2006 Porsche 911

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2010 Porsche 911 Turbo — Review

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2011.
By Marc Lachapelle of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.2

Bottom Line:

This new 911 Turbo has changed very little in appearance, but clever and thorough engineering work throughout reinforce its unique position as the most pragmatic of the super sports cars.
Pros:
  • Prodigious acceleration
  • Utter poise and solidity
  • Unmatched for everyday use
Cons:
  • Hushed and muffled turbo engine sound
  • On-power understeer
  • Limited cargo volume

View Pictures:  2010 Porsche 911 Turbo

Porsche is rolling out a new and thoroughly refined 911 Turbo for model year 2010. The iconic sports car's looks remain mostly intact. However, extensive changes have been made under the sheet metal to the drivetrain and other key components. In typical fashion, instead of joining competitors in a battle for spectacular styling tweaks and zoomy features, Porsche has summoned its engineers to look for efficiency gains in a holistic way. No vital part or component has been left unexamined in an attempt to come up with clever ways to improve performance, handling, comfort, fuel economy, emissions and overall driving pleasure. The newest 911 Turbo is a marvel of effectiveness and, more than ever, the best everyday supercar.

Model Lineup
The 911 Turbo will once again be available simultaneously as a Coupe or Cabriolet. Exterior changes are few and subtle. There are new titanium-colored louvers in the side air intakes, and LED daytime running lights replace the former "driving lights." Swiveling headlights will also be offered for the first time on the Turbo; the double-lens xenon headlights are able to pivot up to 15 degrees in the direction you are turning. At the rear, the Turbo's classic biplane spoiler is back, but there are new LED brake and direction lights and a pair of bigger tailpipes.

The standard gearbox is a 6-speed manual, but the company's dual-automated-clutch PDK gearbox is offered as an option. Both boxes have been upgraded and adapted to the Turbo's greater torque and horsepower. Lighter and smaller than the conventional Tiptronic S automatic in the previous model, the PDK also allows the use of lighter aluminum instead of steel for the rear-axle subframe.

Standard are steel disc brakes with 6-piston aluminum calipers in front, 4-piston calipers in the rear and 13.8-inch diameter rotors all around. The new Turbo can also be ordered with Porsche's ceramic-composite brakes with 15-inch discs in front and 13.8-inch discs at the rear. In spite of the larger front discs, the ceramic brake system is about 40 pounds lighter.

A comprehensive option is the Sport Chrono Package Turbo. Apart from the pointless dash-mounted chronometer from which it gets its name, this package includes an "overboost" mode that raises turbo pressure and engine torque for 10 seconds. It also uses active engine mounts that vary in stiffness and damping according to the driving conditions, like the new GT3. Using magnetically variable fluid viscosity, the mounts stiffen in hard cornering and braking for more linear reactions and better stability. In normal driving, the mounts are softer to improve smoothness and quell shocks and vibrations.

The standard wheel is a forged 19-inch Turbo II alloy rim with a dual-tone treatment. Available are RS Spyder wheels of the same diameter, fastened with a single racing-style central bolt. In addition to new versions of the Porsche Traction Management all-wheel-drive system and Porsche Stability Management system, the new Turbo is available with Porsche Torque Vectoring. This new system will lightly brake the inside rear wheel in a corner to reduce understeer. Porsche engineer and dynamics expert Markus Hofbauer says fully mechanical active torque transferring systems were studied but proved too heavy and cumbersome for the remarkably compact 911.

Under the Rear Hood
This new Turbo is the first to get an all-new engine since the car was introduced 35 years ago. The new horizontally opposed 6-cylinder gets a displacement increase from 3.6 to 3.8 liters. It is also the first Turbo engine with direct fuel injection. In addition, the Turbo gets the expansion-type intake manifold first seen on the GT2. The twin variable-turbine-geometry turbochargers introduced with the previous Turbo, with their quasi-miraculous effect on torque delivery and flexibility (plus the virtual elimination of turbo lag), are also incorporated in this latest Turbo. Finally, the new engine gets an integrated dry sump lubrication system, which reduces energy losses and lowers both the weight and center of gravity. The new 911 Turbo is 55 pounds lighter than its predecessor.

Horsepower goes up from 480 to a round 500 ponies at 6000 rpm, and torque grows by 22 lb-ft to a peak of 479 lb-ft, delivered from 1900 to 5000 rpm. These gains were obtained chiefly through the use of direct injection with multihole nozzles, the new expansion-type intake manifold and turbochargers with a larger compressor wheel.

