Yes, Porsche has been racing and winning at Watkins Glen, New York, since the course was 6.6 miles of local road, and the German automaker did introduce the iconic 911 Turbo here in 1974. But there's another reason to unveil the car's latest incarnation at Watkins Glen: short of the Autobahn, there's really no place twisting and tight enough to fully appreciate this extreme machine that is built for the street, but powered for the track.
The pinnacle of the Porsche lineup, the original 911 Turbo borrowed liberally from the cars that the company had campaigned so successfully at Watkins Glen. The first production model (1975) pumped out a then-jaw-dropping 260 horsepower and could leap from 0 to 60 in an incredible 5.5 seconds. Even if those numbers are today mundane—the stuff of a mid-price pony car—Porsche set the bar for street machines, and the reborn 911 Turbo keeps the tradition with a car that will dust about anything now on the road.
For those familiar with the "base" (read: normally aspirated) model, the look is similar, though exaggerated. A wider body flares at fenders that don't even try to conceal the massive wheels and tires needed to put the Turbo's power to the pavement. There's a new spoiler, a split rear wing, an under-floor cover and other wind-cheating touches. Positively massive front air intakes feed the hungry beast within: a rear-mounted, 3.6-liter flat-six. That's the same displacement as the standard two-seater, but with a pair of variable geometry turbochargers, the pony count climbs to 480, bringing the new car's performance within a racer's heartbeat of the Porsche GT3 supercar. Top speed soars to 193 mph, with 0 to 60 times of a neck-snapping 3.7 seconds.
Still not enough giddyap? Opt for the Sport Chrono package. For $1,840 you get a trick stopwatch built into the instrument panel—and tweaks to the engine that permit 10 seconds of overboost. Forget the technical details. Just think 30 more horsepower.
The 911 has long been known as a bit hard to handle. If recent chassis updates haven't exactly tamed the beast, it's a lot easier to drive. The all-wheel-drive system smoothes out the ragged edges, as we gratefully discovered when the leaden skies spat down on the Watkins Glen tarmac. Courage is required to push the new sports car to its limits, but the Porsche inspires the confidence that helps build speed, lap after lap. And on-road, the car proved equally adept, even as the drizzle turned into a downpour.
The Turbo's new, active suspension system lets you dial in for road and driving conditions. The sport mode delivers not only maximum handling, but a lot of jittering on rough pavement. Choosing the comfort mode sacrifices a little grip, but the car remains a surprisingly adept daily driver.
At $122,900 the 911 appeals to an elite few. It's not just the cash, you need the driving skill to truly appreciate the car's potential. But for those who push the limits, it's hard to find anything that can compete with this track-ready, street-legal legend.