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2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S review: More, more, more

Porsche's turbocharged 911 has not failed to impress in any flavor I've sampled. In capital-T Turbo mode, it's properly astonishing.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
4 min read

When Porsche announced a move to turbocharging across nearly the entire 911 range for the 991.2 generation, there was some concern that it might just undermine the legitimacy of the proper Turbo. That is, the one with the capital T and the swollen fenders and the swollen MSRP to match.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S


  • Outrageous speed and power
  • Legitimate practicality
  • Might just fly under the radar

Don't like

  • Not as ostentatious as some may like
  • Expensive, natch

To allay those concerns, Porsche did the only natural thing: It turned up the wick on the Turbo to epic proportions. And the 991.2 Turbo S was indeed epic. What to do for an encore, then? Somehow, Porsche dialed things up even further, creating this, the $204,750 (including $1,250 destination), 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S. It's quicker than most supercars, as comfortable and practical as many luxury coupes and, as far as $200k-plus cars go, is actually able to fly somewhat below the radar. At least, compared to something like a McLaren GT.

If that comparison seems like a stretch then you, dear reader, are greatly undervaluing the merits of this Porsche. It's an easy thing to do since it looks so much like any other 911. It's wider than a Carrera S, with 255-section-width, 20-inch front tires and 21-inch rears measuring a massive 315 millimeters across. Ten-piston front calipers squeeze standard carbon-ceramic brake discs and there's a movable wing out back, but you can easily see how a non-enthusiast would miss all that.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S hides its heroics

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The familiar looks here, however, don't mean it's any less a performer than the McLaren GT. The 992 flavor of the Porsche 911 Turbo S has more power (640 horsepower vs. 612 in the McLaren), more speed (205 mph vs. 203) and far more acceleration, sprinting to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds vs. the McLaren's 3.1. It even beats the GT's fuel consumption by a hair -- 24 miles per gallon combined compared to 23.7 -- and its starting price is $6,500 less. 

There are no histrionics required for entry into the Turbo S, you simply open the door in a perfectly normal way and lower yourself into a perfectly comfortable seat. Similarly, there are no theatrics to firing up the 3.8-liter, twin-turbo flat-six. Just twist the ignition and the car comes to live with a growl that, even with the sport exhaust, is purposeful but well short of intimidating.

The standard eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission is connected to a revised differential setup, beefed up to handle the massive power the Turbo S has this year. Again, 640 ponies are on offer, an increase of 60 over the outgoing car. To put that in context, the iconic 1960 Porsche 356B only made 60 hp. In total.

When you're talking about power figures above 600 it can be difficult to detect increases but, having spent many enjoyable miles with my foot to the floor in the previous 911 Turbo S, I can assure you that the difference here is more than perceptible. It's impressive. It's borderline terrifying. After executing a test launch I pulled over, took out my notes, and wrote down two words: "Holy shit."

I'm not one to swear lightly, but this is eye-opening, neck-snapping stuff you're not liable to experience anywhere else this side of an EV. Unlike an EV, you have a lovely sound to go with it. Yes, both the Carrera S and Turbo S are spinning impellers now, but this machine offers a suitably louder, deeper note while still delivering that distinctive 911 snarl. This is a good-sounding machine.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S

The 911 Turbo S' interior is dark, but clean and purposeful.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

It's one that can handle, too. The all-wheel-drive Turbo S weighs 3,636 pounds, just shy of 350 more than the manual-equipped 911 Carrera S I reviewed not long ago. Yes, you can sense that extra weight when the roads start to get interesting, but the Turbo never feels awkward. It hoovers up road imperfections just like every other flavor of 911, though the sensation of speed is a bit more muted, making the experience a touch less lively.

A lot of that has to do with which driving mode you're in, toggled via the conveniently placed knob on the wheel, as it is in other 911s. In Sport mode the car is engaging and fun, but still calm and manageable. In Sport Plus things get far more energetic -- and, thanks to the pop-up wing, your rearward view rather more limited.

When all that gets too much, a twist of the knob dials the 911 Turbo S back into sedate, grand-tourer territory. The eight-speed PDK transmission is nearly as slippery as an auto. The sport exhaust quiets, but doesn't go mute. If you prefer something a bit more symphonic, the $3,980 Burmester sound system is sublime. There's a good-sized frunk to swallow your roller bags and, while the rear seats are as questionable as ever, they do at least fold down to form a nice parcel shelf. Really only a somewhat punishing ride over broken roads ruins the fun, but I'm guessing that opting out of the 10-millimeter lower PASM suspension would help.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
Enlarge Image
2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S

As it sits, this 911 Turbo S costs $233,680.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

That's just one of the tasteful selection of options outfitted on the car you see here, including $1,510 for that suspension and $3,490 for the sport exhaust with chrome tips. Add in $2,000 for adaptive cruise control, the aforementioned Burmester system and a few other odds and ends, plus the $1,250 delivery charge, and you're looking at $223,680.

That's nearly twice the starting price of the divine 911 Carrera S I recently reviewed. Twice as fun? Certainly not, but we both know that sports car economics don't work that way. Things only get properly interesting when you're well past the point of diminishing returns, and yet this car delivers oh so much. In the grand scheme of cars offering huge speed and practicality, the 911 Turbo S -- just like its Cabriolet counterpart -- is king.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S

Score Breakdown

Performance 10Features 9Design 9Media 8.5


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