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The magnificent Porsche 911 Turbo

July 01, 2006 16:54 IST

The Porsche 911 Turbo. Phtograph: Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP / Getty ImagesTake a pencil, put it flat on your desk, hold it by the sharp end and pull forward. It moved in a straight line, right? Now place the pencil back and try pushing it with a finger from the eraser end.  It went sideways? Please get back to the newspaper and read on.

You know what makes the Tower of Pisa so famous, right? Yup, it is flawed. Ditto Cleopatra's famous nose. And the engine laid well behind the rear axle of a Porsche 911 Turbo.

You see, it was all right for a certain Ferdinand Porsche to start his sports car project with inspiration coming from the Volkswagen Beetle. Like the Beetle, the sports cars Porsche built had air-cooled boxer engines (albeit slightly more powerful) stacked away where your luggage should have been.

Resulting in cars that needed real men to drive them -- they were oh-so-dynamically flawed that it needed real talent to go fast around corners without having to pause and figure out whether the Pearly Gates have a calling bell.

But people bought Porsches after paying huge amounts of money for the same reason. When Porsche tried getting around the flaw by launching more balanced cars with engines up-front, they found few takers. And that resulted in a car company that kept trying hard to make their core sports cars handle.

As years went by, Porsches -- especially the 911 -- got way too powerful and what you see on this page is the most outrageous of them all -- the 911 (997)  Turbo with a derriere-mounted engine developing a colossal 480 bhp and 68 kgm of torque. The result? Read on.

Do you know what it feels like looking straight into the corner that you are about to take? You do? Well, how about doing that through your window instead of the windscreen? With a 911 Turbo this is not the exception, but the rule. Especially on a race track like the one in Dubai where I got to sample the new Porsche 911 Turbo.

To hardcore enthusiasts, the 911 Turbo means divine performance, a car that could be driven to office, to the race track and around the world if you insist, flat-out. And thanks to the aforementioned numbers, it is on top of the supercar food-chain.

It will wag its tail and swim with the best plastic bits put together by Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin and it will keep on running when these temperamental beasts get parked owing to overheated engines and cooked clutches.

When it goes, it really goes. After pulling to an almost zero and tapping the sports chrono package button, I floored the bright yellow test car which came equipped with the Tiptronic S autobox.

Now Porsche would tell you that their new baby can manage a 100 kph run in 3.9 seconds and 200 kph under 12 seconds. If I may politely add something, I would say that such sheer acceleration widens the human eye to the extent you never thought was possible.

Porsche have been fine-tuning turbocharged 911s from 1974 onwards and have equipped their latest with two turbochargers with variable turbine geometry which negates the lag characteristic to exhaust-driven turbos.

When I did find time to check the speedo (in other words, when I was not busy ensuring that the Rs 1.2 crore (Rs billion) kit pointed in the right direction), I found it on the bright side of 180 kph! The truth.

Ah, the brakes. Forget all that you have read till now because it is easier to drive a very fast car fast than drive an underpowered car fast. Because the very fast car, like the 911 Turbo, also comes equipped with extremely good brakes.

While the normal discs can give the largest from Dominos a complex, the Porsche ceramic composite brakes available as an option can make you feel like a true racer -- touch 220 kph, point the nose to the apex and slam the pedal for best results.

These brakes are so good that you start pushing the car even more once you get used to the stopping power under your command.

One day spent driving the wheels off 911 Turbos around the race track meant understanding how Porsche engineers have cleverly coupled four-wheel drive and information technology to make sure that the 911 Turbo stays the right side up always.

The new car gets Porsche-patented traction management system that communicates with the stability programme and shares all this information with its braking functions.

With all this technology working with me, let me say it was difficult to bring the hooligan out of the 911. That means when driven fast over autobahns or even on Indian Expressways, the 911 Turbo will remain a stupendously fast yet safe supercar.

But on a race track you can cross the dreaded limit and experience what has made the 911 a legend. After years of salivating over glossy magazine shots of tail-out 911s with scared looking drivers trying to control their cars with opposite-locks, it was my turn to experience the 'wag' in real life.

And when I managed it on a wide right hander (of course, by carrying a wider than ideal line and mashing the throttle all the way), the mighty Turbo obliged with what began as a mermaid wag.

And just as I thought I corrected it, the back of the car cut loose the other way and then the other way... Picture a turbocharged, bright yellow pendulum with me driving it and you'll be spot on.

Still I pressed on (since I was certain that a new book of dynamics can be written on what happens with a mid-corner lift-off in a Porsche 911 Turbo) and soon the car settled back on the intended line and gunned for the next corner.

So go ahead, pick up your diary and write down one more thing you have to do before you pop: Go sideways in a Porsche 911  Turbo.

Seriously, it is far better than pushing a pencil on a desk.

(Above) The Porsche 911 Turbo. Phtograph: Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP / Getty Images

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Bijoy Kumar Y in Mumbai