I recently drove the outgoing 991 generation Porsche GT3 RS and the stark difference between the two cars underlines the civilised and refined 911 Turbo S recipe. Where the GT3 is all loud and brash bravado, the Turbo S is polished poise. The Turbo S is the faster car and will show the normally-aspirated GT3 a clean pair of heels in a head-to-head race, but it’s quieter and softer-riding and all-round less edgy.
It’s always fast, but set to its normal driving mode the Turbo S has a plush ride and a commuting-friendly demeanour. It tootled through the Cape’s urban streets with a relaxed air and felt comfortable over a drive of several hundred kilometres.
Switch to Sports or Sports plus modes and, like the line in the Rocky Horror song, madness takes its toll. The car adopts a much racier edge with quickened throttle and stiffened suspension.
Riding on a sports chassis lowered by 10mm compared to the regular 911 Carrera, the Turbo S feels crisp and quick through snaking mountain roads like Franschhoek Pass. Displaying polished playfulness, the all-wheel drive traction’s superb and it takes vigorous driving to elicit a squeal from the mixed-size tyres, which are 20 inches at the front and 21 at the rear.
The Porsche Traction management (PTM) all-wheel drive system allows significantly more torque to be transferred to the front wheels than before. It reduces the potential for tail-happy antics but without causing understeer, and the Porsche tracked neutrally through hard-charging corners.
The standard-fit ceramic brakes bite hard without fading, and the PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox is a thing of slick-shifting finesse. Underpinning it all is the 911’s trademark solidity, as if the car was made of a solid piece rather than an assemblage of parts.
The Turbo S doesn’t have the sonic exuberance of the high-revving GT3, but there’s a degree of acoustic charm when the sports exhaust mode is selected.
It’s also visually subtle in the scheme of sports cars, though a wider body than its predecessor gives it a more purposeful, hunkered-down road stance. It also has adaptive aerodynamics with automatically controlled cooling air flaps at the front and an enlarged rear wing with more downforce.
Inside, an analogue rev counter takes centre stage in the instrument panel as per tradition, flanked by two digital gauges on each side. Curiously, the outermost two gauges are blocked from the driver’s view by the steering wheel, an unusual ergonomic quirk by the usually fastidious Germans.