Aside from the obvious: blindingly quick acceleration, blackout-inducing braking and Formula One quality road-holding ability, one of the (many) things I've always loved about the Porsche 911 is its built-in sense of cool.
We all know about its performance prowess, but, on top of that, the 911 has - for the most part - always been a hip, attention-getting piece of moving sculpture that stops people in their tracks and is guaranteed to draw onlookers when it's parked.
The legend of Gunga Din lives on
Yes, there are other cars out there that can match the 911 when it comes to performance and presence; Ferrari and Lamborghini come to mind, but neither of these two have the all-encompassing motorsport heritage of Porsche. And before all you Scuderia-crazed Tifosi run to your computers to dash off indignant letters of objection, I'm aware of Ferrari's Formula One successes. But don't forget that Porsches have competed in everything from off-road endurance contests to backwoods club rallies, to fast and furious hill climbs - and still do.
When was the last time you saw a Ferrari tackle the Paris-Dakar, for example? Or charge up Pike's Peak? Over the years, I have witnessed Porsche products tearing up everything from high-speed European touring car tracks to club-run gymkhanas. They're all about motorsport and - nine times out of 10 - a Porsche owner is also usually a serious gearhead. Ferrari owners will happily tell you how fast their car goes and how much it cost, but Porsche drivers can often explain how much boost their car is using, what the camshaft lift is, what degree of camber the front end has and just about anything else technical about the car - ad nauseum, sometimes. As for Lamborghinis - well, to my eyes, they're just showpieces, with zero motorsport history. The 911 is directly connected to its past and, after almost 50 years, continues to astound us.
And you can drive one of these puppies every day. The current edition of the 911 will still more than thrill the pants off you around a track, but can also be used as your daily transport. Thus the built-in cool factor. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be shown the finer points of manhandling a 911 Turbo around a track by motorsport legend and long-time Porsche driver, Hurley Heywood, and I've never forgotten its superb braking, acceleration, tossability and how accessible it all was, even to relative amateurs.
Anyway, the latest version of the Turbo S Coupe has all of the usual Porsche attributes, plus more. New for 2011, this model is "what you buy if you want a Turbo and are going to throw a few options on it."
Said options take the form of an additional 30 horsepower, provided by a slightly different turbocharger calibration with tweaked exhaust and intake, plus a PDK transmission as standard equipment and things like ceramic brakes, centre-locking alloy wheels, "adaptive" seats, upgraded stereo and glitzy paint. All of which puts the price tag up to and over the $200,000 mark - before taxes and extras.
And this iteration of the Turbo S Coupe has performance to match its price tag, developing a whopping 530 horsepower, with an electronically governed top speed in excess of 300 km/h, and a purported 0-100 km/h time of just over three seconds. Three seconds. That's just a little bit longer than the time it takes you to sneeze.
Fortunately, the driving experience remains the same, despite the stratospheric price tag. The ignition key is still on the left, steering is whipsaw responsive, braking is almost paralytic, and the car still rockets away from a dead start like it's jet-propelled. Transmission is a seven-speed PDK sequential shift, and the Turbo S Coupe has all-wheel-drive. A word about the PDK, or Doppelkupplung, gearbox: steering-wheel-mounted paddles allow you to shift up or down in the blink of an eye and, all things considered, it's more rewarding to drive the car in shift mode than just leaving it in automatic.
A few other goodies that come standard with this model include an onboard diagnostic system, an active suspension management system, full leather interior, XM radio, Bluetooth and Porsche's Chronos package, which in this configuration allows the driver to "enhance" engine performance and suspension settings so you can get the full measure of performance out of the drivetrain at the racing track. As befitting its luxo-sport status, the Turbo S Coupe is loaded.
But it may not be for everybody. An objective observer could point out that the ride is too stiff for comfort, the PDK transmission is balky and slow to react during low speed manoeuvring and backing up, the tilt steering mechanism is not power-activated and should be, the switchgear and controls are still kind of wonky and all over the map, it's a chore to get in and out of the car because of the huge doors and low ground stance and last, but far from least, this is an expensive piece of hardware and will remain a dream for most drivers.
But, you know what? It doesn't matter.
2011 Porsche 911 Turbo S Coupe
Type: Prestige performance coupe
Engine: Twin-turbocharged, liquid-cooled, 3.8-litre, horizontally opposed six-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 530 hp/516 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift mode
Fuel economy (litres/ 100 km): 12.7 city/8.1 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Ferrari 430, Mercedes AMG 65, Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi R8 5.2.
Help! My oil change went horribly wrong