This article was first published in 2006.
One hundred and ninety nine thousand Australian
dollars. 2003 model Porsche 911 Turbo. 309 kilowatts. Nought to one hundred in
4.8 seconds. Then... reach forward and take the keys...
You could say that the ’03 Porsche 911 Turbo isn’t
But such a description would in no way convey the
massive wall of torque that at any revs over 2000 rpm can fling you - and the 1630kg
you’re sitting in - down the road.
The 911 also grips alright.
In fact, the all-wheel drive grip is so prodigious
that at times it seems endless – a myth the subtlety of the electronic stability
control system serves to facilitate.
And the Porsche rides pretty low... in fact low
enough that on bumpy country bitumen roads taken at speed you can put some major
scrapes on the front lower rubber spoiler. As we found out....aaaagh!
The 911 Turbo uses a dry-sumped, 3.6 litre twin
turbo, water cooled, twin intercooled engine to develop its 309kW at 6000 rpm.
The turbos are arranged one per bank and aren’t sequential – a failing that
Porsche engineering cannot hide. For even with the auto trans fitted to this
car, it was always clear that time had to be given for the turbos to initially
spool-up. Yes, even with the high 9.4:1 compression ratio. But when the 0.8 Bar
max turbo boost arrives, well, then there’s plenty of torque. Like 560Nm from
2700 – 4600 rpm... lots and lots of torque.
The engine also uses variable valve timing and
lift – VarioCam in Porsche speak – and has niceties like Nikasil coated cylinder
bores. But despite its enormous power, for us the sequential twin turbo VVTi
Toyota Supra engine is still the best six cylinder turbo we’ve ever driven. No
it isn’t nearly as fast as the Porsche but the way the Toyota turbo system works
is simply second to none.
A Porsche twin turbo with an automatic trans.
Perhaps that’s the classic oxymoron – but we can tell you it sure isn’t when you
flick the steering wheel tiptronic down-change button, watch the revs flash up
the dial, turn-in and squeeze the throttle as the huge Bridgestones get down and
grip the road in a love-struck embrace. Not having a manual gearbox means
there’s simply one less thing to worry about when your senses are full of speed,
blurred scenery, steering wheel feedback and familiar roads that have suddenly
become telescoped in time...
But for all the electro-trickery in the auto trans
control (it won’t change-up mid-corner, can be triggered into dropping a gear or
two with throttle stabs when coming up to a corner, and reads your driving
stye), we didn’t like it for one simple reason. And that is, the gear lever has
no facility for making manual up- or down-changes. The best approach (and one
now adopted in dozens of cars) is where you push the lever across to one side to
enable a manual mode, pull back or push forward to change gears, and can then
immediately revert to auto mode by moving the gear lever back laterally.
The Porsche doesn’t let you do that. Yes, you could get to like the steering
wheel-only buttons (but only if you don’t move your hands much on the wheel!)
but in the time we had the car, we didn’t get used to the system.
The four wheel drive system works brilliantly. Or,
more precisely since we didn’t turn the stability control system off, works
brilliantly with the standard Porsche Stability Management. Drive torque is
heavily directed rearwards – although at least 5 per cent of the torque always
reaches the front wheels, rising to as high as 40 per cent in extreme
situations. When compared on paper with the best all-wheel drive systems, the
viscous coupled design is pretty simple – there’s no active directing of torque
fore/aft, let alone laterally. But despite that, this is a car with immense
driving grip. Throw the Porsche hard around a tight S-bend and the flashing
dashboard light will indicate the electronics are in action but the affect is
progressive and totally in keeping with the driver’s wishes.
You’d have to be going insanely fast, or be an
absolutely brilliant driver (or, we guess, both!) to want to switch off the
stability control system when driving on the road.
Of course much of the immense grip comes from the
tyre/wheel combination. The 911 Turbo uses hollow-spoked 18 x 8 inch front rims
and simply massive 18 x 11 inch rears. Tyres are equally huge – 225/40 on the
front and 295/30 on the rear. As you’d expect, brakes are right up to size, with
four piston monobloc calipers front and rear, all gripping internally vented and
Ride comfort is a mixed bag – around town the
ultra low profile tyres let through lots of bump thump, but when real
bumps are thrown at the Porsche, it simply shrugs them off. Even on our home run
tough secondary bitumen – roads that demand a lot in suspension travel and
damping – the 911 turbo was nonchalantly at ease.
Noise? Yep, lots. It’s fun when you’re giving it a
big squirt but could become annoying on a long freeway trip.
Equipment level on the test car was excellent:
integrated sat nav (and a very easy system to use, too), Bose sound system, trip
computer, memory electric seats and steel sunroof.
The ’03 Porsche 911 Turbo is an incredibly quick
car, both in a straight line and around corners. And in auto trans form, it’s
about a user-friendly a super car as you’ll find. But it’s also a car with some
failings – simpler auto trans control would be an improvement and on any road
car, sequential twin turbos will always be better than a parallel turbos.
But the bottom line is this: we’ve never driven a
car that’s faster in acceleration or point to point.
www.qsm.com.au Thanks to Gold Coast
exotic car specialist QSM for making this car available.