2001 Porsche 911 Turbo

2001 Porsche 911 Turbo

A legend returns
on

During the quarter century or so that Porsche Turbos have scorched American pavement in hot pursuit of speed and glory unknown to ordinary automobiles, they've earned an indelible reputation. Every school kid knows this is the definitive bad-boys' car. It's the all-time favorite of rock stars, lottery winners, and trust-fund beneficiaries in a hurry to have fun. On the speed charts, the Turbo resides a notch up from the quickest Corvettes, in league with the money-is-no-object Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis.

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That begs the question: Is the 911 Turbo a sure shortcut to hyperspeed or merely unmitigated hype on wheels? To find out, I shouldered the weighty task of attending Porsche's launch of the 6th-generation 2001 Turbo at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) followed by a full week of over-the-road use of this supercar-several miles of which, I swear, were beneath triple-digit speeds. Following a 2-year hiatus, this force-fed wonder has reappeared in the 911 lineup with a vengeance-and for the first time ever with an optional automatic transmission.

David Donohue, son of one of America's finest road racers (Mark Donohue) and a current factory Dodge Viper pilot, was my chaperone/driving instructor at MIS. Once he determined that I wasn't intimidated by 415 horsepower under the double-spoilered decklid or this track's gauntlet of banked sweepers and tight, flat switchbacks, Donohue focused on goading me to brake harder and deeper into the spiral transition that leads off of the speedway and onto the road course. There's no experience quite like nailing the middle pedal with full force at 160 mph. The mighty Porsche feels as if it's melting into the pavement as the seat belt cinches a notch into your chest and momentum evaporates in a grand fit of energy conversion.

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Another treat is the disappearing act this buggy performs in civilian traffic. Full-throttle first-gear acceleration is so intense that a warning advisory from the Surgeon General might be a good idea: "Caution: full use of the Porsche 911 Turbo's performance can induce overwhelming levels of euphoria." My favorite mode is a burst of first- or second-gear boost blended with a smart quarter-turn of the steering wheel. The tail wags a half-step to the side as the rear tires scramble for traction, the speedometer needle fans half-way around its 200 mph scale, and your personal escape capsule becomes an ever-dwindling speck on the horizon. But what surprised me most is that anybody with a heavy foot and steady hands on the wheel can wring the best out of this machine without fear of evil lying in wait. In simple terms, the new Turbo is blindingly fast and virtually spin-proof.

How fast, you ask, is fast? The Porsche factory modestly lists a 0-to-62 mph/100 kph performance of the 911 Turbo with 6-speed manual at 4.2 seconds. Based on my time in the car, I have no reason to doubt that figure. Even when fitted with the 5-speed Tiptronic S, it should storm to that speed in under 4.5 ticks. Without so much as a tire pressure adjustment, the 911 Turbo rockets through the quarter mile in about 12 seconds to a terminal velocity well over 110 mph on its way to a top end near enough to 200 mph. (According to Car and Driver magazine, the tach needle reaches its 6500 rpm redline at a true 192 mph.)

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Make no mistake, this is the quickest and best-behaved 911 Turbo the Porsche factory has ever released for civilian use. The rare amalgam of blistering speed with politically correct manners has been achieved by astutely blending tradition and technology. Continuity with past Porsches comes from an instantly recognizable exterior profile-albeit one that boasts uniquely aggressive front and rear fascias-an ignition switch respectfully stuck to the left of the steering wheel, and a clutch pedal that's agonizingly difficult to coordinate with an indulgent throttle foot. Inside, the basic Carrera 4 look predominates, although the Turbo's roster of standards has been expanded to include items like leather upholstery, dual power seats, sunroof, a premium sound system and a trip computer.

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Fresh inspiration comes from a 3.6-liter oil- and water-cooled flat-six-cylinder engine, derived from the same powerplant that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998. This is matched with an exceptionally well-sorted, all-wheel drive package (refined from the 5th-generation model) and an electronic stability-assist system that adroitly applies one brake at a time to correct your inevitable errors in driving judgment and help overcome the effects of having an engine hanging out the back. Behind the rear axle, sticky 18-inch tires working with 13-inch diameter brake rotors squeezed by equally massive, 4-piston calipers produce nearly enough stopping power to arrest a freight train, let alone this 3400-pound Porsche-badged bullet. And for those not satisfied with flaunting a set of keys representing a $111,765 price of entry, there's a particularly tantalizing option that will impress even the most jaded exotic-car connoisseur: $7500 carbon-ceramic brake rotors that trim 44 pounds of unsprung weight from the chassis.

If you've been seeking creative ways to squander your successors' inheritance, the new Porsche 911 Turbo is without question the preferred means of travel.

Porsche 911 rear exterior
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