded.
That said, the R200 000 cheaper 911 Turbo is no slouch either and the Turbo S’s performance improvements are virtually unnoticeable without the aid of sophisticated timing equipment. So, besides ultimate bragging rights, what does that R200 000 get you?
Well, quite a bit, actually. As in the Turbo, the Sports Chrono package is standard but in the Turbo S you also get the proper shift paddles (optional on the Turbo), as well as different leather trim, adaptive sports seats, dynamic bending lights, cruise control and a more premium sound-system. Oh, and lightweight, centre-lock 19-inch RS Spyder alloy wheels.
But just how easy is it to live with this extreme interpretation of the 911, we wondered? To find out, and to add more mileage to the engine before subjecting it to performance testing, one of CAR’s staffers took it on a 1 400 km journey. The biggest challenge of driving such long distances with a supercar such as this Porsche is the temptation to go too fast. So, using the standard cruise control to avoid jail time, the Turbo S took to some of South Africa’s most challenging roads, coming across a vast range of different surface types as SANRAL continues its nationwide upgrade.
While the ride is firm, and those adaptive sports seats by no means cushy, interior comfort is good. There’s good space all-round and the seats actually proved remarkably comfortable over the distance. Also, the 911’s luggage capability is actually remarkable for a car of this type, with the front “boot” easily accepting two soft bags, while smaller items can be stored behind the front seats.
There are, in fact, only two comfort-related complaints. Road noise at the country’s national speed limit is quite intrusive on poorer surfaces. And the lack of steering wheelmounted remote audio controls highlighted the fact that the volume knob is quite a stretch away. But that, people, is it.
Away from the road works and the straight and narrow, when the roads get twisty and the traffic is non-existent, the 911 Turbo S’s entertainment abilities come to the fore. This is a car that can be easily enjoyed by any driver, no matter what his/her skill level. Featuring Porsche’s torque vectoring system, which was designed to counter the understeer that usually is part of an all-wheel drive car’s make-up, the 911 Turbo S boasts terrific front-end grip and precision, in addition to colossal overall grip. Using the paddles to shift up and down the superb PDK ’box and experiencing the massive thrust as you operate in the engine’s wide power band, is very, very addictive, even though the Turbo S doesn’t have a particularly stirring engine note compared with its V10 and V8 rivals. At least it sounds a bit more “urgent” higher up the rev range than its Turbo sibling.
One has to wonder whether the new S model is worth the extra outlay over a standard Turbo given its seemingly small improvements in performance and specification.
Then again, to the owner looking for the ultimate expression of the 911, a few fractions of a second mean a lot. And the extra equipment certainly adds to the all-round usability of this model. With its stunning and easily exploitable performance, cross-country comfort and solid build, the 911 Turbo S, quite frankly, makes some of its rivals look like they’re trying too hard…