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Comparison | New 911 Turbo vs rivals

ShoCk and aweSome Porsche has revised the 911 Turbo in a bid to put the Nissan GT-R and Audi R8 V10 back in their place. Has it succeeded? Steve Sutcliffe decides PHOTOgRAPHY STAN PAPIOR 40 WWW.AUTOCARmAg.COm January 2010

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New 911 Turbo vs rivals | Comparison

A

nd so the grudge match between the Nissan GT-R and Porsche’s 911 Turbo continues. Ever since Nissan unleashed its latest incarnation of its supercar for the people upon the world at the end of 2007, the 911 Turbo has had to play second fiddle to it dynamically. That’s not a role Porsche has ever been particularly keen to adopt. Yet the simple truth is that whatever the old 911 Turbo could do, the GT-R could do it better. It was faster around the Nürburgring, more accelerative in a straight line, had a vastly superior (if a trifle expensive to replace) transmission and was simply a more capable machine from A to B. In fact, the only area in which the Japanese machine couldn’t quite level with the 911 was on badge appeal, which

was easily offset by the fact that it costs half as much. Bottom line: the 911 was much more expensive and not as fast as the Nissan, which was another way of proclaiming game, set and match to the GT-R. That was then, though. This is now. In the two years that have elapsed since the GT-R went on sale in Japan, Nissan has mildly uprated and refined the car for the UK market. And Porsche has redesigned the 911 Turbo with one fairly obvious aim in mind: to put the GT-R in its place. Hence the reason it now has a 3.8-litre, direct-injection, twinturbocharged flat six – the exact same capacity as the V6 GT-R, in other words. The 911 also now comes with the option of a PDK gearbox, complete with proper paddles this time (although you’re still charged a cheeky extra $500 for them). As for the chassis, so much fettling has gone ◊ January 2010 WWW.AUTOCARmAg.COm 41

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Comparison | New 911 Turbo vs rivals ∆ on in order to sharpen the Turbo’s ride and handling that you could almost refer to it as a new model rather than just a revised one. The overall result is a very different 911 Turbo from the one that was unable to deal with the GT-R first time around, although in price terms the gap between them remains enormous. In its most basic form the Porsche costs $133,000, while the GT-R starts at $95,300. As tested, however, this particular 911 Turbo costs more than $150k, meaning that any comparison we may make is more theoretical than it is actual. In reality, after all, if you can afford the 911 you are unlikely to even consider the GT-R. But you might well think about Audi’s new R8 V10 instead. It starts at $143,000 and has more horsepower than either the Porsche or the Nissan (518bhp vs 493bhp for the 911 and 478bhp for the GT-R), courtesy of its mildly detuned Lamborghini Gallardo engine. And just like the others, the R8 is four-wheel drive, can nudge 320km/h and hits 100km/h in under 4.0sec. Where the Audi differs in its makeup is by being a genuine mid-engined supercar, very much in the traditional sense. Beside the front-engined Nissan and the rear-engined Porsche, the R8 sits much lower to the ground and looks like an infinitely more exotic creature. It has no rear seats as such and so isn’t as practical as the Porsche, let alone the Nissan, which has four proper seats and a gigantic boot to match. Yet the R8 makes up for this in part by having easily the most appealing interior. The Audi oozes with quality and style inside in a way that is almost entirely absent from the GT-R, whose cabin feels a bit like the workplace

Sutters reacquaints himself with gT-R; his jaw drops yet again

of a DJ by comparison. And the Porsche is much the same as before inside: quirky in design, high in quality, but not especially breathtaking in any way. What does distinguish the Porsche in this company, however, is its perceived compactness from behind the wheel. Although by 911 standards the Turbo still feels a big monster, in this context it feels far narrower and just smaller than either of the others. You notice this from the moment you start driving, be that on narrow country roads, motorways or in towns. Wherever you drive it, the Turbo simply requires less room in which to operate, whereas in the GT-R, especially,

Twin-turbo V6 in the gT-R has colossal torque We waited for Castle Combe to dry before posting lap times

The 911 Turbo moves up to 3.8 litres, and 493bhp

R8’s Lambo-derived, 518bhp V10 is the most powerful unit here

you’re always aware of driving a big car, one that needs to be aimed accurately through gaps that simply aren’t an issue in the 911. The further we travelled in them, the more significant this became. Until we reached our final destination – Castle Combe – where the idea was to settle the grudge match once and for all, seeing as how the stopwatch never lies.

geT A ROAd Off YOUR mind

Before we did any of that, we spent two days in these cars, driving them on normal roads, at normal speeds. And the more time we spent in them, the more obvious the differences between them became. The GT-R’s ride has always been an issue, but now that Porsche has made the Turbo so much more refined as an everyday prospect, the Nissan seems noisier than ever. Jump from the soothing surroundings of the Audi and then drive the GT-R along a motorway for any period of time and you’ll be stunned at how uncouth the Nissan seems. And the same thing happens, albeit to a lesser degree, when you swap between it and the 911. The GT-R’s tyres emit massively more rumble than the others at a steady motorway cruise, its bodywork appears to generate more wind noise and the ride quality is borderline dreadful by comparison. It’s a mark of how far Porsche has improved the Turbo that it doesn’t feel a whole lot less refined than the Audi on give-and-take roads, motorways especially. The flipside, of course, is what the GT-R can do when the roads open up and you can exploit its potential more clearly. That’s the point at which it comes alive in a way that is always mindboggling, no matter how many times you’ve experienced it before. The level of traction, grip and raw acceleration that the GT-R can summon the moment you ask it to deliver is never less than outrageous. In third gear under full acceleration, you feel inclined to ◊

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New 911 Turbo vs rivals | Comparison

the GT-R’ ‘The Porsche is much easier, faster and friendlier to drive in the wet than

‘The Nissan corners in the wet as if it is driving around the edge of a coin’

‘You can have huge amounts of fun in the R8 without venturing too near

the edge’

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‘In theory the perfect car would be the Audi, fitted with the Nissan’s gearbox and the 911’s brakes’

much-improved 911 Turbo has decent, even polite road manners

gT-R is too stiff for damp roads; it demands a cautious approach

R8 remains friendly and supremely well balanced, even in the wet

gT-R’s stunning bang for the buck makes up for its cruder manners

WHAT’LL IT DO, MISTER? We not only timed these cars on a flying lap around Castle Combe (nissan 1min 14.6sec, Porsche 1:14.9, Audi 1:15.5), but we also did some acceleration runs, just to see which was quickest in a straight line. The results were somewhat startling, particularly in the case of the 911 Turbo. With each car sitting on the grid as if it were about to begin a race — at the very beginning of the start/finish straight — we simply did an acceleration test up to whatever speed they could hit before braking for Quarry corner. neither the gT-R nor the R8 has a launch control system, so in both cases we just drove off the line and changed gear at the appropriate time. The gT-R did 0-100km/h in 4.0sec, 0-160km/h in 9.0sec and reached 220km/h before Quarry. The R8, by comparison, hit 100km/h in 3.9sec, 160km/h in 8.8sec and got to 224km/h before Quarry. And then we did the same thing

Quarry Corner The Esses Bobbies

gT-R

Lap time

0-100

0-160

Top speed

1min 14.6sec

4.0sec

9.0sec

220km/h

911 Turbo

1min 14.9sec

3.2sec

7.1sec

229km/h

R8

1min 15.5sec

3.9sec

9.0sec

224km/h

in the 911, with the extra benefit of its optional launch control program which, in theory, allows the Turbo to produce the perfect wheelspin getaway. The figures were startling. To 100km/h the 911 recorded 3.2sec, identical to the time we recorded

on the mcLaren f1 and now the equal fastest 0-100km/h time we’ve ever recorded on a road car. To 160 it took 7.1sec and before Quarry it reached 229km/h. Those are not bad stats for a standard production road car. not bad at all.

∆ look in the rear-view mirror, just to see if the road is still in one piece. It feels that manic. Except that nowadays the 911 Turbo can produce equally crazed tricks across a quiet, empty Welsh mountain road, as can the V10 Audi R8. Which means the GT-R’s ability to destroy anything that stands in its path is no longer quite so obvious. The Audi doesn’t steer quite as sweetly as the 911 and its manual gearbox is a genuine hindrance compared with the speedier, more efficient DSG transmissions of the other two. But the fact is, it’s quick enough to stay with either of the other cars, even if they’re being driven properly. And its thundering V10 soundtrack absolutely annihilates any noise that the Porsche and Nissan would care to make. So as we headed to Castle Combe to settle the argument once and for all, an order was already beginning to form. The R8, we all agreed, was the most pleasant car to live with day in, day out, followed closely by the much-improved 911, with the GT-R a surprisingly distant third. But from a “how much fun can you have with your clothes on” perspective, the GT-R and 911 were half a step ahead of the Audi, despite the R8 having enough pure pace to keep up. Remove their asking prices from the equation and the

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New 911 Turbo vs rivals | Comparison

RETuRn Of THE kIng

AUdi R8 V10

From $95,300 4.0sec 310km/h 10.3L/100km (combined) 295g/km 1740kg

From $143,000 3.9sec 315km/h 11.4L/100km (combined) 327g/km 1625kg

engine

Engine layout

6 cyls horizontally opposed, 3800cc, twin-turbo, petrol Installation Rear, longitudinal, 4WD Power 493bhp at 6000rpm Torque 650Nm at 1950-5000rpm Power to weight 309bhp per tonne Specific output 130bhp per litre Compression ratio 9.8:1 Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automated manual

V6, 3799cc, twin-turbo, petrol Front, longitudinal, 4WD 478bhp at 6400rpm 587Nm at 3200-5200rpm 275bhp per tonne 126bhp per litre 9:1 6-spd dual-clutch automated manual

V10, 5204cc, petrol

dimensions

Length Width Height Wheelbase Fuel tank Real-world range Boot

4650mm 1895mm 1370mm 2780mm 73 litres 590km 315 litres

4435mm 1930mm 1252mm 2650mm 90 litres 655km 100 litres

Front suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar Rear suspension Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar Brakes 350mm ventilated discs (f), 350mm ventilated discs (r) Wheels (f,r) 8Jx19in alloy Tyres (f,r) 235/35 R19, 305/30 R19

Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar 380mm ventilated discs (f), 380mm ventilated discs (r) 9.5Jx20in, 10.5Jx20in, alloy 255/40 ZRF20, 285/35 ZRF20

Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar 365mm ventilated discs (f), 356mm ventilated discs (r) 19in forged alloy 235/35 R19, 295/30 R19

Vitals

niSSAn gT-R

at each corner

PORSCHe 911 TURbO (PdK) From $133,000 3.2sec 310km/h 9.5L/100km (combined) 268g/km 1595kg

Price 0-100km/h Top speed Economy CO2 emissions Kerb weight

4450mm 1852mm 1300mm 2350mm 67 litres 590km 105 litres (front)

Mid, longitudinal, 4WD 518bhp at 8000rpm 530Nm at 6500rpm 319bhp per tonne 100bhp per litre 12.5:1 6-spd manual

order before Castle Combe was: 911 Turbo, Audi R8, Nissan GT-R. And then we got the stopwatches out.

COmbe WiTH A VieW

Castle Combe is a pretty serious kind of race circuit at the best of times, so with damp patches all over the place and hardly any sun to dry them, we decided to try a few sighting laps, at which point another very big surprise occurred. Because in the wet the Nissan GT-R is a spectacularly difficult car to drive smoothly. If you choose to turn its traction control off it is, in fact, so hairy it’s almost dangerous. That we were not expecting. The GT-R’s problem in the wet is that it is so stiff, and so eager to transfer its power to the road via its rear tyres, that it ends up feeling extraordinarily nervous, even at low speeds. Its steering, too, feels neurotic mid-corner, and although it develops much more front-end grip than the Audi in the wet, you can’t put it to good use because the tail won’t stay with it. As a result, the GT-R corners in the wet as if it is driving around the edge of a coin. The only way to get it to behave is to go up one gear, if not two, then be very smooth indeed with the throttle – and hang on tight when it starts to slide. The 911 is the complete opposite and is, ◊

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R8 was much less hairy than the other two on a damp track

‘Despite being the heaviest and least powerful of the three, the GT-R felt the fastest. And it was’

buy a 911 Turbo and you get a quirky, but well-built dashboard

gT-R’s fascia will be loved by PlayStation fans and few others

Audi’s is the best dash; it’s well laid out and beautifully finished

∆ amazingly, a much easier, faster, friendlier car to drive in the wet – as is the “how long can you hold it sideways” R8. For pure balance the Audi was the best of the three in the wet at Castle Combe, even though it had the least front-end bite in the slower corners and through both of the chicanes. The R8 has deliberately been set up not to do anything scary, and in the wet that means you can have a huge amount of fun in it without venturing terribly near the edge. With a decent paddle-shift gearbox and a brake pedal that doesn’t go long on you after a couple of big stops, it could even be the best of the three. Then again, not being able to change gear or stop properly when you’re going for it are fairly fundamental flaws, and they were exacerbated when the track started to dry. And the drier it got, the less nervous the GT-R felt. So then, finally, we got the stopwatch out and I did two flying laps in each car, trying as hard as I could, but leaving enough in reserve to stay safe. I drove the 911 first, and a fairly wild ride it was, too. Through the kink and over the bumps towards Quarry corner the Turbo’s front tyres were airborne on several occasions, and the amount of movement on the steering wheel was quite shocking. Yet there was only a small amount of understeer at the apex of each corner, and through the chicanes the 911 just seemed to stick. All that unwanted movement at the back of the previous-generation car had gone, replaced by excellent body control and, of course, a huge thump of acceleration in each gear. It felt very, very quick indeed overall, and when I crossed

the line in 1min 14.9sec I couldn’t really see how the others could go faster. Unsurprisingly, the R8 couldn’t. It was very well balanced and sounded fantastic, but in the dry its poor brakes and clumsy gearchange were even bigger issues than they had been in the wet. Which is a pity because, in many ways, it had the purest handling of the three. But in the end the R8 lapped in 1min 15.5sec. So then it was down to the GT-R. Could it beat the 911 Turbo around Castle Combe, despite costing half the price? In a word, yes. From the moment I turned in to the final corner to begin the first flying lap, the GT-R felt absolutely sensational in the amount of grip and subsequent acceleration it had. All the nervousness that had been evident in the wet had disappeared; in its place were near-perfect body control, massive stability on turnin, extraordinary traction on the exit of corners and huge stopping power. Despite it being the heaviest and least powerful car here, the GT-R felt the fastest car of the three. And it was – though only by a mere 0.3sec. It lapped Castle Combe in 1min 14.6sec. And in the process once again put the 911 Turbo in the shade. Which means what? Is the GT-R still good enough to eclipse the new, muchimproved 911 Turbo overall? And is the R8 better than both of them as a road car? In theory the perfect car would be the Audi, fitted with the Nissan’s gearbox and the 911’s brakes, priced at a level to rival the GT-R and not the 911. That car doesn’t exist, but the closest thing to it is still the GT-R. At $95,300 it remains the performance car bargain of the century. L

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r8_911_GTR_AC70_42-48  

Porsche has revised the 911 Turbo in a bid to put the Nissan GT-R and Audi R8 V10 back in their place. Has it succeeded? Steve Sutcliffe dec...

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