The 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S is impressive enough in a straight line, ripping from zero to 60 in less than three seconds.
But what happens on a smooth mountain road, at the apex of an uphill, right-hand sweeper, must be experienced to be believed. While G-forces are pressing your face sideways, the car seems to barely notice it is death-gripping a curve at 70 mph.
This is a high-tech weapon aimed at the limits of physics. Lurking beneath the shapely body panels is an intelligent all-wheel-drive system, active aerodynamics and suspension, twin-turbocharging, torque vectoring, and rear-wheel steering, among other delights. The Turbo S is packed with every technological advance Porsche offers on a 911. Only the price can keep up with the performance.
Leading the German automaker's parade of 16 different 911 coupe and convertible variants, the 2014 Turbo S hogs all the superlatives: fastest, most powerful, most expensive.
The car starts at $182,095, though the version we tested added $11,660 in options, which ranged from the reasonable (adaptive cruise control, Burmester stereo system and leather-lined cabin) to the ridiculous ($295 for color-keyed headlight washers, $335 for a key fob that matches the car's color).
Its heart is the 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder boxer engine that's wedged behind the rear seats, beneath the sloping roofline. The power plant is based on the naturally-aspirated engine found in the other 911s, but turbocharged within an inch of its life.
The result is 560 horsepower and a maximum of 553 pound-feet of torque. Porsche's ultra-slick PDK seven-speed dual-clutch transmission directs this power to the all-wheel-drive system. In regular driving, the car sends nearly all torque to the rear wheels. But it can divert every bit of that to the front wheels, depending on conditions and wheel slip.
With gobs of traction available, acceleration is life-affirming. From a dead stop, Porsche says, the Turbo S will hit 60 mph in 2.9 seconds — and that's conservative. Tests by Road and Track and Motor Trend magazines clocked the car at 2.6 seconds.
Accelerating that quickly is a dizzying experience. The engine and its turbochargers pump out torrents of loud power as your vision blurs and breathing becomes difficult.
The Turbo S fears no redline, waiting until around 7200 rpm to shift when it's in Sport Plus mode, the most aggressive of three driving settings. The gearbox is smarter than you, too. Ignore the paddle shifters and leave it in full-auto mode; the car knows exactly when to shift or hold the gear.
But there's a trade-off for the Turbo S capabilities. Open it up on winding roads, and this is not a lively car looking to have a good time. It takes a purely tactical approach to going fast.
When this speed becomes too much, standard carbon ceramic brakes (which can be an $8,500 option on other 911s) slow you down. And here we see one of this car's few weaknesses. Under hard braking, the Turbo S became a little too unsettled for a sports car of this ilk.
In many other regards, this Turbo S is similar to any other 911. It sounds the same around town, with the engine throwing out the sharp raspiness as any of the others. You really don't hear any of the turbo bits until you get aggressive with the gas pedal. The ride is undeniably firm, but not jarring.
The interior has the same Teutonic crispness as anything else the brand builds. Pushing one of the countless buttons on the dashboard results in an audible click. The seats are like a handshake that's a little too firm.
The Environmental Protection Agency rated the car at 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on the freeway; we averaged 17.9 mpg in our testing.
You'll know the Turbo S from lesser 911s by its wider stance and broader shoulders, air intake ahead of the rear wheels, active spoiler beneath the front bumper, and a large rear wing that extends for more down force at high speeds. Although it's not subdued, the look of the 911 Turbo S definitely downplays its capabilities.
That's no easy feat; there is precious little this car can't do well. It thrives on making you an incredible driver by methodically taking all the guesswork out of speed. Some may crave more of a driving challenge. But they're the ones looking at the Turbo S bumper.
2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S
Times' take: As civil as a 560-horsepower car gets
Highs: Endless grip, mind-bending acceleration, subtle styling
Lows: Gets a little squirrely under hard braking; stiff ride
Vehicle type: Two-door sports car
Base price: $182,095
Price as tested: $193,755
Powertrain: 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder boxer engine, all-wheel drive
Transmission: Seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual with paddle shifters
Torque: Maximum of 553 pound-feet
0-60 mph time: 2.6 seconds, according to Road and Track
EPA fuel economy rating: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway