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First look: Big-bore 911 Turbo blows rivals away

Bigger is better: The latest Porsche 911 Turbo gets a bigger engine that produces more power from less fuel.

Bigger force-fed flat six brings more power, better economy for facelifted 911 Turbo

7 Aug 2009

YOU have to hand it to Porsche, which has a long tradition of improving the performance and fuel efficiency of its models with each successive upgrade.

Much was anticipated from the midlife makeover of its flagship sportscar, the 911 Turbo, after significant gains in both areas for lesser members of the facelifted 997-series 911 range, mainly via the addition of direct-injection engine technology and the PDK twin-clutch automated manual transmission.

The German sportscar-maker, however, has blown those expectations to the kerb by revealing a bigger new engine that delivers more power, torque, acceleration and speed – but considerably better fuel economy and exhaust emissions – than a model that was already widely regarded as the benchmark in its class.

Breaking with tradition, Porsche will host the global public premiere of not just one but two versions of the latest 911 Turbo at the Frankfurt motor show on September 15, when both the 2010 coupe and cabriolet will debut before going on sale in Germany in late November and in Australia early next year.

Today’s official media reveal comes just a week after Porsche confirmed it would sell its shares in Volkswagen – a move that’s likely to result in an $8.5 billion loss for its current financial year, plus the transferral of a stake in the hallowed Stuttgart supercar-maker to the investment arm of the Qatari government.

25 center imageDemonstrating its commitment to performance and efficiency, despite being in the midst of its worst financial crisis in decades, Porsche claims the seventh-generation 911 Turbo will produce an average of almost 18 per cent less CO2 emissions while increasing its power output to a neat 500 horsepower, or 368kW.

That’s up 15kW from the 911 Turbo’s previous power peak of 353kW and, although no torque figure is listed, maximum twist is also likely to increase from the current model’s feisty 680Nm (from just 1950rpm and all the way to 5000rpm), which itself was up from 309kW and 560Nm (between 2700 and 4600rpm) in the previous 996-series flagship.

The key to the 996’s major performance gains was Porsche’s pioneering fitment of exclusive variable-geometry turbocharging technology, and while that continues, the 911 Turbo is powered by what’s claimed to be its first entirely new engine in the 35-year history.

Up from 3.6 to 3.8 litres in displacement but said to share little in common with the naturally-aspirated 3.8-litre six-cylinder boxer engine that powers the 911 Carrera S and 4S and Targa 4S, Zuffenhausen’s all-new force-fed flat six comes with direct fuel-injection and the option of Porsche’s seven-speed PDK auto for the first time.

The combination is enough to drop the Turbo’s already-scintillating claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.7 seconds to just 3.4 seconds, with 0-200km/h acceleration also falling to less than 12 seconds (about as long as some cars take to reach 100km/h), while top speed lifts only incrementally to 312km/h.

On claimed figures, that makes the newest 911 Turbo Coupe, which is also likely to increase in pricing terms from the current model’s $361,100 (manual), just as quick – if not quite as fast – as Ferrari’s all-new 458 Italia Coupe, which will also debut at Frankfurt, before arriving here in mid-2010.

However, the Italian maker’s latest mid/rear-engined two-seater coupe, which comes with a California convertible-sourced direct-injection 4.5-litre V8 that develops 425kW and 540Nm, will cost around $500,000 and is significantly less fuel-efficient, despite being lighter.

Porsche says its newest Turbo returns between 11.4 and 11.7 litres per 100km on the latest EU5 fuel/emissions test cycle, which is not only more than 1.0L/100km better than before, but at least 2.0L/100km more efficient than the Ferrari, which returns 13.7L/100km and 320g/km.

The outgoing 997 Turbo averaged 12.8L/100km and 307g/km as a manual and 13.6L/100km and 327g/km in five-speed Tiptronic S auto form, but Porsche’s claim of a near-18 per cent emissions improvement should see it emit as little as about 255g/km of CO2.

“Unlike most other cars in its segment, the new Turbo remains even further below the crucial level of fuel consumption for gas guzzler tax in the USA, the special tax imposed on cars with substantial fuel consumption,” says Porsche.

It wouldn’t be a new 911 without improved handing dynamics and to that end in this case Porsche has equipped the Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive system of the MY10 Turbo with Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV).

Available as an optional extra for the standard Porsche Stability Management (PSM) electronic stability control system, the company says PTV improves the car’s steering agility and precision.

PDK twin-clutch auto versions of the new Turbo will also be available with an optional new three-spoke steering wheel that comprises BMW-style forward-mounted gearshift paddles – right-side to upshift, left to downshift – rather than the two-way spoke-mounted toggle switches traditionally offered with the superseded auto.

Finally, Porsche has also revealed that the Sport Chrono Package Turbo option for the newest top-shelf 911 will include integrated steering wheel displays for the PDK version’s launch control and Sport/Sport Plus driving modes.

While the facelifted 911 GT3, which arrives in Australia in November, runs a naturally-aspirated 3.8-litre flat six without direct-injection to meet racing homologation rules, next year’s rear-drive 911 GT2 should crown the 997 MkII 911 line-up in even more spectacular fashion by employing the Turbo’s ballistic new 3.8.

Porsche has also hinted at the release of an even wilder version of the GT2, nicknamed ‘GT2-Plus’ and almost certain to use the super-efficient new Turbo engine, before the current 911 is replaced in 2011 by the 998-series.

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