Every young car nut has a dream | I was to meet my hero face-to-face as I was handed the keys.
I have been car-obsessed for about three decades now, salivating over most of the exotic metal from around the globe. I had the posters of the usual suspects from Italy plastered over my bedroom walls that would change as my tastes and sensibilities did.
But there is one car that has remained steadfast in my notebook doodles and staring-at-the-sky daydreams. 30-some-odd years ago it was known as a widow-maker, a ferocious beast that could be tamed by the brave and daring few who dared to dance on the edge of terminal oversteer. With time and engineering excellence, those jagged edges and have been honed and smoothed, yet the beast is stronger than ever, and more desirable too.
For me, Porsche’s 911 Turbo has been synonymous with the lottery win first pick. Sure I’d have other sensational machines, but the whale-tail icon from Stuttgart is the car that can drop the kids off at school; then head to the track to terrorize lesser machines, and then drive up to the fanciest soiree after hours. It is the one car that can do it all.
“My” 911 Turbo must be silver like the traditional German racing cars – a dignified colour to offset the vulgar hues of the 2-seat Italian toys I’d keep as mere weekend playthings. Silver, I like to believe, would be reserved enough to help Porsche’s super car slip undetected by the constabulary for perhaps that extra half-second while you jump on the brakes to avoid a ticket.
As a regular automotive reviewer, I drive a lot of cars every year – some of which are swathed in the most decadent of interior finishes, or dispense with heroic power. Heck, I’ve even driven a number of contemporary Porsches, 911s included. But the 911 Turbo has always eluded me until a recent sunny October afternoon. At last I was to meet my hero face-to-face as I was handed the key to a GT Silver 2015 Porsche 911 Turbo S for a brief but life-changing drive.
Normally with a very special or beautiful car, upon walking up to it, I’d take several minutes to bask in its automotive glory. I’d absorb the beauty, allowing my eyes to follow the curves that a team of designers agonized over for months, or maybe years to get just right. But this time, as much as I wanted to ogle the Porsche, admiring details like the centre-lock hubs and bright yellow calipers denoting the carbon ceramic brakes on this car, I knew admiring its aesthetic qualities falls second to the driving experience. And time is of the essence.
Grabbing the door handle, it’s the same clack I’ve heard before – a sound of quality engineering and solid materials I’ve come to expect of German cars. Dropping down into the seat I’m reminded of how usable the 911 is. It’s low, but requires no ridiculous contortions the way many of the exotics do to gain entry to the cabin. My five year old son could fit in his booster seat in the rear. The smell of leather is rich and heady and causes me to run my hand briefly over its smooth texture on the passenger seat. It’s “Natural leather, Espresso colour” a $1,240 option on “my” car here and I approve.
With the key – shaped like a little 911 as all current Porsche keys are – in my left hand, I insert it into the ignition and twist. The flat-six cylinder engine comes to life, not with an attention-seeking bark or snarl, but simply starts and idles smoothly. There’s a deepness to the exhaust note, but it’s muffled and a bit distant well behind the driver. A few quick prods at the accelerator and the 3.8 L twin turbo clears its throat authoritatively, but would never be mistaken for the wail of a Ferrari V8 or the somewhat lumpy burble of the American super cars.
Stop wasting time and get driving! I remind myself and reach down to shift into D. I’ve come to accept that the stick shift is slowly dying and that for cars chasing the ultimate performance numbers, a dual-clutch transmission like Porsche’s 7-speed PDK is the way of the future. Still, I’d be happy to give up a few tenths of a second to feel more connected to the driving experience.
With a gentle brush of the accelerator, I gingerly set off in the Porsche, exiting the parking lot. Visibility out is great, especially for a super car, and tootling along at slow speeds through a residential neighbourhood, this 560 horsepower lion is as tame and gentle as a household tabby.
The button marked “Sport” is pushed and things get a little more serious. Reactions are quicker to my inputs and the car begins to egg me on to find some trouble. But I’m still having fun just wrapping my slightly dizzy head around the fact that I’m finally driving a 911 Turbo, and imagining it’s mine as I watch the envied stares of other motorists and pedestrians. Even the stereo sounds great. A guy could really get used to this sort of thing.
Away from civilization, it’s time to seek out a few country roads and have a little bit more fun. The speeds are elevated now – still nearly legal, mind you, but quick enough to raise the pulse a bit more. Heading for a slightly banked curve that turns nearly 90 degrees, before switching back almost another 90 in the opposite direction, I consider two things: 1) “My” car here carries a price tag of over $220,000 and 2) It’s sensationally capable and the corner we’re now entering won’t even cause this car to break a sweat at this speed.
Like all Porsches, the steering is sensational. The weighting is perfect with just enough heft to reaffirm the driver that he or she is indeed driving the car. A constant stream of information of what’s happening where those monstrous tires (245/35 ZR 20 front, 305/30 ZR 20 rear) are rolling over the asphalt is the reward for an attentive driver. The steering ratio is great too; quick enough to feel lively without being darty. There is stability and grip well beyond what anyone’s common sense should push on the street.
Lots of cars have impressive handling these days, and while Porsche still seems to tune it just a little bit better than darn near anyone else, it’s the acceleration of this car that can make one weak in the knees. Having scouted it earlier, I sought out a specific rural route to try just a taste of the 911 Turbo S’s accelerative forces. It’s a long, straight road with nothing but farmland on either side for a good kilometer or so. Playing mostly by the rules is the order of the day, but I simply can’t return the Porsche without doing a brief rip to, oh, say 100 km/h.
With Sport Plus mode engaged, a launch control start is possible. The car’s computers will then optimize the throttle for the quickest acceleration possible, dispensing the full glory of the Turbo S’s boxer engine and all-wheel drive grip. And it is startlingly easy to do too, requiring little more than lifting your left foot off the brake while the right foot presses hard toward the floor.
The net result is nothing short of astonishing. I am not embellishing the experience to say that my vision momentarily blurred and the breath pushed out of my lungs. The force a 911 Turbo S can exert on a body as it races toward the horizon is best compared to what a fighter pilot must feel as his F-18 is CATOBAR launched from the carrier deck. A 911 Turbo S owner will need to take great care to not become a slobbering addict hell-bent on perpetually chasing just one more hit of speed.
Those carbon ceramic brakes would of course enable that launch junky to safely and swiftly stop time and again without relenting to heat build up. God, what a car!
With the clock ticking away, I know my all-too-brief time with my hero will soon be over and yet I can’t help but find an empty riverside parking lot to stop and just bask in the Turbo’s glow for a few minutes. My spinning mind is desperately trying to keep up with all the sensations and senses and data being hurled at it on this drive. I want to remember everything – the feel of the seats, the smell of the leather, the sound of the engine – in case it’s another three decades before I get to do it again.
I step out of the car almost in a state of disbelief that I am actually driving what I think I’m driving and I grab my camera off the passenger seat to try to document a few shots for posterity. Driving back to return my Porsche, I realize that this car is somehow truly worth the nearly quarter million bucks it costs. Sure, the option prices and extras Stuttgart charges is criminal and helps keep the Porsche division flush with profits, and yet right now when I’m driving it, I don’t care one bit.
Take my money; here have a kidney too, if it helps! And if some day I do win that lottery, I won’t give a damn about the cost then either, and I’ll be smiling just as wide and idiotically as I did on this first drive, every time I get in it.