2017 Porsche 911 Turbo / Turbo S

2017 Porsche 911 Turbo / Turbo S 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo / Turbo S
First Drive Review

I’m sitting in the passenger seat of an updated 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S in the pit lane of the reborn old Kyalami race circuit in South Africa. Sitting left seat is Jörg Bergmeister, a Porsche factory race car driver and a man I see with some frequency on Porsche media trips. He’s here in South Africa to lead packs of journalists around the supersmooth new circuit in 911 Turbos and Turbo S’s, and he seems perfectly happy to do so. In fact, he always seems happy, ever ready with a smile, unless you try to bump-pass him on the last lap of a race. Still, in all our meetings I have thus far prevented myself from ever calling him the Burgermeister Meisterburger, at least to his face. But right now he’s chatting with someone outside of the car. I haven’t the slightest clue what the two are talking about but, because they are speaking German, it sounds serious, dire even.

After he closes the driver’s-side window, I say, “Did that guy just tell you to scare the hell out of your journalist co-driver?” He smiles, of course, and says, “No, no, we are going to have fun.”

And of course we do. Or I do anyway. At least when I’m not trying to figure out how he can carry so much speed through a corner or rotate the car with such accuracy. I’d driven the Turbo S several laps earlier in the day with Bergmeister showing me the way in a GT3 RS. Seemed like I was going pretty fast then; but I wasn’t, at least not compared to what we’re doing now.

There’s a long downhill section of the course that bottoms out at the entrance to a gentle left-hand bend. It’s a fast section and when I was driving I would add a little less braking each time at the bottom of the hill. Still, Bergmeister would walk away from me there. So when we arrive at the section with him behind the wheel, I say, “I never could figure out how much braking to use here.”

He says, “Not very much. You can go very fast through here.” As he’s saying this, the car is tracking out to the right on the exit of the left-hand curve. We’re now on the curbing at the edge of the track, but we’re still tracking out. It didn’t occur to me that there was even a possibility that we would go off-course, at least until we did.

The two right-side tires dip into the grass that’s been turned into a saturated kitchen sponge by heavy rain the night before. The tail pivots right at about a 45-degree angle to the track and Jörg’s quick hands guide the thing back onto the pavement and, before it fully registers on me what has happened, he’s back on the gas aimed toward the braking zone for the next corner. He says, “Well, you can’t go that fast through here.”

We relate this tale because Bergmeister’s comedic timing is almost as good as his driving. But also because it is to Porsche’s credit that it allows Bergmeister to push that hard in the Turbo S, the company’s ultimate grand-touring car, with a journalist aboard. It is further to the credit of the company that it allows journalists to ham-fist these street cars around the course. The company’s faith was rewarded with zero costly crashes, at least while we were there.

This roughly 3550-pound, four-wheel-drive, luxury speed sled will be mostly driven by owners on public roads. But the public roads around Kyalami’s Johannesburg-area location are mostly terrible, straight things clogged with erratically driven Toyota minibuses. So track time is the only time on this exposure.