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Autos: Change of Pace

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The stretched ladybug shape of the Porsche 911, drawn so perfectly by Butzi Porsche, has been with us for 43 years. Four dozen versions of the car have evolved as coupes and cabriolets, targas and speedsters, slant-nosed and whale-tailed. They have won Le Mans, the Monte Carlo Rally, Daytona, the Targa Florio, Spa, several world sports car championships, and the hearts of men willing to sacrifice marriages for the car’s flat, unflawed handling and spanking performance.

We also are into the fourth decade and the sixth generation of the top-dog 911 Turbo, whose necessity was mothered by the 1974 invention of oil crises, a world awareness of exhaust emissions, and a collateral desire to add power without increasing engine size. The 2007 911 Turbo’s appearance, with its continuous curves and rounds, remains rooted in the 1960s, yet nothing about its design shrieks antiquity, and there is not a single jarring angle or outline that would compromise Butzi’s honor.

Its shape presents an optical odyssey from corner to corner, end to end, side to side, top to bottom. The proportions of the latest Turbo are only millimeters different from those of the 1974. But although the 2007 has the same whale tail that was on the original, the new vehicle’s split aerofoil increases downforce—glue to the rear wheels—by automatically rising almost two inches when the car is driven at high speeds.

The Turbo’s powerplant remains a horizontally opposed 6-cylinder, although now it is liquid-cooled and capable of producing 480 hp and 460 ft lbs of torque. (The original, air-cooled engine produced 260 hp.) The new Turbo, the fastest production 911 ever, runs out at 192 mph and posts a zero-to-60 time of 3.7 seconds. When the car is equipped with 5-speed Tiptronic S and button shifting, instead of the 6-speed stick, its sprint time drops by a whisker, to 3.4 seconds.

The all-wheel drive and new traction management system will keep you and your Michelins firmly planted on just about any surface. If the standard 14-inch cast-iron rotors do not suit your driving habits—and preference for late entries into corners—ceramic composite brakes are available.

As for other options, extend carte blanche to your dealer and he might add as much as $22,000 worth of them to the $123,000 Turbo. These can include the standard frippery of metallic paint, two-tone leather interiors, CD changer, heated seats, carbon-fiber trim, and something called the SportChrono Package. Said package includes Overboost, a feature that, for 10-second intervals, can add an extra 45 ft lbs of torque—to help you pass, say, a 45-foot Marathon towing a 30-foot car hauler up the Chiricahua summit. The feature is akin to an F-16’s afterburner, but on a road car that already accelerates like Andy Roddick’s first serve, it seems pretty darned redundant.




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