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Drive Life : June 4th 2010
1HERSA1 F012 12 Drive Life June 4, 2010 drive.com.au Force of nature THE COMPETITORS * Prices are recommended retail and exclude dealer and on-road costs. FERRARI 458 ITALIA How much? $550,000 Engine 4.5-litre V8; 425kW/540Nm; 13.3L/100km; 307g/km CO2;RWD Safety Four airbags; stability control Claimed 0-100km/h 3.4 sec Pros Drop-dead gorgeous; laser- accurate steering; awesome high-revving V8, lightning-quick- shifting dual-clutch transmission. Cons Expensive, with ridiculous prices for options. Exhaust note from V8 subdued in low range. Our score Not yet rated. Porsche 911 Turbo Porsche's latest all-wheel-drive, turbocharged 911 turns zeroes into heroes. NISSAN GT-R PREMIUM How much? $162,800 Engine 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6; 357kW/588Nm; 12.4L/100km; 298g/km CO2;AWD Safety Six airbags; stability control Claimed 0-100km/h 3.9 sec Pros Faster than cars twice its price; tremendous grip and incredible acceleration; great data graphics. Cons Rough ride on imperfect surfaces; transmission can be clunky around town; tyre roar. Our score I AUDI R8 V10 How much? $357,800 Engine 5.2-litre V10; 386kW/ 530Nm; 13.7L/100km; 327g/km CO2;AWD Safety Four airbags; stability control Claimed 0-100km/h 3.9 sec Pros Brilliant engine; head- turning looks; excellent handling; easy to live with. Cons Expensive options; not as quick as the Porsche despite bigger engine; limited practicality. Our score I Price $360,100 (plus on-road and dealer costs) Country of origin Germany Engine 3.8-litre twin-turbo six- cylinder Power 368kW at 6000rpm Torque 650Nm at 1950-5000rpm (700Nm on overboost) Consumption and CO2 emissions 11.4L/100km, 268g/km Transmission Seven-speed dual- clutch automated manual, AWD Weight 1670kg Safety Six airbags and stability control Claimed 0-100km/h 3.4 sec (in Sport Plus mode) Pros Awesome acceleration; incredible handling and stopping power; accurate steering; liveable ride for a supercar. Cons Expensive options; cramped rear seats; minimal luggage space. Our score JI THE TEST RICHARD BLACKBURN APorsche 911 Turbo will cost you roughly the same money as an inner-city apartment. The apartment is the wiser investment but unless it comes pre- furnished with a supermodel it's unlikely to reward you with the same exhilaration as a Porsche 911 Turbo; it's never going to slingshot you from 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds and it's not going to beat a V8 Supercar in a drag race. For a motoring writer of modest means, the blistering performance and stratospheric price tag of a 911 Turbo add up to a nervous weekend behind the wheel; it's a bit like babysitting the boss's kids. Thankfully, the new 911 Turbo is not only the fastest in the company's history, it's also fitted with an array of sophisticated driver aids that could almost make a circus monkey look competent behind the wheel. For the Porsche faithful, who often put their name on the waiting list at the merest whiff of a new model, there's plenty of new technology in this latest model to reward their blind loyalty: the first all-new engine in the Turbo's 39-year history; a sophisticated torque-vectoring package to keep the car on rails through corners and a double-clutch automated gearbox that can change gears more quickly than Michael Schumacher. WHAT DO YOU GET? Luxury car makers are notorious for their lengthy option lists, and Porsche is no exception. Our test car's price balloons by more than $50,000 when the options are added. The seven-speed ''PDK'' dual- clutch gearbox is $7900, while the ceramic brakes cost $20,590. An aluminium handbrake (that rattled on our test car) and gear stick will cost $2190. Commendably, though, metallic paint is a no-cost option. Other standard equipment includes satellite navigation, tyre- pressure sensors, a sunroof, climate- control airconditioning, a Bose stereo system (invest in the optional subwoofer), Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a sports steering wheel, rear parking sensors, bi-xenon headlights and leather trim. WHAT'S INSIDE The Porsche cabin exudes understated luxury. The layout is simple yet sophisticated, with leather finishes on the dash and doors and plush carpet underfoot. Our car was fitted with an optional three-spoke steering wheel with paddle-shift levers instead of the shift buttons fitted to the standard car. The buttons came in for criticism in the current generation regular 911 and the paddle-shift wheel is Porsche's answer, albeit one that costs an extra $950. It also means there are no steering wheel audio controls. The entertainment, communication, trip computer and airconditioning controls are easy to use, although they are set low in the dash, which means your eyes are taken further off the road when using them. Thankfully, a digital read-out in the instrument panel gives a wealth of information, including speed, song choice and trip data. When you option the Sports Chrono pack, you also get a classy- looking analogue dash clock that can record lap times for track days. Our car's optional sports seats had electrically adjustable bolsters that can grip tighter around your torso and thighs to provide more support through corners. They offer adjustment in almost every way imaginable but, on a three-hour drive, I couldn't get comfortable. UNDER THE BONNET The new twin-turbo horizontally opposed six-cylinder in the Turbo is a gem. On paper, it offers modest power and torque improvements over the old engine but, by the seat of the pants, it's awe-inspiring. Hit the accelerator and there's only the slightest hint of hesitation before you're slammed hard into your seat by the G-forces. It's in everyday driving where the refinement to the turbo engine is most appreciated, with immense flexibility at any revs. The launch-control function -- which comes with the optional Sports Chrono pack -- is as easy to use as it is effective; simply press both the brake and accelerator, let the car rev to 5000rpm, lift off the brake and hang on. We tried it on a closed circuit and found ourselves doing 255km/h roughly 20 seconds later. And the acoustic accompaniment is almost as intoxicating as the G-forces. The awesome sound of air being sucked into the engine is followed almost instantaneously by a meaty roar punctuated only by the pop of each lightning-fast gear change by the PDK gearbox. The gearbox is as impressive as the engine. Around town it's placid and smooth-shifting, although not always seamless, with the odd hesitation at intersections. Enthusiastically driven on the open road, it's a mind-reader, shifting down for corners and holding gears to give you maximum drive out of corners. It's so intuitive, it almost makes the shift paddles redundant; use the Sports Chrono function (with Sport and Sport Plus modes) and the wick is turned up a notch. Gears shift quicker and hold longer, the throttle becomes more sensitive, the suspension is firmer, and torque is boosted to 700Nm. No wonder Porsche expects 95 per cent of Turbo buyers to choose the self-shifter. ON THE ROAD The Porsche's excellent handling will come as no surprise. What may astonish is how well the 911 soaks up bumps and imperfections in the road surface. There's no denying the ride is firm -- and the wheels can be noisy over bumps or coarse surfaces -- and it can become tiresome over an extended patch of uneven country road. For the most part, though, it is positively civilised by supercar standards. On the open road, the Porsche is superb. Sharp, communicative steering is backed up by bucketloads of grip through fast corners and great agility through hairpins. The all-wheel-drive underpinnings, working in tandem with the torque vectoring and stability control, make it ridiculously easy to feed the Turbo's considerable power to the ground, even on wet surfaces. The Porsche stays remarkably flat through sharp changes of direction and when you step on the massive ceramic brakes, they'll pull you up in a heartbeat, with no discernible difference in bite between the first and 10th application. VERDICT When you hand back the keys to the Turbo, you get some idea how a skydiver must feel after a jump; relieved that they're still in one piece but craving the adrenalin rush. At first glance, the Turbo is ridiculously expensive and some of the options prices are a bit rude. But compare it to exotic Italian supercars and the Porsche begins to look better value. Few cars could trouble it on a twisting road or race circuit, yet it remains easy to live with pottering around the city. If you pay top dollar, you have a right to expect something pretty close to perfection; with the 911 Turbo you get what you pay for.
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June 11th 2010