The character arc of the 911 Turbo more or less mirrors that of many adults: a wild and crazy youth filled with danger and reckless fun, followed by a gradual maturing until it was almost unrecognizable, safe and a bit boring at parties. The question is where does it go from here?
For 2021, the Turbo is all-new and based on the 992-generation 911 chassis. Most people won’t notice, but the new model is longer and wider, especially at the front axle. Inevitably, it’s also more powerful, which it really didn’t need to be. The top-spec Turbo S makes 641 horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque; you can enjoy only a few seconds at full burn before you run up against the law.
The good news is that the Turbo feels very different from the old one, even if it doesn’t look it.
The previous Turbo was probably too competent for its own good. It was the product of nearly four decades of continuous refinement. Objectively excellent, it lacked excitement. It was too grown-up, too mature.
By contrast, the original 911 Turbo was dreamt up in West Germany in the mid-70s and appeared to be the product of bunch of engineers on a late-night bender. They took the dainty 911 and gave it fat wheels, flared arches and a rear wing the size of a surf board. The pièce de résistance was a great big turbocharger bolted onto the motor, which boosted power to scary new heights. They created a monster. It had a reputation for biting careless drivers who didn’t respect its prodigious power, turbo lag or the fact that the engine – hung out behind the rear wheels – made the car handle like a pendulum. It earned the nickname “the widowmaker.”
The 2021 car is not like that. Nothing could be; on-board electronic wizardry ensure this car always has your back when the going gets fast. No, what Porsche has done this time is engineer back in a safe amount of excitement and danger in order to make you – and the car – feel young again.
I went to drive this car blind, having not heard from the engineers and Porsche executives who developed it (the car’s launch in California was cancelled due to COVID-19), but the changes were evident from the first on-ramp. Porsche seems to have realized that in a world where all sports cars are too fast and too grippy, people want cars that are entertaining at everyday speeds. (See also: the rising popularity of Porsche’s hardcore sports cars such as the 911 GT3 and Boxster Spyder.)
The wider front track means the steering is sharp, almost darty. It has regained some fizzy tactile feel and feedback. Porsche took lessons learned from the hardcore 911 GT3’s transparent suspension and steering setup and applied them to this more comfortable and luxurious 911 Turbo. You can feel the road and get a sense of how forces are building up on the tires. You can feel once again that, ahh, yes, the engine is indeed in the wrong place – just as it should be – as you trail-brake into turns or lift the throttle midcorner. All of which is to say that you can now enjoy the Turbo properly on public roads, even just driving to get groceries.
The Turbo is not as outrageous looking, lively or tail-happy as some other machines – Aston Martin Vantage, Lamborghini Huracan Evo, McLaren 570S – but it’s a big step in the right direction for Porsche and a nod to what made the original Turbo such a sensation.
Like some of its eventual owners, the new Turbo appears to be in the throes of its own mid-life crisis. The 2021 Turbo S, which arrives in Canada late this year, has successfully captured some of the lost excitement of its younger, wilder days. It’s still the responsible choice if you’re in the market for an everyday supercar, but it’s no longer the boring choice.
- Base price: $231,700 (coupe) and $246,300 (cabriolet)
- Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six
- Transmissions: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Fuel economy (l/100 km): TBD
- Drive: All-wheel drive
- Alternatives: Audi R8, McLaren 570S, Aston Martin Vantage, Ferrari Roma, Mercedes-AMG GT, Jaguar F-Type SVR, Polestar 1
It’s more fun to drive, but not really more fun to look at. Here’s hoping the whale-tail wing from the original makes a comeback.
A huge improvement. Three digital screens are neatly integrated into the dash in a retro layout reminiscent of classic 911s. The main interface is overcomplicated, but at least there are still physical controls.
It’s more cushy and comfortable at highway speeds. Even in the city, the ride is much less harsh. Only at very slow speeds do you really feel the huge wheels and lack of suspension travel. And yes, it’s pleasantly rapid: 0-100 km/h in 2.7 seconds.
It has rear-wheel steering, all-wheel drive and carbon-ceramic brakes as standard, but because this is Porsche, you can still easily spend $40,000 on options.
The front trunk is too small for a two-week grocery run, so you’ll have to put the eggs carefully on the passenger seat, but it will all fit, which is more than you can say for most other exotic machinery.
The new Turbo recaptures some of its old thrill. You’ll like this car if you want an under-the radar, daily-driveable, almost practical rocket ship.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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