September 22, 2014 @ 04:03 PM

Porsche 911 Turbo S - Serious intent

560bhp, 700Nm, all wheel steering and ceramic brakes. Do you want to go to the track, now? by Ahmad Zulizwan



Words: Ahmad Zulizwan
Pictures: Sime Darby Auto Performance
 
560bhp, 700Nm, all wheel steering and ceramic brakes. Do you want to go to the track, now?
 
I will tell you a secret and I hope that you do not tell anyone else. Here it goes: For me, a test drive at Sepang usually results in slight disappointment. The usual reason is that most road cars are simply overwhelmed by the vastness of Malaysia’s only F1 track. I can take my bog standard Proton and do the 5.54km lap in 3 minutes 20 seconds (I’m just throwing numbers here), yet no matter how enthusiastic I get while driving, I’ll be bored by the third lap. The circuit is just too big.

I’d say 300bhp on a (maximum) 1500kg kerb weight is the minimum – preferably rear- or all-wheel drive – to milk any form of fun from driving there. Basically, when I found out that Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP) is about to let me loose on the track with 560bhp, I gladly accepted. It’s the 911 Turbo S.

This is Porsche on overkill; because there are still people who have no respect for a rear engine car, and have little understanding of how to drive one. For this the 911 is deemed dangerous and 700Nm is simply making impossible to drive. No worries, it is also all wheel drive.
For the sake of painting the entire picture, SDAP had also planned to include the GT3 as well but since this drive happened during all the hoo-ha of some engines catching fire, that particular model was omitted from the agenda. The replacement was a 4S, not exactly an equal yet I was not about to be picky.

My turn came and up first was the 4S. I love it when a plan falls into place, even when it is nothing more than just a coincidence. After all, always keep the best for last so a few practice laps in the 4S is just perfect. I strap myself in and wait – the Turbo S in front is heading out and as these things usually go, a gap is given for safety reasons. Basically, two drivers in two fast cars tend to push each other too much and turning it into a race.

I get the green light and dive out of the pits. The usual first lap protocol – keep out of the racing line before T1 and dab on the brakes, just to make sure they are working. I still need to get accustomed though; one of my biggest trouble with Porsche vehicles is getting settled in. Finding the best seating position takes time; thankfully it gets done by T3. There’s 400bhp coming out from the 3.8 litre Boxer engine and as the name suggests, all hit the tarmac via four contact patches. I have a personal preference for the 4S as it is the first ever Porsche I’ve ever driven in anger. The wide wheel arches are a beautiful thing to gawk at, a graceful reminder to the dynamic potential it keeps hidden. Starting from the 997 4S, Stuttgart engineers started to include a bit more liberty to how the stability system behaves. You can keep the nannies on but for fun, the system will allow for some slight tail-outs. Not a lot of course, just enough to remind you that despite the wider track and all wheel traction, it still has all the mass hanging past the rear axle.

I love how a 911 behaves at quick corners – at T5 and T6; T7-8 and especially T12-T13, you really have to have your wits with you. It is a dance between commitment and knowing the limits. By the second lap I am really going at it, a naughty voice in the head challenging me to chase the Turbo S up front which right now is not even visible. At T2 the rear steps out in a beautifully progressive slip; but punch in a little more throttle to shift balance back to the rear. Inside the balaclava and open face Sparco, my ears can still enjoy the flat six noise. The instructor next to me had kept his instructions to the minimum which I’d like to think as proof of confidence to my driving. So I push on.

And by the start of the third lap, I see the object of my attention. As I straighten the steering at the main straight, the Turbo S is just about to slam on the brakes for T1. The instructor next to me is impressed; I am too to be honest.

Another two laps and we’re back in the pit to change into something angrier. If there is anything that might indicate of the Turbo S’ power, it would be the gigantic air intakes on the rear fenders. If the 4S was wide, the Turbo is even wider – by 28mm. This makes it the widest car within the 911 family. The 20 inch wheels are fastened with hub wheel locks not unlike what you find on sports cars, or the absent GT3.

As an engineering marvel, the Turbo S’ flat six 3800cc engine comes with bi-turbo, each with variable turbine geometry, a first from any car maker. Despite such output (and 700Nm of torque between 2,100rpm-4,250rpm), it comes with surprising efficiency. Porsche claims that fuel consumption has gone down by 16 per cent thanks to the super quick 7-speed PDK gearbox; auto start-stop; a coasting function and a new thermal management system.

That last bit is not of my concern as I drive out to join the main straight. It’s hard to not notice the jump in performance found at my right foot. And it quickly becomes clear that driving the Turbo S requires a bit of adjustment into how one use the steering. Certainly, the power increase warrants attention as well, after all it feels too easy to overpower the rear traction using nothing other than an overeager right pedal.

No. The extra care is for the rear axle steering. The system consists of two electro-mechanical actuators instead of the conventional control arms on the left and right of the rear axle. The steering angle of the rear wheels can be varied by up to 2.8 degrees, depending on vehicle speed. At speeds up to 50 km/h, when the front wheels are turned the system steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction. This actually corresponds to a virtual shortening of the wheelbase by 250 mm, which gives the 911 Turbo unrivalled performance in bends.

Once the speedometer points to 80km/h and above, the system steers the rear wheels parallel to the angle of the front wheels to lend much more high speed stability. Porsche likens this to a virtual lengthening of the wheelbase by as much as 500mm.

While the engineers have done a wonderful job in making this extra help combine seamlessly with one’s normal steering input, it does feel exaggerated. The 991 was taking some heat for its electric steering, and four-wheel steering is perhaps something that was imminent in hindsight, however it needs some time to get used to. Out on track, it does surprise me how well it handle transients with less steering input. In the hands of professionals, the Turbo S laps the north loop of the Nurburgring in less than 7 minutes and 30 seconds. Two seconds from this incredible lap time comes down from active aerodynamics which also makes a first appearance in the variant.

Just how much faster is the Turbo S? Well, I notice that my top speed before having to step on the brakes for T1 was 230km/h in the 4S while the bi-turbo goes well past 250km/h. There’s some more speed to bring into the main straight, but I will first have to learn how to reapply power following the hairpin. In any case, the PCCB (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake) system that comes as standard brings the braking point a good way forward. The closest I brought it to T1 before dropping anchors was roughly 110 metres and there was still some margin left.

It comes at a huge price but the Turbo S speaks volumes of the manufacturer’s engineering ability which adds into the raw driving experience. Do take note that all this was done under a hot Sepang sun, with the car’s air-conditioning doing a more than decent job in keeping both passengers cool. I was told that for that day alone only two sets of tyres was used plus there were no mechanical issues at all. Certainly everyone wished that we can say the same of the GT3 but perhaps that time will come another day.

For having the right qualities in maximising my limited driving capacity, the 4S simply seems to be a car that fits me. Where does that put the Turbo S? Well, without a doubt it wins in every department. Give me some more time with it and I’m sure I’ll figure out how to make the most of that active steering sorcery. Yet, I’m sure the Turbo S is just as captivating to drive on normal roads as it is on track.

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Specifications
On sale
Now
Engine
3800cc 24v water-cooled flat-six, bi-turbo, 560bhp @ 6500-6750rpm, 700Nm @ 2100-4250rpm
Transmission
7-speed PDK, all-wheel drive
Performance
3.1 sec 0-100km/h, 318km/h, 9.7 l/100km, 227g/km
Suspension
MacPherson front, multi-link rear
Weight
1605kg
Length/width/height
4506 / 1880 / 1296mm

Rating 5 stars
 

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