The 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S is an animal, a monster, an apex predator on asphalt when you push the gas pedal into the carpet. Otherwise, it’s a competent touring car. But you knew that. Seriously, why are you reading this review? It’s a fucking 911 Turbo. It’s amazing. Obviously.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche offered to loan me a 911 Turbo S with a full tank of fuel in lieu of inviting me to a launch event.)
(Testing Conditions: A lot of city driving, a casual lap of my favorite Malibu canyons, and a hard charge up and down Angeles Crest Highway in the middle of the night.)
The 2021 model year marks the beginning of the 992 (eighth-generation) Porsche 911 Turbo, though the base Carrera was fresh for 2020 and there have been more variants of the 911. The first 911 Turbo dropped in 1975 but the 911 itself was born a bit earlier... and that’s all the 911 history we have time for today.
In the year 2020 all Porsche 911s are turbocharged, so the “Turbo” name might not seem as significant as it once did. But make no mistake–while the base 911 Carrera is a great car, the 911 Turbo is on another level.
A $100,000 911 Carerra claims 379 horsepower with a 0 to 60 mph time of four seconds and a top speed of 182 mph. Solid! A 911 Turbo S, however, has 640 HP, can get to 60 mph in a bone-compressing 2.6 seconds and fly off to a top speed north of 200. Its base price is $203,500.
Porsche’s famous for offering long scrolls of available options that push the list prices of its vehicles even higher, which is smart, because once you’re unfurling six figures for a sports car, what’s another $3,650 to change the seat stitching? Do not crack open Porsche’s build-and-price site if you’re not willing to waste the rest of your day and all your imaginary dollars.
The 992’s design is perfect; just enough flourish on the classic 911 silhouette and the headlights are correctly round-shaped. Heckblende light across the butt is beautifully badass. The driving experience is almost annoying exceptional–the car is generally easy and forgiving to drive around town and absolutely roars to life when you lean on it to hustle.
Porsche’s PDK shiftable automatic transmission might not be as fun to futz with as a three-pedal stick, but it’s plenty exciting and objectively amazingly quick.
With that in mind, the 911 Turbo S is wound up pretty tight. Unlike say, the similarly-powerful Aston Martin DB11 AMR which feels content to canter, the 911 gave me the impression that it was getting antsy at town speeds. The car wants to pounce. It’s fun if you’re up for feeding it once in a while. And frankly, this version of the 911 should be a touch intimidating.
It’s not that the car’s uncomfortable to daily drive. It is stiff, but not punishing. It just feels fast. Very, very fast. And that energy can rub off on you, making the car a little annoying to drive in heavy traffic.
Porsche promises 205 mph, a 2.6-second 0-60 time, and a 10.5-second quarter mile right out of the box. I mean, holy shit. That’s whip-crack crazy.
You don’t need to drive like an absolute maniac or a track-lapping hero to have a rewarding driving experience, though. I can promise I didn’t get anywhere near 200 mph (hah) in my casual testing and still had a couple unforgettable nights leaping through the tight and hilly roads above Los Angeles.
Laying into the gas pedal on a straightaway though... wow. Sub-three seconds to 60 mph only tells a tiny fraction of the story, after all. Hold the pedal down for twice as long and, well, get ready to time travel.
You know what, I’ll take the bold stand nobody’s been brave enough to: The back seat is not comfortable for a six-foot adult.
For shame, Porsche. What am I supposed to do when my parents come to town, tour them around in one of my other cars? Yes? Well... OK, fine.
It doesn’t appear that the Turbo S has been crash-rated by the NHTSA or IIHS here in America or by the Euro NCAP across the ocean. The car’s engine might be in the wrong place, but relax, it’s got a low-power “wet driving” mode if you don’t want to wrestle with the car’s full fury when there’s not a lot of traction.
Besides, you’re not going to outdrive those enormous brake discs on the street. If you try, make sure your GoPro’s running!
Joking aside, the 911 Turbo S does have a suite of safety features, the most interesting of which might be “Porsche InnoDrive” cruise control. Here’s how Porsche’s literature sells it:
Porsche InnoDrive optimizes your speed with the aid of navigation data and information supplied by the radar and video sensors. The result: Improved comfort, increased efficiency and a driving experience typical of Porsche. Driving speed is predictively adapted to speed restrictions and road topography (gradients, corners). At the same time, Porsche InnoDrive controls acceleration, deceleration and gear selection (including coasting). The system’s predictive capability of up to 1.9 miles and real-time optimization of driving strategy enable a harmonious and comfortable drive.
This car looks incredible in red and yellow. Come on, live a little. Don’t get a silver or black one.
Porsche’s build and price is a Cave of Wonders full of temptations, and my personal picks would include the surround-view 360-degree camera system ($1,430), PASM Sport Suspension which lowers the car 10 millimeters ($1,510), a heated steering wheel which I’ll spec no matter what it costs, and the cool red tachometer ($420.)
The cult of Porsche seems to be calming down a little bit after becoming legion as every leather-jacketed sexy stubble-having Cool Guy discovered air-cooled 911s over the last decade. But there’s still a pretty strong contingent of the car community that’s really only into Porsches. At least, based on my anecdotal observations.
For those people, there is no substitute and never will be. For the more objectively minded performance car shopper, let’s see, there’s the McLaren 570S, Mercedes AMG GT R, the Nissan GT-R Nismo (yeah it still exists!) and I guess the Aston Martin Vantage?
You can’t really lose picking any of those, but the 911 Turbo S experience lives up to the hype and I’m saying that as a car fan who is definitely not exclusively into P-cars or particularly enamored by German engineering.
The Porsche 911 Turbo S is good. Very good, even.
If you didn’t get enough imagery on this post or the nighttime photo set we did with JBH, Porsche’s own website has plenty more pictures plus a couple cool 360-degree views you can play with. There are also about 20 pages of pictures of the new 911 Turbo S on Netcarshow, which also has an album of the convertible, the U.K.-spec version, and the U.K.-spec convertible.