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2021 Porsche 911 Turbo first drive review: No second banana

The new Porsche 911 Turbo is equally deserving of the Turbo S' spotlight.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo
Turbo or Turbo S? Visually, they're identical. 

Living in the shadow of a superstar has its benefits. No, the new Porsche 911 Turbo doesn't have the headlining 640 horsepower and 2.6-second 0-to-60-mph time as the Turbo S, but the specs don't tell the whole story. Because the two cars are so superbly similar, the 911 Turbo will make you laugh just as hard when you launch it down an on-ramp and you'll get the same my-god-that's-fast rush of exhilaration after a long drive on a good road. 

Besides, it's not like the 911 Turbo doesn't come with impressive credentials. It uses the same 3.8-liter flat-6 as the Turbo S, but the turbochargers are smaller, lowering the engine's output to 572 hp and 553 pound-feet of torque. That's a drop of 68 hp and 37 lb-ft compared to the Turbo S, but it barely affects performance. Hitting 60 mph takes a measly tenth of a second longer in the 911 Turbo. Prefer to measure life one quarter-mile at a time? The S only beats the Turbo by a nose -- 10.5 seconds compared to 10.8.

Let's widen the scope and give the 911 Turbo's performance additional perspective. Not only is the new Turbo as quick as the outgoing 991.2-generation Turbo S, it'll out-accelerate the Ferrari 488 Pista, Lamborghini Huracan Evo, McLaren 600LT and Mercedes-AMG GT R Black Series. At $173,150 to start (including $1,350 for destination and a $1,000 gas guzzler tax), the 911 Turbo is also tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than those other desirable supercars, and a full $32,700 less expensive than the Turbo S. Just sayin'.

Slight performance disparity aside, the 911 Turbo and 911 Turbo S are mechanically identical. Both cars use Porsche's eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission and have torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. The suspension geometry and adaptive damper settings are the same, and you can add the stiffer PASM Sport setup to either car. The variable steering system is unchanged, too, with a 14.1:1 ratio on center, tightening up to 12.5:1. The Turbo even gets all of the S' active aerodynamic bits, with a movable rear wing and extending front chin, all working together to keep the 911 stable and poised when you're hustlin'. 

And hot damn, hustlin' is what this car does best. The spec differences are easy to point out on paper, but even if I drove the Turbo and Turbo S back to back on the same road, I'm not sure I'd genuinely feel a difference. The 911 Turbo is fast. Really fast. Really, really, really fast. Porsche could have rolled out the Turbo, called it the Turbo S, and I'd still have been all, holy crap, this thing is dynamite. The steering is perfectly weighted. The chassis is beautifully balanced. The brakes, the power, the sound from the sport exhaust… it's aces all around. I don't mean for this to sound like a love-fest, but it really is that good.


Slow your roll and you'll find the 911 Turbo can be an exemplar of docility. Sure, it's quicker than a lot of supercars, but it's easier to drive at a snail's pace, too. The Turbo is as effortless and manageable as a base 911 Carrera when you're running out to pick up a pizza. It also has the same GPS-activated hydraulic front axle lift option as the Turbo S, which can remember things like that steep driveway into the Ralphs parking lot or that stupid speed bump you always forget about at the end of your street. That added don't-scrape-the-chin piece of mind is totally worth the extra $2,770.

Small caveat to all this, though: The 911 Turbo S has a higher level of standard equipment than the base Turbo. Crucially, performance goodies like Porsche's ceramic composite brakes and dynamic chassis control anti-roll tech are standard on the Turbo S but optional on the 911 Turbo, and as such, fitted to my test car. Would there be a more noticeable difference between the Turbo and Turbo S had I tested a no-options version? Maybe. But that's a story for another time.

From the PCM infotainment system to the nicely weighted controls, the 911's interior is delightful.


The 911 Turbo doesn't come standard with the S' 18-way power sport seats and the 20-inch front and 21-inch rear center lock wheels, but again, they're optional. In fact, there isn't a single thing available for the Turbo S that can't be had on the Turbo, including the Lightweight Design package that removes the rear seats and adds carbon fiber front buckets, a carbon fiber roof and thinner glass, saving around 66 pounds.

Likewise, the same roster of exterior and interior colors, upholstery choices, luxury add-ons and tech features are available across the Turbo/S range. This particular Racing Yellow car is pretty lavishly optioned, with things like the $6,150 SportDesign package, $5,500 Turbo S Exclusive Design wheels, $2,740 LED matrix headlights and $3,020 InnoDrive tech that combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. It's also got a number of superfluous add-ons like night vision ($2,540), yellow seat belts ($540), matte carbon fiber interior trim ($2,100), illuminated matte door sill guards ($1,280) and a whole bunch of other nonsense. All told, this car has freaking $47,150 in extras. Add that to the $173,150 base price and you've got an as-tested window sticker of $220,300. Yikes.

No S? No problem.


So if the 911 Turbo is every bit as good as the 911 Turbo S, why spend the extra cash? Because you have to have the best. To that point, Porsche tells me the standard Turbo under-indexes the entire 911 range when it comes to custom-order cars; the majority of 911 Turbo buyers just grab whatever's at the dealer. Meanwhile, the Turbo S over-indexes on special orders compared to every other 911. Go figure.

For many, there's enough braggadocio in that extra consonant to make the Turbo S' $32,700 premium worth every penny. (Guess which version outsells the other.) But the truth is, both cars are pretty stinkin' great. If you don't need those bragging rights, I promise the regular 911 Turbo will keep you smiling for years to come.