The time: Late spring 2006. The place: The fast, winding roads near Porsche's home in Stuttgart, Germany, for the world media preview of the new 997-series Turbo. The weather: intermittent snow -- prompting Porsche to fit winter tires before letting the scribblers loose. And yet that hardly made a difference.
As AutoWeek reported: "The power comes on fast and smooth, with great gobs of torque found wherever you ask for it...a seemingly endless supply of tire-twisting propulsion. And all of it can be had with barely a hint of turbo lag. [The car loves] putting down that power with the steering wheel cocked. The more challenging the turn, the more eager the Turbo feels tackling it: powering in on entry, braking late, the body hunkering down while all four wheels grip and grip...And all on snow tires, no less."
Take the 996-series Turbo and turn it up notch. The result? The 997-series Turbo.
Much of the added muscle came from new twin puffers with variable turbine geometry (VTG). This refers to a compressor wheel with vanes (fins) adjustable for pitch (angle), not fixed. As the throttle opens and the turbo spins faster, the vanes spread apart to increase exhaust-gas flow and thus power; as revs fall, the vanes move inward to reduce the inertia that causes low-speed turbo "throttle lag." The result is a "twofer:" the power of a large turbo with the responsiveness of a small one.
Variable-vane turbochargers had been used on various diesel engines over the years, and Chrysler briefly offered one on a gas engine in the late 1980s. But gas engines demand that variable-vane turbos withstand literal white-hot internal temperatures of some 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
Accordingly, Porsche turned to Borg Warner Turbo Systems for aerospace-grade metallurgy, determined the proper exhaust system structure and flow, spent 20,000 hours in dynamometer testing, then road-tested nearly 750,000 miles. As ever, Porsche was willing to work extra hard for extra speed.
There were lots more high-performance exotica: liquid cooling for the turbos, a second oil cooler, a Variocam system tweaked for greater valve lift, sodium-filled exhaust valves with high-rate springs, a specific lightweight high-flow intake system, and uprated exhaust.
Chassis changes were no less extensive. Tracks were widened by 0.71-inch fore and 0.79-inch aft, spreading overall body width to 72.9 inches, and suspension components were lightened, subframes included.
Specially calibrated PASM shock absorbers were standard, as was Porsche Stability Management with the brake assist and preload features mentioned earlier. The all-disc antilock brakes themselves featured huge 13.8-inch rotors, six-piston calipers in front and four pots in the rear, plus twin servos (replacing a single unit) to provide more stopping power with no extra pedal effort. Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes remained an option but were made of stronger materials and gained internal cooling ducts.
Wheels were now 19-inch light alloys, an inch larger than before, wearing 235/35ZR tires fore and 305/30ZRs aft. Last but not least, the Turbo's all-wheel drive got an electronically controlled multiplate clutch -- part of the Porsche Traction Management system -- that could rebalance power between axles in just 100 milliseconds.
Speaking of power transmission, the six-speed manual gearbox returned from the 996 Turbo with beefier construction, new ratios for all forward gears save first, and high-tech carbon-coated gears for slicker, more precise shifting. The five-speed Tiptronic S automatic got a tighter torque converter and more computing power.
The latter included two new driver aids: a "Fast-Off" function that nixed upshifts on abrupt throttle lift, even if the pedal wasn't fully released, and a "Fast-Back" feature that triggered automatic downshifts if the brakes were applied within 1.5 seconds of throttle liftoff.
Enthusiasts gasped when Porsche claimed the new Turbo was quicker with automatic -- 3.4 seconds 0-60 mph versus 3.7 with manual -- but it was true. Road & Track actually clocked a mere 3.3 seconds with Tiptronic. It was all due to a faster-acting "slushbox" calibrated for broader, thicker engine torque.
"Power-braking the Tiptronic loads the turbo and builds boost before the car leaves the line," R&T explained. "To build boost in the manual car would require excessive slipping of the clutch. This delay in building boost gives the advantage to the torque-converter-equipped Tiptronic." Who'd have thought?
Amazingly, the 997 Turbo ended up 11 pounds lighter than its predecessor, helped by doors rendered in aluminum instead of steel. The result was a sterling weight-to-power ratio of just 7.28. Styling blended familiar Turbo cues with new elements such as low-riding front foglights, outboard air intakes fronted by LED turn signals, big oval exhaust tips slotted within the rear bumper, and -- believe it or not -- a smaller, lower, two-piece rear wing.
And so the 911 Turbo just kept on getting better: more power, more ability, more magic. Alas, it also kept getting costlier, arriving in the U.S. at an eye-popping $122,900. A shame so few people could afford that when most anyone could drive this high-performance masterpiece easily and safely.
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:
- Porsche new cars
- Porsche used cars
- 2007 Porsche 911
- 1999-2006 Porsche 911
- 1995-1998 Porsche 911