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First drive: Porsche 911 Turbo faster – and cheaper

Cut-price supercar: The latest Porsche 911 Turbo will be about $6000 cheaper, despite major improvements.

More bang for the buck from swift new Porsche 911 Turbo, thanks to import duty slice

20 Oct 2009

By JAMES STANFORD in LISBON

THE ballistic new Porsche 911 Turbo is not only faster, more fuel-efficient and more technologically advanced than the model it replaces, but also likely to be cheaper when it arrives in Australia in February.

Porsche Australia is yet to lock in pricing for the iconic sportscar, but has advised that the entry-level manual coupe is likely to cost about $355,000 – down from $361,000 – thanks mainly to the January 1 import duty reduction from 10 per cent to five per cent.

While the convertible 911 Turbo has traditionally been introduced several months after the coupe, both versions will be available from launch. The estimated price of the convertible is likely to be around $380,000, down from $387,000.

The second iteration of the 997 generation 911 Turbo has a larger boxer six-cylinder engine, moving up from 3.6-litres to 3.8-litres.

Porsche says the new engine is its first all-new engine for the 911 Turbo since the model was introduced 35 years ago.

Like its predecessor, the six-cylinder has four overhead camshafts, two of which (those used to control the intake) are variable, and two variable-geometry turbos.

25 center image The biggest change, apart from the increase in displacement, comes from direct injection which increases both performance and economy. This also allowed Porsche to lift the compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.8:1.

Porsche was able reduce the maximum turbo boost pressure by 0.2 bar to 1 bar while the maximum rev point inched up from 6750rpm to 7000rpm.

All this means power has risen from 353kW to a whopping 368kW at 6000rpm, while torque has increased from 620Nm to 650Nm from 1950rpm to 5000rpm.

The optional Sports Chrono package unleashes an extra 50Nm of torque via overboost.

Porsche says this engineering allows the new 911 Turbo to dash from 0-100km/h in just 3.4 seconds, down 0.3 from its previous best.

That time is set with the new seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, which is being offered for the first time on the 911 Turbo. For the record, the best 0-100km/h time for the manual 911 Turbo is 3.6 seconds, an improvement of 0.3 seconds.

The PDK replaces a traditional five-speed torque converter type transmission. Porsche Australia expects 75 per cent of Turbo customers to opt for the PDK automatic.

While exact pricing is yet to be finalised, it is likely the PDK will cost around $7900 extra. It is also available with optional large gearshift paddles for those who don’t like the toggle shift steering wheel buttons. When customers buy the optional Sports Chrono pack, the PDK inherits a launch control function.

The standard transmission remains a six-speed manual, but it has been reinforced to cope with the engine’s extra punch. Porsche has also included a gear-shift indicator that suggest when to change up to achieve the optimum consumption.

The engine now has an integrated dry sump – with six oil pumps – in a system that is 4kg lighter than using an external sump while also lowering the centre of gravity.

All 911 Turbo models use a constant all-wheel-drive system to transfer power to the ground. This system has been tweaked to provide a smoother transition of power between the axles.

The company has introduced the impressive-sounding option of Porsche Torque Vectoring for the first time on the 911 Turbo, which is a rear limited slip differential teamed with the ability to brake either rear wheel for greater traction. It is likely to cost around $3000 extra.

The Sports Chrono pack, which is likely to cost about $8600, not only unlocks the overboost function, but includes a special clock, lap timer, launch control on the PDK models, plus dynamic engine mounts.

These special mounts are filled with fluid that contains tiny metal particles which, when exposed to magnetic forces, changes the thickness of the fluid.

If that sounds familiar, this method is used for high-end variable damping suspension systems. It allows for greater suppression of noise and vibration on the road, in soft setting, while improves the agility for sporty driving by stopping the engine moving around.

Fuel consumption of the new 911 Turbo has been reduced, with a saving of 2.2 litres per 100km in the case of the automatic coupe, which now returns a figure of 11.4L/100km. The manual consumption has also been improved, but it is slightly thirstier than the automatic with a combined fuel consumption number of 11.6L/100km.

Emissions have been reduced to 268g/km for the PDK auto and 272g/km for the manual.

Perhaps a number that many young fans are more interested in is the time it takes for the 911 Turbo to lap the famous Nurburgring. According to the car-maker, the new 911 Turbo is 10 seconds faster around the track than the previous model with a best time of 7 min. 39 sec.

This is still some way off Nissan’s claimed GT-R lap time of 7 min. 27 sec.

Porsche has left alone the suspension set-up of the 911 Turbo, which uses a MacPherson strut front end with a five-link rear using electronically controlled dampers.

The hefty brake set up remains, but the current system was by no means in need of improvement.

Cross-drilled brake discs measuring 350mm are clamped by six-piston callipers at the front and four-piston callipers at the rear, while carbon ceramic discs are available as an option.

Despite the larger engine, the new 911 Turbo is lighter than the car it replaces, shedding 15kg for a total of 1570kg as a manual coupe, and losing 25kg for a total of 1595kg as an automatic coupe. Much of the savings come from the lighter engine and lighter PDK transmission.

The 911 will continue to run 19-inch rims with 235/35 front tyres measuring 8.5 inches across. On the rear, the 911 employs 305/30 tyres that are a massive 11 inches across.

The only way to pick a new 911 Turbo from its predecessor from the front is the new LED daytime running lights. At the rear, new LED tail lights flash under heavy braking.

Drive impressions:

THE latest iteration of the force-fed 911 supercar not only enables skilled drivers to go quicker, but also makes it easier for less experienced drivers to increase their pace, thanks to a range of technological aids that help to tame what used to be regarded as quite a monster when pushed to the limit.

Can’t use a manual? No problem. In the past, you would have been slowed by the torque converter five-speed automatic, but now Porsche has introduced the excellent seven-speed dual-clutch automatic which is actually faster than the manual version.

When optioned up with the Sports Chrono pack, this transmission even includes launch control which guarantees lightning fast acceleration.

When combined with a rear limited-slip differential, which can also brake either rear wheel for maximum traction and stability, and the already excellent electronic stability control, you have a supreme machine that can achieve remarkable pace around a race track such as Estoril, in Portugal, where we tested the car.

You still have to respect the rear-engined Turbo as it will always have a tendency to rotate if you suddenly back off the throttle going into a turn, but otherwise the new Turbo is extremely forgiving.

The acceleration is simply stunning.

Equipped with a GPS-enabled VBOX data collection system our 911 Turbo convertible went from 0-60km/h in just 1.6 seconds. The 0-100km/h time was an incredible 3.2 seconds, below the official claim of 3.4 seconds. It also did the standing quarter mile (400m) in just 11.19 seconds.

The data recorder also picked up that the car pulled 1.1g under acceleration, which is a big number for a road car.

Most striking is that the car used for the acceleration tests had been flogged all day, did several timed runs and then returned to the track for more torturous hot laps.

None of the Turbos showed any sign of stress, apart from the tyres, which is quite something.

Most cars with launch control systems require long rests in between fast runs, but the Porsche keeps going like the Energizer Bunny.

We did a road run on a series of narrow roads just out of Lisbon, which outlined the fact that a car like this is wasted unless you book track time to let it stretch its legs.

The suspension is quite firm on rough roads. Whether it is too harsh for the car to be driven everyday would depend on personal preference.

It is an easy car to drive at restrained speeds and is also smooth at idle, giving few clues as to the power it has on tap.

The convertible’s body is so rigid that you don’t feel like you are missing out against the coupe.

Porsche has also done a great job of limiting wind buffeting at high speeds. Leave the windows up and you can comfortably travel at highway speeds with the roof down and have a conversation without having to raise your voice much at all.

Dropping the roof also allows you to soak up the sound of the engine behind you.

Applying the throttle gently leads to an intimidating rumble as the turbo chargers build up pressure. It gets louder and louder and sounds like a mechanical version of rolling thunder.

Pressing hard on the throttle replaces this sound with a harsh rush as the turbos work to force massive amounts of air into the engine.

This, coupled with the wondrous snarl of combustion at high revs, creates one of the most fantastic sounds in the automotive world. It sounds great in the open and is tingle-inducing in a closed area such as a tunnel.

With the roof closed on the race track, the overwhelming sound is the induction rush and tyre squealing under acceleration.

The best aspect of the new engine is its responsiveness. The variable geometry turbo of the predecessor reduced lag considerably, but this one takes responsiveness to a new level thanks to its larger capacity and the direct injection.

Rally legend and senior Porsche test driver Walter Rohrl hit the track in the turbo 935 (Moby Dick) racer of the late 1970s for demonstration run at Estoril and was stunned by the advancement in the technology.

“With the race car you had to press the accelerator before the corner and the boost would come on when you were on the way out of the corner,” he said.

“Now the response is so fast it is just incredible. It is like a non-turbo car.” The tremendous power keeps on coming all the way to the 7000rpm redline.

We spent a bit of time in the manual, which is a precise transmission that is likely to remain the true choice of the enthusiasts.

That said, we would go for the dual-clutch PDK automatic, purely for the speed of the shifts.

We are not alone either. Rohrl has ordered a bright blue 911 Turbo with PDK.

The optional large paddles are far easier to use than the toggle buttons on the wheel.

The only problem with PDK is its indecisiveness at low speeds in urban driving conditions. It will sometimes get flustered and its low-speed clutch take-up and release can be clumsy.

The Turbo’s handling is brilliant and the only downside on the track is its tendency to understeer on the limit through a fast right hander. A race driver employed to help us around the track said this would be cured with softer race tyres.

One of the most impressive elements of the Turbo package is its braking capability.

Its huge anchors, combined with the wide tyres allow for the kind of braking that race drivers are used to.

The brakes copped an absolute pounding on the track, for lap after lap, and while they did smell warm when we arrived in the pits there was not one sign of any smouldering.

Now for the sobering part. While the new 911 Turbo is likely to be cheaper than its predecessor, the price will edge towards the $400,000 mark when a few options are added.

Almost all our test cars had at least PDK, Sports Chrono and the LSD system which adds around $20,000 to the price. Then there are things like the centrelock wheels that add a cool $8000.

The new 911 Turbo is extremely expensive, but it is a remarkable performance car that can achieve awesome speeds on the track and is also relatively easy to live with.

It is hard to think of any other car that offers this combination, at any price.

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