With Porsche, you sometimes can’t parse the new from the old. It’s a company known for evolutionary design changes—sticking with tradition, making small yet significant changes where they matter. This is certainly the case with the new top-of-the-range 911, the 2010 Turbo. Its evolution can be seen most drastically not in the exterior—where each subtle redesign takes the work of professionals and Porschephiles to identify—but in the rear of the car, directly over the rear axle.
Here, Porsche took the already robust horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine and, to use a dated Emeril quote, kicked it up notches unknown to man. The new Turbo engine puts out more power than its predecessor—500 horsepower, up from 480 in the last iteration, and 516 lb-ft of torque (up from 460 lb-ft) when equipped with overboost, which is available in the optional $3470 Sport Chrono Pack. This is due in part to the displacement rising from 3.6 liters to 3.8 liters, but also an increased compression ratio from 9.0 to 9.8:1 that allows the engine to create more power across the rev band, more effective intercoolers to cool off hot air passed through the turbos, a more refined exhaust system and reworked turbo system.
The twin-turbochargers in the new model are equipped with Porsche’s Variable Turbine Geometry, or VTG, technology. VTG uses moveable turbo vanes which, depending on the flow rate of the engine’s exhaust gases, adjust their angle to achieve an optimal air flow. Also available for the first time on the 911 Turbo is direct fuel injection, which, as the name suggests, shoots fuel directly into the combustion chamber at an extremely high pressure, optimizing performance, efficiency and fuel economy. Combine all this with variable valve timing and a new intake manifold, which allows the engine to breathe easier than before, and the result is more speed and consistent acceleration than you know what to do with. It’s also remarkably efficient for a top-of-the-line sports car; official numbers aren’t yet available, but it should overshadow the last Turbo’s 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Then there’s the new 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung gearbox (PDK). First seen on the 2009 911 Carerra, the PDK system is essentially two half-gearboxes merged into one. Using two clutches, the transmission is able to manage ultra-fast and hardly discernible gearshifts in either automatic or manual mode. With the optional two-paddle PDK-equipped steering wheel, you can use the wheel-mounted paddles to shift in manual mode.
With the optional Sport Chrono Package, launch control is available too, and it is, as the French say, totally sweet. To make the PDK’s lauch control system work, press the “Sport Plus” button on the redesigned center console, which in turn lights up a small “Sport Plus” logo on the left spoke of the optional PDK sport steering wheel. Mash the brake pedal with your left foot and punch the hell out of the throttle with your right, this will activate the “Launch Control” logo on the right spoke. Release the brakes and the 911 Turbo lets out first a tire squeal, then minor clutch slip and finally, as much acceleration as a Colonial Fleet Raptor. All the fun you can have without worrying about a voided warranty.
Included on the 911 is an array of bells and whistles like Porsche’s Active Suspension Management (PASM) which configures the 911’s cornering dynamics based on two driver selected modes. When activated from “Normal” to “Sport” mode, the electronic dampers change from a more comfort focused compression rate to a more performance driven one. Add to this the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) and you get a 911 that outperforms all expectations. When entering a corner, this system applies subtle brake pressure to the inside rear wheel. This allows for more power to be sent to the outer rear-wheel, pushing the car through the corner. This results in improved cornering speeds and truly awe-inspiring driving dynamics.
So, what’s it like to drive? It’s fast (it has a top speed of 194 mph, though I could only get it up to 150 mph on track), smooth, and handles perfectly. Porsche took an already fantastic car and updated it where it matters – under the sheet metal.
The 2010 911 Turbo is available in North America in January 2010: $132,000-$143,000.