Speak softly and carry a 560 horsepower stick. That’s the maxim of the new Porsche Turbo S.
Few vehicles on Earth are as extreme as this machine, but likely not in the way you might think. Certainly it’s fast, able to place you a quarter-mile down the road in less than 11 seconds. And expensive too, starting at $181,100.
Yet it’s also the most docile of cars, moving through city traffic like a kitten, soft and quiet and accommodating. Almost sleepy eyed until you call for its king-of-the jungle, lionlike might.
You want comfort and ease on the morning commute and then the ability to whip a supercar or two on the ride home? Those are the Turbo’s twin raisons d’etre. Extremes at either side.
The 911 recently marked its 50th birthday. It was a design penned by Ferdinand Porsche, who died in 2012 and was the grandson of the Stuttgart, Germany-based automaker’s founder. Today the car’s simple shape is still the same. So is the peculiar engineering, with the engine located in the rear like its humble predecessor, Volkswagen AG’s Beetle.
Porsche tried to kill the 911 in the late 1970s with the front-engine 928. (Engineers must have been blue in the face, employing Germanic logic. A front engine is clearly better, yes?) The 911’s zealots rebelled, and instead the car has methodically evolved generation after generation, making it one of the best all-around automobiles on the planet.
The Turbo appeared in 1974, embellishing on a perfect form with the oversized wing and wider haunches. It was the emboldened Porsche, the look-at-me 911. Even today most car lovers will gaze upon that model and feel naked lust.
The 911’s continued success is partly due to its many guises, from basic to hard-core, catering to every personality type. If you’re an adherent to throwback, “Mad Men” sophistication, a vintage air-cooled 911 is for you.
And if you really want to show the Joneses just who’s who, you’ll head to a dealership for this Turbo S, which cracks the 3-second barrier to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour. Stick it, Joneses.
The Turbo S costs $32,800 more than the regular Turbo, gaining an extra 40 horsepower and standard carbon-ceramic brakes. If that kind of logic makes sense to you, you’re likely the kind of A-type for whom the world is never quite enough. That’s all right, because the Turbo S always has more to give.
I’m not sure the latest car, built on the 991 generation chassis, surprises us quite as much as the original Turbo. We’ve come to expect the deliriously exaggerated, Barbie-doll proportions. This time the entire vehicle has grown in width again, with the rear more than three inches (7.6 centimeters) wider than the front. It’s a footprint that gives pause on narrow streets.
It looks awesome. The side intakes behind the doors are big enough to inhale songbirds. Even devout 911 purists who believe that employing turbochargers on the flat-six engine is heresy — it muffles that iconic sound — secretly desire the rear wing. The Turbo’s muscular exoskeleton looks like it’s ready to go to war.
And with these specifications, it’s battle ready. It has all-wheel drive and a top speed of 197 mph. The Turbo S isn’t a Ferrari, but in some respects it’s better. You could run it all day at the racetrack and pretty much guarantee it would get you back home in the evening. Bulletproof.
The rocket-ship power is easy to access. Many sports cars offer a “launch control” function as the quickest way to get off the line. But it can be difficult to engage that function, akin to unlocking cheat codes in the “Legend of Zelda” video games.
In the Turbo S, you simply hit the “sport plus” button, put one foot on the brake, stomp the gas with the other, release the brake and let it rip. A U.S. car magazine says they did this more than 60 times in a row without injury to the car, with a best result of 2.6 seconds to 60 mph.
You needn’t be a race-car driver to keep things in line. Rather, all four wheels of the car turn, helping to carry you through fast corners or to tighten the turning radius at slow speeds. Various safety and performance features include torque vectoring, electronic dampers, active antiroll bars and an active aerodynamic system, all overseen by an array of sensors.
What the car lacks is a warm personality. The sound of the turbos on the 3.8-liter six-cylinder isn’t subtle, but it isn’t blood quickening either. Steering is excellent, but you don’t get any sense of the road under the tires. Much of the time the driving experience is rather aloof.
If the latest 911 Turbo were a person, it would be an imperious supermodel who wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. If you saw her in a club, her ice-blue eyes would slide over you and then she’d be gone to the next, more-fabulous bar, where the doorman wouldn’t let you in.
Unless, of course, you had the $181,100 buy-in price.
The 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S at a Glance
Engine: Twin-turbo, 3.8-liter six-cylinder with 560 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.
Transmission: Seven-speed PDK double-clutch automated manual.
Speed: 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.
Gas mileage per gallon: 17 city, 24 highway.
Price as tested: $189,830.
Best feature: Carnival ride sensation when blasting off.
Worst feature: Where’s the 911’s glorious noise?