The Clarkson review: Porsche 911 Turbo (2013)

Well twang my red braces — the 911 is fun again

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IT’S the new Porsche Turbo today, so naturally I shall start by saying just how much I enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s based-on-a-true-story Wall-Street-in-the Eighties two-week-long sex-and-drugs epic.

What I loved most of all about the film — and Scorsese did the exact same thing with Goodfellas — is that there’s absolutely no moralising. It’s simply the story of a chap who worked out how to make a fortune and how he enjoyed all the fleshy and powdered things that became available. There’s no sense at any point that someone somewhere might be suffering as a result of his antics, and in some ways you’re mildly surprised to find some way into the film that he may be arrested.

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The Wolf of Wall Street should be shown in schools because children today have got it into their heads that the only way to make a fortune is to appear on The X Factor. Scorsese shows them that business can be fun; that if you’re a really clever salesmen and you have a really bright idea, you can enjoy a life way beyond the dreams of avarice for even the most successful of Simon Cowell’s protégés.

Naturally the Daily Mail hated it and showed pictures the week after its release of City boys in London wearing red braces and carrying huge Eighties-style mobile phones. “Is the ‘greed is good’ culture back?” the paper wondered despairingly.

I bloody well hope so. We can’t all live on benefits. We can’t all have good- enough singing voices to reach an X Factor final. Some people have got to get off their backsides and do a hard day’s graft. And there is no better incentive than a big fat pay packet at the end of the week.

The last time we saw the City going mental it was the mid-Eighties, and braying bankers and traders would spend their loadsamoney cash on a Porsche 911. It made the car very unpopular among the meek and the weak, and the legacy of those days lives on. Nobody lets you out of a side turning. Ever. This means you have to push in, and that makes the resentment felt even more deeply.

There’s another problem too. Bankers and traders haven’t really been buying 911s for quite some time. The main customer base now is the rear-engined Porsche enthusiast. Some are called James and Richard, and you need to be giving them the widest possible berth because they are extremely boring.

If you were to stage an awards ceremony for Britain’s most dreary group of people, the bronze medal would go to the nation’s super-keen cyclists, who can talk non-stop, without repetition or hesitation, about lubricant jelly. The silver would go to Britain’s steam-engine enthusiasts, because they can do a month on a single valve. But the winner would be today’s 911 enthusiast. (Interestingly, James May is a fan of bicycles, steam engines and the 911.)

If you look carefully at a modern-day Porsche you can see many little things that hint at its driver’s obsession. The little map of the Nürburgring on the boot. The non-standard tyres. The lower-than-you-might-imagine suspension. And so on. All of this suggests the driver is a tinkerer and you should avoid him at parties because he can actually talk of nothing apart from how he’s increased his entry speed into Stowe Corner by 2mph. Seriously. I’d rather sleep with the Crystal Methodist than talk for even 10 minutes to a 911 fan.

This is all bad news for someone who would like a 911 because perhaps they are 50 and their wife has run off with her Pilates instructor. Or maybe because they enjoy a fast car but find the alternatives from Ferrari and Lamborghini to be a bit shouty.

There is a solution, however, if you do not wish to be approached by the sort of people that insists on calling the car by its factory model designation. You can either shoot them at a great range or you can buy a version of the 911 that you know they won’t like. And the one they like least of all is the Turbo.

They will tell you that it’s too expensive (it isn’t, actually) and that the 911 should be a nimble sports car, not a Ferrari-chasing supercar (it isn’t that either). They will also blather on about how the unsprung weight of the four-wheel-drive system robs the car of its characteristic skittishness, and if you haven’t stabbed them in the heart by this point, they will go on to talk about how the old 997 series’s hydraulic steering is much better than the new 991’s electric setup.

Some of this may be so; I don’t care. What I can tell you is that the Turbo is truly, madly and deeply fast. Engage Sport Plus mode — part of the £3,092 Sport Chrono package — stamp on the throttle and 3.2 seconds later, without a hint of wheelspin, you have hit 62mph. Keep your foot hard down and a little while later you’ll be knocking on the door of 200mph.

It is mid-range, though, that this car really shines. You caress the throttle and it sort of shimmies as if it’s a big muscle and you’ve just stroked it. Poke the pedal more and, whoomph, you are just gone.

Then you arrive at a corner and it simply grips and grips until you think your face may actually become dislodged. Partly this is down to the four-wheel-drive system, partly it’s down to the rear spoiler, which generates elephantine downforce, and partly it’s down to the gigantic rear tyres, which are so far apart that they are in different postcodes.

But it is not a Ferrari-chasing supercar. It simply isn’t as exciting as a Ferrari 458 Italia or even a McLaren 12C. They are much more darty and involving. But while the McLaren makes a decent fist of it, neither is anything like as relaxing as the Porsche. On a motorway run it is no more noisy or bouncy than a Volkswagen Golf. Realistically I would say that its most obvious rival is actually the excellent Bentley Continental GT V8.

The only problem is that if you exceed 75mph, the rear spoiler extends. A knowledgable traffic policeman may spot that. Which is probably why it’s fitted with a get-out-of-jail-free button that raises the spoiler at any speed you like. There are many other buttons too, none of which is on the steering wheel. I liked that. I liked lots of things. I liked the stereo. I liked the sat nav system. I liked the 29mpg fuel economy. But most of all I liked the way Porsche had made a near-200mph machine feel so grown up.

It really is a hard car to fault. The warranty is long, its reputation for engineering unburstability is excellent and the Turbo is still not so big that it’s a menace in town. The only real problem here is how easy it would be to kerb those sticky-out rear alloys.

Oh, and it’s a 911, which means you still won’t be let out of side turnings. But that’s no worry. Wait till there’s a gap and make up all the time you lost with that turbocharged six-cylinder muscle.

A muscle the diehard traditional Porsche enthusiast simply doesn’t have.


Verdict ★★★★☆

Back off, anoraks ‒ this Porsche is for driving



Porsche 911 Turbo

3800cc, 6-cylinder boxer turbo
514bhp @ 6000rpm
486 lb ft @ 1950rpm
7-speed PDK semi-auto
0-62mph in 3.4sec
Top speed:
29.1mpg (combined)
Road tax band:
L (£840 for first year)
L: 4506mm; H 1296mm; W 1978mm

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