by Ben Barry
Now 45 years old, every previous generation of Porsche 911 Turbo has been introduced to a line-up as the only turbocharged model, bar the rarefied GT2. That changed mid-way through the previous 991 generation, and now the new 992 Turbo S we're testing (introduced before the regular Turbo) crowns a range that is entirely turbocharged, bar the incoming GT3/GT3 RS. It begs the question whether the Turbo S can make a strong enough case for itself given the latest Carrera's new-found depth of performance, and how much the Turbo S can justify the substantial extra financial outlay.
Porsche absolutely knows this, so it's put the hard yards in on the 992: performance jumps by 69 hp to 640 hp, for both more power than ever before, and a larger increase between model generations than ever before.
There's a wider track (+10 mm at the front, +42 mm rear), a claimed 15 percent increase in downforce, and more mechanical grip from tires that are now staggered both in width and diameter, with 20s at the front and 21s at the rear, just like a GT3 RS.
In fact, with Porsche motorsport stalwart Frank-Stefan Walliser now taking the 911's reins from the retired August Achleitner, there's also been a subtle shift in the 911 Turbo's mission statement: still the more luxurious and useable high-performance alternative to the more uncompromising GT3, GT2 and RS models, but now with the needle moved a little more in their direction.
Even since the original (930) 911 Turbo of 1975, the Turbo has boasted wider hips than a regular 911, in order to house fatter rear tires. In the last generation it picked the large from the available small, medium and large bodyshells, but this generation has been simplified to just medium and large. If you need help telling them apart, just look for the black air intakes ahead of the Turbo S's monster rear wheels, but even without them the extra girth would be visually apparent - this is one chunky looking 911.
Otherwise, being a development of the 991, this is an evolutionary step, but it's very effective, with crisper lines and detailing adding extra definition to the classic 911 lines.
Like its predecessor, there's active aero - select Sport Plus mode and the front splitter extends lower like a stuck-out tongue, and the rear wing sticks up on struts, aping a GT3. This time, though, that rear wing also functions as a McLaren-style airbrake, increasing drag and helping to slow the car when you brake hard.
Just like the exterior, the interior is a mild evolution of the previous 991, so the basics are the same: a well-sorted, low-set and highly adjustable driving position, a rising center console, and a clean, simple layout that feels solidly built and looks suitably special, if not dramatically more so than the significantly more affordable Carrera. The sports seats are both supportive and comfortable, and our test car's fluted stitching on the seats and door casings subtly and cleverly bring the retro 930 Turbo interior up to date.
Like the facelifted previous generation, there's a small dial on the steering wheel to select drive modes, and an analogue clock as part of the Sport Chrono pack. But there are significant changes too: the five-dial layout remains, with an analogue rev counter largest and at its center, but the two dials either side are now configurable digital dials in 7-inch TFT screens. A row of toggle switches puts driving functions (switchable stability control, suspension modes etc.) closer to hand and your line of sight than before.
Not so good is the replacement of the PDK gear lever with a stumpy little drive-by-wire switch, as is the case with all new PDK equipped Carreras. No longer can you instinctively knock the lever to the left to select manual mode (instead you must look down and press the 'M' button), and neither can you use the lever to change gears - I'd sometimes pull back on the 991's lever to select second when leaving a tight junction because the shift paddles fixed to the wheel were temporarily upside down.
The compact feel of 997 and earlier generations that left production more than a decade ago is now only enjoyed by 718 buyers, and while that's a negative in some respects, the plus is that there's more useable space, with really quite generous room in the rear for a 2+2 - though it's still a perch best reserved for kids.
The new Turbo S engine is derived from the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged unit in the Carrera, if extensively developed and increased to a capacity of 3,745cc (previously 3,800cc for the 991). The turbochargers continue to feature Variable Turbine Geometry, but they're now symmetrical to ensure the ideal path for gasses, and the turbine wheels have increased in size by 5 mm to 61 mm.
