Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beyond the Limit: Porsche Tracks the 911 Turbo S and 911 GT3

Photos by Ulysses Ang and Porsche Press
On the moon. At the north pole. In the deepest jungle. There isn’t a place where someone hasn’t already been and opened up new territory, raised the flag, and written history. You can follow their example or leave your own tracks. For Porsche, the answer has always been obvious: it’s in the company DNA to take new routes which question what was once cast in stone. Where others give up, that’s where their engineers begin. The all-new 911 Turbo S and 911 GT3 are testaments to engineering a tradition, a tradition of leaving the beaten path.

Born in 1974, the 911 Turbo didn’t exactly enter the sports car world at the most opportune time. The oil crisis dictated what car makers could and couldn’t do. Porsche could ignore the needs of the time and go for maximum power or they could compromise on performance and deliver a lackluster car. Instead, they took a different route: maximizing available resources at the time, they added power without compromising efficiency. The latest 911 Turbo S is no different. Ninety percent of its components have been re-engineered to maximize performance. At the heart is a twin-turbo 3.8-liter direct-injection Flat-6 developing 560 horsepower and 750 Nm of torque. And then you add the 7-speed dual-clutch Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK), rear-axle steering, and Porsche Active Aerodynamics (PAA).

Meanwhile, the 911 GT3 is built to be the ultimate track car for the open road. It’s where the limit signals not the end, but the beginning of innovation. All in all, the 911 GT3 is a precision instrument where you can push your own boundaries. It’s a manageable sports car that feels at home on the racetrack, yet can be taken to sporty destinations. Indeed, it preserves tradition for the future—a principle that the 911 has embodied for 50 years. At its core is a powerplant that delivers greater power and even greater composure when pushed to its 9,000 rpm redline. The 475-horsepower 911 GT3 also features a chassis that has been adapted for the racetrack and features Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), rear-axle steering, and the 7-speed PDK with shorter ratios for better acceleration.

Both the 911 Turbo S and the 911 GT3 are objects of beauty and desire, a timeless design that becomes an icon. In its form, proportions, and lines, they are clearly a Porsche. The wings are higher than the front lid and the wider rear end is designed to look especially powerful. Yet, the height and the overhangs have been reduced while the wheelbase has been stretched providing improved stability. Both models carry 20-inch wheels as standard with a central locking device derived from motorsports. The LED main headlights use little energy while gifting them with an even more memorable look. The 911 Turbo S features an active rear wing. Together with the adaptive spoiler at the front, it forms the Porsche Adaptive Aerodynamics system. It also features additional nose blades and V-shaped mirrors which not only look good, but are lighter as well.

On the other hand, the 911 GT3’s design details are all functional in the pursuit of performance. The revised front-end improves the aerodynamics. Apart from the customary luggage compartment air outlet, the 911 GT3 has a wider front spoiler and larger cooling air openings. However, it’s the fixed rear wing that easily distinguishes a 911 GT3 from a 911. Along with the new underbody paneling with rear diffuser, it contributes to a considerable increase in downforce for driving stability.

The interior of both cars make one message clear: it’s designed to unite man and machine as one. On the track or on the open road, decisions are made in fractions of a second. It’s critical for the driver to get information that’s quickly accessible while being in a driving environment that enables even faster use of it. The interior is precise, not fanciful; minimalist, not kitsch. True to Porsche form, the five circular instruments lead the way. The rev counter is in the middle while a 4.6-inch TFT color display on the right provides continuous stream of data from the on-board computer. The 911 Turbo S is set against a black dial face, while the 911 GT3 has a titanium-colored one. The ascending center console places the gear selector within direct reach while the steering wheel is of the perfect size and thickness. The pedals are perfectly positioned as well.

Strapping into the GT3 first, the motorsports heritage is apparent with the protruding half rollcage that’s part of the Clubsport package. The sport bucket seats, embossed with the ‘GT3’ logo, features a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic shell. The meaty side bolsters grip the pelvic region, while the fixed seatback angle and height provides the optimal driving position. The grippy Alcantara steering wheel falls nicely into hand. At first, the accelerator feels stiff, but a quick tap lurches the 911 GT3 forward, an indication of its potency. After a couple of corners of taking it easy, it’s time to see what the 911 GT3 can do. Pushing through corners, the GT3 flies through them a flurry of speed and precision. There’s tremendous confidence at the limit where the purity of the steering and the directness of the chassis dictates the direction of movement. It can and will slide at the absolute limit, but it’s easy to catch it with just a minute correction of the steering. Such is the sheer tractability of this machine. The Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) provides fade-free and confidence-inspiring bite even after repeated hard braking.

Alternatively, the 911 Turbo S doesn’t feel as raw as the GT3. It’s more luxurious, and yet, still keeps the focus directly on the driver. Leather on the dashboard, door and side trims is standard while motorsport-influenced Alcantara is used as the headlining. The seats feature electric adjustment in all directions with a firm padding for excellent support. The twin-turbo provides enough instantaneous power to make your heart skip a beat as the engine races towards the redline. At that instant, you think you’re going to miss the apex, you slam on the brakes and they do their job of slowing you down. Turning the wheel instantly, the active all-wheel drive system takes over giving awe-inspiring grip. It feels direct as it enters the corner while still allowing you to kick the rear out, but only if you truly desire for it to do so. The straight line speed is simply insane, but even more surprising is how you can carry a normal conversation with your co-driver. It’s fast, but more importantly, it gives you a sense of confidence to keep on pushing.

Porsche, especially its storied cars like the 911 Turbo S and 911 GT3, are born from a winning heritage on the racetrack. And yet, Ferry Porsche’s dream goes beyond that. He believes a car ought to be just as capable of winning as it’s suited for everyday use. What matters for Porsche even more than a place in the winner’s circle is how much experience is gained, as well as ideas and visions that the race inspires. The proximity between the racetrack and road is truly unique for Porsche. It lets every Porsche customer take part in that race—directly or indirectly. It lets them experience the driving force behind cars like the 911 Turbo S and 911 GT3: Spirit, Vision, and Principle.

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