I t’s incredible, in terms of engineering evolution, what Porsche has achieved in 15 short years with the 911 Turbo. As the 996 Turbo sits silently next to its younger 991 brethren, their respective exhausts still making light ‘pinging’ sounds as they cool from our country blast, the overarching theme of change – even visually – is very much evident. For context though, we first need to look outside of Zuffenhausen and towards other manufacturers with sports cars who have graced the road for a similar length of time (and we’re talking here about a 15-year window, not the Turbo’s full 41-year lineage, which is unmatched in the automotive world). One of the most obvious examples is the humble Mazda MX-5.
Through two generations from launch in 1989 right up to 2006, the MX-5 barely changed in dimension, engine size, or technical assistance (namely because there wasn’t any). Not until the third generation did the MX-5 get a new engine, a larger chassis, and basic commodities such as traction control. Looking slightly more upmarket, the Aston Martin DB9 – an alleged 911 rival among the ill-informed – was granted little evolution in its 12 years of production (2004- 2016) aside from a revised centre console in 2008 and more power from its V12 engine in 2013. Back at Porsche, the introduction of the 996 Turbo in 2001 acts as a good middle post for the lineage of Zuffenhausen’s fl agship forced induction car. J
ust 15 years previously, the 930 Turbo’s engine was cooled by air and mated to a humble four-speed manual gearbox, with no ABS, let alone electronic driver aids. By comparison, the 996 Turbo is a spaceship, benefitting from an extra 120bhp and buoyed by driving technologies such as PSM (with ABD), allwheel-drive and a slick, six-speed manual gearbox to best utilise the huge surge in torque (five-speed Tiptronic was also available on the Turbo for the first time here). Unsprung mass was vastly reduced with lighter brakes and hollow-spoked alloy wheels.
Fast-forward another 15 years to the present day and while the water-cooled ‘911 Turbo’ moniker has remained in place, the technology and componentry on board shows Zuffenhausen has made similar quantum leaps over the same timeframe. Sure, there’s a counter argument that with twin turbochargers, four-wheel drive and an active rear wing, the Turbo’s basic DNA hasn’t changed too drastically on paper at least. However, a mere scratch of the surface reveals a raft of changes that makes the 996 as wholly different from the latest Turbo as it did from the first iteration in 1980s guise. Aside from the obvious growth in dimensions (which is surprisingly linear when studying 930 vs 996 vs 991), the 991’s chassis dynamics has been altered somewhat, its wheelbase stretched by 100mm over the 996, with the fl at-six engine moved forward to sit more on top of its rear axle. That rear axle itself is now equipped with active steering abilities, effectively shortening or lengthening the 991.2 Turbo’s wheelbase depending on speed. In terms of drivetrain, there’s another 120bhp hike to show for 15 years of evolution, with Variable Turbine Geometry (first introduced on the 997) reducing lag and enabling the latest Turbo to hit peak torque earlier compared to the 996.