It's not easy putting into context the ever-increasing performance of the world's fastest sports cars, like the Porsche 911 Turbo S revealed today. But let me offer a few examples:
By the time your eyes reach the comma in this sentence, the new Porsche 911 Turbo S can hit 60 mph. At top speed of 198 mph, the 911 Turbo could outrace a Boeing 747 on takeoff. And the 2013 edition of the 911 Turbo S with 560 hp has double the motive energy of the original 1974 model.
The 911 Turbo always promises the meanest and maddest version of the 911, but this version arrives with every technological trick Stuttgart could muster. Start with the engine: the 3.2-liter flat-six gets mated to two variable-turbine turbochargers, with power set at 520 hp in the non-S edition. That power leaves the engine via a seven-speed PDK automatic; of all the available options, a manual transmission isn't one of them, as Porsche has found even its customers prefer to let computers shift faster than they could. That transmission links to an all-wheel-drive system that can handle more power to the front wheels; Porsche says the new 911 Turbo can hit 60 mph in 3.2 seconds — 2.9 for the Turbo S — and lap the Nurburgring in under 7 minutes, 30 seconds — on stock 20-inch wheels.
The body has been widened in traditional 911 Turbo fashion to handle the wider wheels and engine bits. The rear axle comes with Porsche's new active steering system; it can turn the tires 2.8 degrees either in the same or opposite direction as the front wheels based on speed, which Porsche claims makes the 911 Turbo easier to handle at slow speeds and more consistent in the tail wagging 911 owners seek. Even the aerodynamics get a bit of overengineering; not only does the deployable rear spoiler has three settings for either maximum speed or handling, but there's also a three-stage front spoiler that can automatically deploy for maximum downforce. And the new all-LED headlights can be ordered with beams that can follow the road via a front camera.
All of this excitement carries a steep price: $149,000 for the 911 Turbo, and $182,000 for the Turbo S, before the alpine climb of Porsche's option sheet. At those levels of price and performance, the competition lies with Ferrari on the higher end or a Nissan GT-R for penny pinchers. If recent sales history is any guide, Porsche dealers won't need to worry about either.