2021 Porsche 911 Turbo review: Just as superb without the S

Porsche 911 Turbo of 2021

A ray of sunshine on a frosty day.

Tim Stevens / Roadshow

I confess that I have unusually fond feelings for winter-driven Porsche 911s. Growing up in southern Vermont in the 1980s, the hub of East Coast skiing, it was a very special thing to see a sports car winding its way through the sand-covered roads of winter. Those lucky enough to have such a toy tended to leave them locked, sipping from a charger until sometime after mud season.

Like it

  • Epic suspension
  • Practicality and insane speed
  • Breathtaking acceleration

I do not like

  • People who ask why you didn’t get S.

But on those rare times I’ve noticed a show car heading into the mountains, like a bird that had lost its migration, it would inevitably be a 911, usually with a ski rack perched on the back in a cheeky corner. At the time, I didn’t know why they were always teardrop-shaped German cars that came out to play in the snow, but seeing them soldier on in all seasons had a strong and captivating effect.

Why the nostalgic preamble? Because, nearly 40 years later, the sight of a 911 sitting in my frozen driveway on a set of winter tires was a special thing. It was without lack of meaning that I tied my gear to the roof and headed for the slopes. OK, so I’m going on a snowboard instead of a pair of sticks, but the effect is still the same. I had chills the whole time up the mountain and please don’t read it as a blow against the heated seats of the Porsche.

Heated seats are just one of the luxuries you wouldn’t find in a 930 generation 911 Turbo, the kind I might have seen in the 1980s. Likewise, the modern 992 generation 911 Turbo I drove produced 572 horsepower, nearly double that of the fastest turbos of the 1980s. Intimidating? Not really, because the modern car’s suspension, brakes and, perhaps most importantly, active safety systems have seen equally huge advances.

This is an important thing when handling such a powerful car on questionable roads such as those found in a winter in the Northeast. My trip to Vermont wasn’t as snowy as it was at the beginning of the year, when I was lucky enough to take the same trip to a 718 Cayman T. A few months of thaw and freezing had reduced the dusty landscape to a slippery sheen. The once snowy streets were now filled with snow and ice, as you can see in these photos. (It’s not a frozen lake I stopped on to spin the Turbo, it’s a parking lot.)

Porsche 911 Turbo of 2021

Importantly, those bumpers are inflated just like on the S.

Tim Stevens / Roadshow

Under conditions like this, the belief was born that if you can ski in the east you can ski anywhere. I would like to extend it further: if you can drive on ice like this, you can drive on anything. The Turbo, despite the lack of studs on its Goodyear Ultra Grip tires, is safe and eminently confident when driven sensibly.

However, dive deeper into the throttle, ask for some more, and the monster in here is quickly revealed. There’s more than enough power to spin the wheels in dry conditions, so even the slightly salty tarmac presents a challenge when driven hard. Ice is something to be handled best with a gentle right foot and quick hands on the wheel, but the Turbo is a very helpful partner. Even a jaunty one. I am surprised at how much power the differential keeps sending to the rear wheels even when the grip has been completely lost. A more pedestrian car would block every possible differential or, more likely, shut things down completely.

This is not full fat 911 Turbo S mind you, which I reviewed about a year ago. As such, the yellow Turbo you see here settles for 68 less horsepower and 37 less foot-pounds of torque. On the open road, where law and civilization dwell, you would never know the difference. Even on the track I don’t think most people would say that. The 0-60mph sprint of 2.7 seconds may be a tenth slower than the S, but it’s still enough to dazzle.

Most importantly, the Turbo offers the same wonderful suspension tuning found on the S, augmented here by the PASM upgrade ($ 1,510 optional). I have said it before and I repeat that the 911 gives its best when driving hard on bumpy roads. While the prodigious power offered by the Turbo means you’ll need to be a little careful before fielding your right foot to the max, this yellow sled has absorbed the worst of the bumps and cracks that formed on the roads during a harsh winter. I didn’t have to worry about low profile tires.

Porsche 911 Turbo of 2021

Fantastic for all four seasons.

Tim Stevens / Roadshow

On gentler roads, the 911 Turbo is a very comfortable way to get from A to B. Sure, it’s a little low, but the seats support you in all the right places without crushing the wrong ones, there’s no shortage of headroom , plenty of shoulder room, and while the two rear seats are comically small, between those and the frunk there’s enough luggage space for a week in a special place. In fact, I could have stowed the snowboard inside the cabin by resting the passenger seat if I wanted to. But nobody wants a heavy, sharp tool to float in the cabin on a brisk ride. Other than that, it looked too damn good stuck on the glass and carbon fiber rear roof with a Seasucker roof rack.

That roof was a $ 3,890 Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur option, just one of many niceties that swelled this $ 172,150 car, including the $ 1,350 destination, down to a final price of $ 220,300. Well, those options and a $ 1,000 gas consumption tax thanks to the Turbo’s EPA rating of 15 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. Other noteworthy options here include $ 5,500 for those nice 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels, $ 2,770 for nose lift (useful this time of year), and $ 3,020 for the Porsche InnoDrive system, which includes adaptive cruise and lane maintenance assistance.

In fact, you can choose the 911 Turbo to have all the bells and whistles of the higher trim Turbo S if you’re so inclined, even ceramic brakes and the Lightweight Design package. It’s possible, but I’d say if you’re going to go through those troubles you might as well get the S in the first place. As sweet as this car drives and looks, if I were lucky enough to set up a Turbo I’d probably go a little lighter on the option boxes. Well, I’d try anyway.

The 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo is extraordinarily good and won’t let you miss those meager 68 horsepower. My sprint in cross-country skiing was a pleasure, and not just because I got to experience the other side of a special scene I witnessed as a child. It was nice to bring smiles to the faces of everyone who saw this yellow car cutting the depths of winter. And really, how could you not smile at this?

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