1991-1993 Porsche 911 Turbo, America, and Turbo S

Porsche prices may have been ascending to unheard-of heights in the late 1980s and early '90s, but it's fair to say that the cars were giving buyers more for their money.

Porsche 911
The price of the 1991 Carrera 4 coupe in the U.S. had risen above $70,000 to start.

Take the 1991 edition of the fabled Porsche 911 Turbo. Back after another year-long furlough, it mixed old and new by combining the 964 body with the trademark 930 whale tail, ultra-wide back wheelarches, and 3.3-liter engine. Wheels were now 17-inch Speedline alloys spreading seven inches wide up front and nine inches in back.

All wore purpose-designed Z-rated Bridgestone Expedia S-1 tires measuring 205/50 fore and 255/40 aft. As usual, springs, shocks, anti-roll bars, and rear semi-trailing arms were all beefed-up from Carrera specs. Best of all, ABS was finally standard for this super-fast car that needed it more than ever.

The 1991 Porsche Turbo outpowered its '89 predecessor thanks to a 50 percent larger intercooler, a bigger blower with lower-mass turbine wheel, cleaner and smoother intake passages, and a new low-restriction exhaust system with three-way catalytic converter and a separate catalyst for the turbo's bypass valve. All this added 23 horses for a thumping 315 total in U.S. form; torque improved some 14 percent to 332 pound-feet, though it peaked 500 rpm higher, at 4,500.

Even better, given the world's rising environmental consciousness, this Turbo was cleaner at the tailpipe and easier on the ears. A five-speed manual transmission remain mandatory but was beefed up via stouter and wider ring and pinion gears to improve durability with the added power. Also new was an optional limited-slip differential, providing a 20 percent lock with throttle on and up to 100 percent with throttle off.

Final drive was unchanged, but the '91 Turbo had a 0.36 drag coefficient (down from 0.39), reflecting the smoother 964 styling, so official top speed was up 11 mph to 168. Claimed acceleration improved, too, with 0-60 available in 4.8 seconds instead of 5.3. Typically, Road & Track bettered Porsche's numbers with 4.6 seconds to 60 and a 12.9-second quarter-mile. "Suffice to say that the ['91] Turbo...is the quickest factory Porsche we've ever tested."

Alas, the '91 Turbo was also one of the priciest Porsche 911s ever, with a startling U.S. base list of $95,000. Regular models were still escalating as well. A Carrera 2 coupe now started at $60,700, a C4 Cabrio at $80,600. Tiptronic added a steep $2,750 and the usual plethora of options could run up final tabs faster than a Turbo peeling off the line.

Porsche 911
The Porsche Turbo engine returned for 1991 in more potent 964-based models.

All the more curious, then, that an even costlier Carrera 2 Cabrio bowed in the United States for 1992. Porsche called it America. Press releases struggled to paint a link to Max Hoffman's like-named Porsche 356 of 40 years before. And at $87,900 to start, the new America "Roadster," as it was euphemistically labeled, was just as expensive in relative terms.

But this was no "stripper," delivering Turbo-style body, suspension, brakes, and tires, plus all the Carrera's comforts and conveniences -- even a power top. Still, a $15,000 premium over the regular Cabrio struck even Porsche's well-heeled customers as gouging.

Also parked outside the millionaire's club -- at least in Europe -- was a new Turbo S coupe (a.k.a. Turbo S2). Only 80 were built, all in calendar 1992. Where the America convertible was allegedly inspired by the near-stock 911s running in the European "Carrera 2 Cup" series (inaugurated in 1990), the impetus for this more powerful Turbo was the American IMSA Supercar Series, where blown Porsche 911s piloted by Hurley Haywood claimed the championship in 1991 and again in '92.

IMSA mandated that certain critical racing components be offered for the street. The Turbo S was built to satisfy the rule, but ironically the model wasn't street-legal in the United States and thus wasn't exported here.

Frankly, at a towering $180,000 it was none too affordable anywhere. But for those who could see their way, the Turbo S had plenty of will. Appropriate for a car built to be raced, it dispensed with nonessentials to save more than 400 pounds in curb weight. A larger and more efficient intercooler, freer-breathing turbo, and wilder cams produced a modest horsepower increase from 315 to 322 at a higher 6,200 rpm; torque also improved, going from 332 at 4500 to 354 at 4800.

To cope with the extra low-end grunt, Porsche specified wider wheels of 18-inch diameter wrapped with jumbo 235/40 tires fore and 265/35s aft -- Z-rated, of course. Other upgrades included the chassis modifications implied by a claimed 180-mph top speed -- up 12 mph from the standard Turbo -- plus twin oil coolers and a long-distance 24.5-gallon fuel tank.

The '92 Turbo S was something of a handful even for the likes of Paul Frere, the astute Le Mans-winning race driver and engineer turned journalist. As he wrote in Road & Track: "Most of the time, the car corners as if on the proverbial rails...It is, of course, possible to induce power oversteer, but to achieve that, you must be not only very brave, but also very accurate in your anticipation of full turbo boost. Let the boost come in too late, and you fail; let it come in too soon, and you are in trouble. On less than smooth surfaces, driving really fast requires a lot of attention as the combination of very hard suspension and wide, ultralow-profile tires . . . tends to make the car deviate from its course." In short, a Porsche 911 Turbo could still be a raging bull.

Porsche 911
The 1992 Porsche 911 Turbo S was an 80-unit special for Europe only.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see: