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

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2021 Porsche 911 Turbo

A ray of sunshine on a bitterly cold day.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

I confess to having some unusually fond feelings about winter-driven Porsche 911s. Growing up in southern Vermont in the ’80s, the nexus of East Coast skiing, it was a mighty special thing to see a sports car winding its way along the sand-covered roads of winter. Those lucky enough to have such a toy tended to leave them locked away, sipping from a trickle charger until sometime well after mud season.


  • Epic suspension
  • Practicality and mad speed
  • Eye-popping acceleration

Don’t Like

  • People asking why you didn’t get the S

But in those rare times when I spotted a performance machine heading up to the mountains, like a bird that had missed its migration, it would inevitably be a 911 — usually with a ski rack perched on the back at a jaunty angle. I didn’t know at the time why it was always the teardrop-shaped German machines that came out to play in the snow, but seeing them soldiering on in all seasons had a strong, endearing effect.

Why the nostalgic preamble? Because, nearly 40 years later, the sight of a 911 sitting in my icy driveway on a set of winter tires was a special thing. It was with no shortage of significance that I strapped my own implement to the roof and headed up to the slopes. OK, so I ride a snowboard instead of a pair of sticks, but the effect was still the same. I had chills all the way up the mountain — and please don’t read that as a knock against Porsche’s heated seats.

Heated seats are just one of the luxuries that you wouldn’t have found in a 930-generation 911 Turbo, of the sort I might have seen in the ’80s. Likewise, the modern, 992-generation 911 Turbo I drove made 572 horsepower, nearly twice that of the fastest Turbos in the ’80s. Intimidating? Not really, because the modern car’s suspension, brakes and, perhaps most importantly, active safety systems have seen similarly huge advancements.

That’s an important thing when you’re wielding a car this powerful on roads as questionable as those found in a winter in the Northeast. My trip to Vermont wasn’t quite as snowy as it had been earlier in the year, when I was lucky enough to make the same jaunt in a crimson 718 Cayman T. A few months of thaws and freezes had compacted the powdery landscape to a slippery sheen. Once-snowy roads were now hard-packed and frozen, as you can see in these photos. (That’s not a frozen lake I stopped on to shoot the Turbo, that’s a parking lot.)

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo

Importantly, those fenders are just as swole as they are on the S.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Conditions like this gave rise to the belief that if you can ski the East you can ski anywhere. I’d like to extend that 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 surefooted and eminently confident when driven in a reasonable manner. 

However, dip deeper into the throttle, ask a little more, and the monster within here is quickly revealed. There’s more than enough power to spin the wheels in the dry, so even lightly salted asphalt presents a challenge when driven hard. Ice is something best handled with a gentle right foot and quick hands on the wheel, but the Turbo is a very willing partner. A saucy one, too. I’m surprised how much power the differential continues to send to the rear wheels even when grip has been completely lost. A more pedestrian car would be locking every differential it could or, more likely, just shutting down things completely. 

This isn’t the full-fat 911 Turbo S mind you, which I reviewed about a year ago. As such, the yellow Turbo you see here made do with 68 fewer horsepower and 37 fewer pound-feet of torque. On the open road, where law and civility abide, you’d never know the difference. Even on the track I don’t think most folks would tell. The 0-to-60-mph sprint of 2.7 seconds may be one tenth slower than the S, but it’s still plenty enough to dazzle.

Most importantly, the Turbo offers the same wonderful suspension tuning as found on the S, augmented here by the ($1,510 optional) PASM upgrade. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that the 911 is at its best when driven hard over uneven roads. While the prodigious power offered by the Turbo means you’ll need to be a little careful before deploying your right foot to its maximum extent, this yellow sled absorbed the worst of the heaves and cracks that had formed on the roads throughout a hard winter. I needn’t have been concerned about the low-profile tires. 

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo

Fantastic for all four seasons.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

On more gentle roads, the 911 Turbo is a very comfortable way to get from A to B. Sure, it’s a bit low, but the seats support you in all the right places without squeezing the wrong ones, there’s no shortage of headroom, plenty of shoulder room and, while the two back seats are comically small, between those and the frunk there’s plenty enough baggage space for a week away somewhere special. In fact, I could have stored my snowboard inside the cabin by laying back the passenger seat had I wanted to. But, nobody wants a heavy, sharp-edged implement floating around in the cabin on a spirited drive. Besides that, it just looked too damn good stuck on the rear glass and carbon fiber roof with a Seasucker rack.

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

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

The 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo is remarkably good and won’t leave you missing those 68 meagre horses. It was a delight on my sprint to ski country, and not just because I got to live the other side of a special scene I’d witnessed as a kid. It felt good to be bringing smiles to the faces of all who saw this yellow machine slicing through the depths of winter. And really, how could you not smile at this?

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