I spend a lot of time pedantically arguing about the difference between “fast” and “quick.” Many people use these words interchangeably, and if you’re one of them, well, you’re wrong. To properly illustrate this disparity, let me introduce you to the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S — a car that is very, very fast and very, very quick.
“Fast” refers to velocity. “Quick” is how long it takes to get there. This Turbo S defines both in superlative fashion. The newest member of the 992-generation Porsche 911, this model has a top speed of 205 mph and takes just 2.6 seconds to hit 60 mph.
The Turbo S comes standard with a staggered 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheel setup.
Numbers don’t properly convey the experience. Launching the 911 Turbo S is the best kind of brutal — you don’t even have to get halfway into the throttle to unleash more force than you can reasonably use on a highway onramp. Want to make that yellow light? Just flex your big toe. Under full-throttle launch, the 911 Turbo S is quicker than other, more exotic-looking supercars such as the Ferrari 488 Pista, Lamborghini Aventador SVJ and McLaren 720S, and the experience of putting the hammer down from a standstill is simply intoxicating.
There are only a few places in the world where you can realistically exploit a 205-mph top speed, but this incredible v-max isn’t why I call the Turbo S fast. Instead, it’s seeing a sign suggesting 30 mph for a turn but being able to confidently take it at 70. It’s arriving at the next corner before your brain’s had time to process how fast you went through the previous one. It’s blasting through a long stretch of back-and-forth esses and needing to pull over so you can catch your breath.
Major kudos obviously goes to the engine. Porsche’s 3.8-liter, twin-turbo flat-6 produces 640 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, increases of 60 hp and 37 lb-ft over the 991.2 Turbo S. A new cooling system filters in air from the side vents ahead of the rear wheels as well as the inlets below the back window, and the result is decreased turbo lag. Power goes to all four wheels through Porsche’s eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission, and a modified rear axle ratio and reinforced clutches help the gearbox manage that immense thrust. Porsche says the Turbo S will hit its 205-mph top speed in sixth gear — seventh and eighth are merely two overdrive ratios. That should make highway fuel economy less abysmal, I guess, though I’m not sure anyone really cares about such a thing in a 640-hp 911.
Fast driving in the Turbo S means seeing a sign suggesting 30 mph for a turn that you end up confidently taking at 70.
The turbo engine might take center stage, but the chassis and aerodynamics are important supporting players. Porsche’s Active Suspension Management (PASM) tech scans the road 200 times per second and adapts damping rates on the fly. You can also opt for a PASM Sport setup, like the one on this GT Silver test car, which lowers the ride height by 10 millimeters and works with Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) for active body roll mitigation. The 911 Turbo S rides on staggered 20-inch front and 21-inch rear centerlock-design wheels, which are killer, and those 12-inch-wide rear alloys are wrapped in meaty 315/30-series Pirelli P-Zero summer tires. All it takes is one look at those wide rear hips to know this 911 means business.
Then there’s the active aero, which is important for high-speed stability. The front lip, air intake flaps and rear spoiler all adjust depending on speed and drive mode, and the huge wing out back can act as an airbrake to help keep the rear end planted when slowing down. The Turbo S also comes with massive carbon-ceramic composite brakes, with 10-piston front calipers clamping down on 16.5-inch rotors. Considering the tremendous speeds the Turbo S is capable of reaching, having powerful stoppers like this is a must.
In the canyons north of Los Angeles, it all comes together flawlessly. The Turbo S attacks corners with a level of composure that rivals the 911 GT3, thanks partially to the standard rear-axle steering and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. But in the Turbo S, I’m actually going faster. There’s no body roll. I’m not even worried about losing grip. The steering is Porsche-perfect. The Turbo S genuinely feels unstoppable, and I know I’m not even close to reaching its limits.