A more efficient intercooler system and improved air intake helps boost power from the 991's 69 hp to 640 hp, while torque rises 37 lb-ft to 590 lb-ft - a figure now constantly available between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm, where before it was on tap for a limited time as an overboost function.
With all-wheel drive and the eight-speed auto PDK standard, the 0-60 mph time of 2.7 seconds is 0.2 sec faster than before, the 0-124 mph time of 8.9 sec is a full second quicker than the previous model - quite an accomplishment given that car felt so rabidly accelerative. The ample 205 mph top speed remains the same.
In just a few miles you know that the new Turbo S remains an effortless daily driver, even with our car riding on the optional and 10-mm lower sports suspension and fitted with a sports exhaust. The ride is long-distance comfortable, road noise pretty subdued and the engine and transmission flexible and smooth. This Turbo S actively encourages regular and varied use.
But up the pace and the Turbo S really steps up to the plate. It's worth noting that even the 991 generation wasn't perhaps the grand-touring softie it's sometimes portrayed as, but there's certainly more attitude here, and naturally, the turbo motor is key to the experience.
The 3.8 feels a more traditional kind of turbocharged experience than the Carrera because while there is flexibility low down in the rev range and throttle response is prompt, you need 3,500 rpm on the dial for the turbos to really kick. When they do, you're fired down the road with a brutal urgency, with every pop of the PDK gear changes pushing you back in your seat like you've pressed the red button on the missile silo.
A Carrera is more linear, a GT3 will rev higher, but the visceral step in power delivery, the muscle in the mid-range and the way the Turbo S gobbles up the narrower powerband gives it an intoxicating and unique thrill all of its own. Fitted with our sports exhaust, there's also a more industrial, bassier feel to this thunderous engine than the Carrera's - very much a good thing.
Select the firmer of two damper settings and body control becomes extremely tight, too tight we'd say for quick back road driving, if no doubt perfect for track work. Instead, wind it back to the regular setting and you'll find a well-judged combination of compliance to keep the wheels in touch with the road surface, all the better for all-wheel drive to claw barely believable traction from it. The new Turbo S can divert up to 369 lb-ft of torque forwards, but it still combines a pretty overt rear bias with gluey traction and monster carbon-ceramic brakes that - although not as feelsome as standard brakes on a Cayman GTS - give this chassis more than enough answers to the huge performance. Point-to-point, this is a savagely rapid machine.
This is also a car that communicates clearly with its driver thanks to a satisfyingly raw and analogue feel when you work it hard, though the steering doesn't have the feel of the more uncompromising and unfiltered GT models. Perhaps that's not such a surprise given the Turbo S's broader brief, but what's harder to reconcile is the four-wheel steering. Porsche calibrates this system with real dexterity in other models, to the extent that you can forget it's there at all, but in the Turbo S it's somehow more exaggerated and less natural. I felt like I'd turned in way too early for the first quick corner, and never quite gelled with it in two days' driving - a slighter slower rate of response would let you pile into corners with broader brushes of steering inputs, where the Turbo S requires smaller inputs and a greater number of corrections.
We've tested the Porsche 911 Turbo S Coupe, which retails from $203,500, but buyers can also specify the Turbo model, which was launched after the S. That brings a substantial saving, at $170,800, if also a substantial drop in equipment and performance - though 572 hp and 553 lb-ft is more than adequate.
In both cases, a cabriolet is available, priced $183,600 for the Turbo drop-top, $216,300 for the S.
From a purely selfish perspective, Porsche already has me covered: I'd pick one of its Carreras for daily use and a GT model for trackdays and fun weekends, but that's not to say the Turbo S doesn't succeed in finding a niche in today's line-up, nor succeed in finding its own distinct flavour, even with turbocharging now commonplace on lesser models. Far more visceral than a Carrera, now with a little more GT-model fairydust, and still fit for kids and daily driving no matter the conditions, the 911 Turbo S remains a 911 unlike any other.
Check out some informative Porsche 911 Turbo video reviews below.