When Porsche comes out with a new version of its venerable 911 Turbo, most auto writers jump at the chance to test it — even if it means traveling afar. For the 2017 Turbo and Turbo S models, that meant flying for more than 23 hours from LA to South Africa.
Porsche brought me to experience the car on the virgin pavement at Johannesburg’s Kyalami racetrack, a sweeping two-mile road course that had just been overhauled and rebuilt. The morning I arrived, construction workers toiled in the outfield while professional Porsche driver Jorg Bergmeister set a new track record in a GT3 RS.
After Bergmeister returned to the pits, I climbed into a Turbo S behind him, and followed him back out onto the track.
And what a track, what a car. Bergmeister, hard on the gas, dove into a wide left-hander. I stomped on my own throttle pedal to keep up, and immediately felt the car’s massive power. Not only is it lower, wider and faster than the previous model, it has unique side air intakes and three water coolers to tame the blistering heat the improved flat-six engine creates. The new turbochargers automatically adjust for better low-end pull, and use aerospace alloys to handle the high heat temperatures and avoid turbo lag.
Every time I muscled into a turn, I felt another marvelous thing: like the GT3 RS and the 918, the new Turbo has rear-wheel steering, which planted the car’s back end, allowing me to accelerate even faster and more confidently out of each corner.
I took several more laps, and marveled at the Turbo’s consistently monstrous performance. It didn’t feel quite as surgically precise as a purpose-built track dog like the GT3 RS, but I’m splitting hairs. It was balanced and surprisingly capable of keeping up with its big brother.
In addition to rear-wheel steering and extra cooling, the all-wheel-drive Turbo has variable steering—over 50 miles per hour, the steering balances 50-50, but at lower speeds favors the front for quicker turn-in. It’s also more fuel efficient than its predecessor and boasts more innovations and improvements than most people, zealots included, could memorize and list.
I also had the chance to spend several more hours in the car on the curvaceous country roads outside Johannesburg. The car is actually scary-fast, but so technically confident I let my right foot wade deeper into the throttle than is prudent, and never once did the car disappoint. One of the niftiest new features: Sport Response. Push a button on the steering wheel, and on the dash a countdown from 20 to zero seconds begins, while the transmission kicks down a gear and the throttle stays open for maximum boost pressure in the turbochargers. What does that mean in plainspeak? That there’s a button to push for warp speed mode if you want to squirt past mere production cars on the road. You have 20 seconds of heaven—go!
The 911 Turbo has, over the years, grown bigger than a pure sports car wants to be, but as a daily driver bristling with technology and a bulletproof and bullet-fast grand tourer, good luck beating it. And as I had learned, it won’t disappoint your adrenaline addiction on a track, either.
Once again, Porsche has refined an already great sports car. And even though as of now all 911s are turbocharged for efficiency and maximum performance, the new Turbo proved to me that it once again earns the capitol “T” for which it is legendary.
2017 Porsche 911 Turbo/2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S
base price: $160,250/$189,150
Torque: 523 lb. ft./553 lb. ft.
Top speed: 198 mph/205 mph (a first for a Porsche production car)
0 to 60: 2.9 sec/2.8 sec