I’m not normally one to actively toggle between drive modes; in a lot of German performance cars, the differences between these settings kind of feels like splitting hairs. Yet there’s a big gap between Normal, Sport and Sport Plus in the 911 Turbo S. You can get your kicks in Normal just fine, but switch the dial over to Sport, and the transmission and throttle programming really change for the better. Click it over to Sport Plus and the Turbo S gets even sharper, the transmission’s actions get so in tune with my acceleration and braking that I don’t even need to use the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
A word of advice: Leave the Turbo S in Normal when you’re not on full attack. If there’s a fault with the Turbo S, it’s that the chassis can be a little too firm for daily driving. The 911 Turbo (and by extension, the Turbo S) has always struck me as the do-it-all model in Porsche’s sports car lineup: sharp and fast, but also a formidable grand tourer. This new one is all chef’s-kiss-dot-gif in the canyons, but when I’m commuting through the San Fernando valley on the 405 Freeway, the bounce-bounce-bounce is annoying. Even at 75 mph, the Turbo S noticeably hops over expansion joints. Maybe a Turbo S without the PASM Sport suspension would be better. All I know is, driving a base 911 Carrera with the 20/21-inch wheel setup on the same stretch of highway is much more pleasant.
The Turbo S is decked out like a proper GT, at least, with swaths of soft leather and attractive metal brightwork. I love the way the Bordeaux Red upholstery contrasts with the silver exterior (thumbs-up to the Porsche rep who optioned this specific tester). The 18-way adaptive sport seats are pretty supple, and the power-adjustable love-handle and thigh bolsters are great for keeping me in place. Overall, if you like what you see in the other 992-generation 911s, you won’t have anything to complain about here. The center console is refreshingly bereft of buttons, the toggle switches on the center stack have great tactile feel and the rear seats are best suited for backpacks and grocery bags, not actual humans.
The Turbo S is decked out like a proper GT.
You’ll find all of Porsche’s latest tech inside the Turbo S, too. The fixed tachometer in the gauge cluster is flanked by a pair of curved, reconfigurable, 7-inch TFT screens, and the always-excellent Porsche Communication Management infotainment system is housed in a 10.9-inch display on the dash. PCM is one of my favorite bits of in-car tech — you can customize the home-screen layout, the graphics are crisp and the system immediately responds to inputs. Apple CarPlay integration is standard, as is a Wi-Fi hotspot. Looking for Android Auto? Too bad, so sad.
Speaking of CarPlay, the smartphone-mirroring tech also gives you access to Porsche’s new Track Precision app. This works like the performance data recorders offered by companies like Chevrolet and Honda, packed with information about 300 different tracks around the world. You can even control your GoPros via Bluetooth, to either learn from your lapping sessions or, you know, show off to your pals.
As for driver-assistance systems, the 911 Turbo S offers quite a few, though in typical Porsche fashion, they all cost extra. The only standard features you get are parking sensors and Comfort Access with keyless start. Want adaptive cruise control? That’ll be $2,000, unless you spring for Porsche’s InnoDrive highway driving assistant, which ups the price to $3,020. Go that route and you also get lane-keeping assist and traffic sign recognition, which on its own is another $1,220 option.
With great power comes great responsibility, hence the 911 Turbo S’ 10-piston calipers and 16.5-inch carbon-ceramic brake rotors.
It’s a little silly that these tech features don’t come standard on a grand-touring-minded model that starts at $204,850 (including $1,350 for delivery). But don’t worry, it’s a similar story with the performance options, too. The PASM Sport suspension costs $1,510, a sweet-sounding sport exhaust will set you back a breathtaking $3,490 and the hydraulic front-axle lift — which is a godsend — adds $2,770 to the bottom line. Don’t even get me started on the myriad exterior and interior design options. I’ll say, I do like that Porsche at least offers everything a la carte, so you aren’t forced to pick big bundles of things you may or may not want. And hey, if you want a heated steering wheel, it’s free.
Real talk, though: $204,850 is a big pill to swallow, and optioned up the way I’d want one, it’s looking more like $230,000. But hang on, maybe the 911 Turbo S is actually an incredible value. It’s nearly $100,000 cheaper than a McLaren 720S. Hell, it’s a full $300,000 less expensive than an Aventador SVJ, and doesn’t look like a rolling Ed Hardy t-shirt, either.
The Porsche 911 Turbo S might not wear its performance intentions on its sleeve, but it’s more comfortable, more practical and more tech-savvy than just about any other modern supercar. In fact, it’s every bit as fast as those top-dollar performers, and yes, it’s quicker, too.