The optional Sport Chrono Package includes an overboost mode that pushes torque up to 516 lb-ft from 2100 to 4000 rpm. With the new engine's gains in power and efficiency, Porsche was able to reduce boost pressure from 14.5 psi (1 bar) on the previous model to 11.6 psi (0.8 bar) to improve drivability. The overboost raises boost pressure back to 14.5 psi at medium engine speeds, for a maximum of 10 seconds at a time. And it can be invoked any number of times by simply lifting and reapplying throttle.

The new direct-injected Turbo is not only more powerful but also more fuel efficient and cleaner by a solid margin. Combined city/highway fuel economy is about 21 mpg on the European cycle with the PDK gearbox. In highway driving, the Coupe gets 29 mpg. In fact, Porsche says the Turbo is the only car in its segment to avoid the gas-guzzler tax in the U.S. Carbon-dioxide emissions are down 18 percent with the PDK gearbox and 11 percent with the manual.

But the 911 Turbo is about performance first, and PDK-equipped Turbos are by far the quickest-accelerating. With the Sport Plus button pushed, you can activate the new Launch Control mode in the simplest manner: left foot on the brake, right foot flat to the floor, past the kickdown point. The engine jumps to about 5000 rpm, and once the words "launch control" light up on the steering wheel, you step off the brake and the Turbo leaps forward with a trace of controlled wheelspin. The carmaker quotes a zero-to-100 km/h time of 3.4 seconds for the coupe. We were able to achieve a zero-to-60 mph time of 3.17 seconds and a quarter-mile of 11.28 seconds — spectacular results by any measure.

Inner Space
Few changes have been made inside. Manual-gearbox Turbos get a standard new 3-spoke steering wheel. Most importantly, those equipped with the PDK gearbox are available with a new optional Sport wheel complete with paddles mounted behind the rim. The standard PDK wheel retains the much denigrated toggle-type shift buttons. The long-awaited paddles work like a charm.

The new 911 Turbo comes with a standard hard-disc navigation system, a 6.5-inch touch-screen, a 13-speaker (12 on the Cabrio) Bose Surround Sound audio system and an optional universal audio interface for MP3 players and such. Also worthy of notice are optional leather sport seats with a carbon-fiber shell. The seats are deeply sculpted and not so easy to slip into, but they provide exceptional support and very decent comfort in normal driving.

On the Road
Our first encounter with the 911 Turbo at the car's launch was a short drive in a Cabriolet equipped with the PDK gearbox on our way to the Estoril track in Portugal. It was a smooth and pleasantly quiet ride during which the PDK displayed none of the jerky clutch engagement observed in an earlier test of a PDK-equipped Cayman. Our first exploratory laps at Estoril were aboard a Cabriolet equipped with the 6-speed manual gearbox. The lever is solid, quick and positive, combined with progressive and nicely weighted clutch engagement. The base gearbox is still an excellent choice for traditionalists.

The second day started with a 90-mile loop that included some extremely narrow and twisty Portuguese roads. Our PDK-equipped Turbo Coupe took it all in stride. Most impressive were the perfect visibility and the ride quality. Porsche typically has the best steering in the business and the new Turbo is no exception, with smooth, linear response, excellent shock insulation and great tactile feedback.

Right for You?
The 911 Turbo Coupe and 911 GT3 RS currently have identical base prices of $132,800. The former is blindingly fast but simply cannot match its track-focused sibling, or the new $112,200 GT3, for pure driving pleasure, sound, feel and thrills on a track. The new 911 Turbo is nonetheless an outstanding sports car and all-season grand tourer, providing you can pack lightly. It truly is the best and quickest everyday supercar you can buy. And you could also show up at a drag strip with your PDK-equipped Turbo, rattle off low 11-second quarter-mile runs — if not high 10s — with uncanny ease in your strictly stock German sports car and then let it purr quietly on the drive home. That would be rather cool, too.

A professional auto journalist for more than 25 years and the founding editor of Sympatico/MSN Autos, MarcLachapelle is a two-time winner of the Canadian Journalist of the Year award from the Automobile JournalistsAssociation of Canada, an accomplished photographer and licensed racer.

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BB05 - 4/17/2014 2:51:54 PM