Gerotek, Pretoria - Splitting hairs. How better to describe the finite time gaps appearing between performance figures in the quickest of today’s sports-cars?
And not just on paper either. It was a little more than two years ago that McLaren’s MP4-12C scorched its way to dethroning Motoring’s long-time quarter-mile title-holder, the previous-generation Porsche 911 Turbo. At the time the MacLaren bested the Porsche’s 402.3 metre sprint by only 12 hundredths of a second - 11.28 to 11.40 secs respectively. And since that day, we’ve been savouring a rematch.
Well, that day has come.
Now available in 991 series guise, meaning it’s completely new from the ground up and fresh for a fight, the latest Porsche 911 Turbo S is one of South Africa’s likeliest contenders for a shot at the top of this publication’s popular Quarter Mile Kings log.
This latest model is longer, wider, lighter, more powerful than the one it replaces, and a new all-wheel drive, four-wheel-steering system helps it to lay power down and grip the tar with even more adhesion.
But it seems the McLaren isn't quite ready to surrender its quarter-mile crown.
The best the new 911 Turbo, even in its most powerful "S" trim could do was only (and I say "only" in jest) 11.31 seconds. That's just three hundredths of a second between them. Like I said, splitting hairs.
Here's the thing though... in the 0-100km/h sprint - which many consider to be the definite test of accelerative prowess - the R2.6-million Turbo S is indeed the quickest car we've ever strapped our Vbox test equipment into. Here the Porsche tore to a time of 3.31 seconds, or exactly one-tenth faster than its British nemesis.
Either way, at this elite end of the scale, acceleration is sickeningly quick. Literally.
In 991 guise the 911 Turbo S is endowed with 412kW and 750Nm - a big wallop for any 911, but frankly not all that obscene an output by modern standards.
Other, much more powerful, cars can't do what the Porsche can, and it's a combination of things that can take credit for this.
That 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six at the rear axle helps push the back tyres into the ground which does wonders for traction on foot-flat getaways, but a new traction management system that shoots torque up to the front wheels as needed makes this an all-wheel-driven grip monger.
An effective and fool-proof launch-control system that dumps optimal revs and boost through the drivetrain in one formidable gush helps too, but it's Porsche's dual-clutch PDK gearbox that gives the Turbo an edge in this cut-throat market segment.
We're happy to call this seven-speeder the best automatic transmission in the world today, as it somehow seems to accelerate, and not hesitate, on its way up through gears. As you're firing into one, it has the next locked, loaded and ready to go. It's the AK47 of transmissions and it's the reason why this, and all other 911s (not to mention Boxsters, Caymans and Macans) are capable of such impressive deeds at the moment.
Intake pressure builds up in a predictable surge making it easy to drive around inconspicuously underneath its gargantuan wave of power, but once you delve into the (up to) 1.3 bar of available boost things happen rather quickly. Because drive comes through all four wheels the steering wheel is unflustered by the frenzy below, leaving the driver to focus all attention on what's happening a few hundred metres ahead.
But blink under full boost, and large portions of time and distance will simply disappear into black holes of oblivion. Stephen Hawking eat your heart out.
An aluminium fist in an alcantara glove applies better here than that old iron and velvet cliché.
Porsche has a special way of blending luxury with performance, but here all the soft headliners, polished carbon accents and colourful touchscreen displays are almost disguising the fact that you're in a lightweight, purebred racing car that’s hell bent on punching a hole in the horizon.
I'd imagine Neil Armstrong would have appreciated some interior accoutrements in his Apollo space capsule, but I doubt they would've made re-entry into the atmosphere any less scary.
Still, the 911 Turbo can compose itself when need be.
In normal drive modes it's a softly spoken Dr Jekyll with a reasonably pliant ride, nicely assisted steering and a subdued exhaust note suitable for calm jaunts around town. It's a genuinely comfortable car with an easy nature that even a learner driver could safely potter about in. So long as they stay away from the Hyde and Hyde Plus (Sport and Sport Plus) buttons in the console that expose another, more savage side.
There's even a front-chin spoiler and a rear wing that deploy mechanically like a set of fangs when systems are set to full tear-your-face-off mode.
Strictly speaking, the new 911 Turbo S still bows to the King of the Quarter Mile - the McLaren MP4- 12C - by a whisker. But the Porsche is quicker from 0-100km/h. In terms of quickest cars we've ever tested... we're calling this a tie. - Star Motoring
Porsche 911 Turbo S
Engine: 6-cyl, 3.8-litre biturbo boxer
Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
Power: 412kW @ 6500-6750rpm
Torque: 750Nm @ 2100-4250rpm
0-100km/h (measured): 3.31 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 318km/h
Consumption (claimed): 9.7 l/100km
Price: R2.6 million
Maintenance plan: 3-year/90 000km
McLaren MP4-12C (460kW/600Nm) - POA
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