Porsche 996 Turbo: Long-term report, May 2015

Porsche 911 Turbo

The Turbo gets its wheels refurbished, followed by an epic road trip to the north of Scotland.

Last month was a quiet month for the Turbo, with work and family commitments meaning that it didn’t leave the drive for most of the month.  I normally try to drive the car every weekend, even if it’s just a trip round the local lanes, and I’m a firm believer that sports cars prefer to be driven than be left standing for long periods at a time. I’m happy to use any excuse to go out for a drive, but in this case I just didn’t have the time.

Fortunately, three weeks of no use didn’t seem to do it any harm apart from the normal 996 ‘feature’ of the keyfob not unlocking the door. This is apparently to prevent the alarm and remote central locking sensor from flattening the battery during long periods of inactivity, but I always forget this and get worried when the car won’t unlock from the key. Thankfully, all you have to do is unlock the car the old-fashioned way using the key in the door, then you can disable the alarm from the key in the normal way (Note: if you forget to do this last step early one morning, the alarm will go bananas and your neighbours will hate you.)

While the car was having a rest, I took the opportunity to get the wheels refurbished. I got in touch with Chris from Exel Wheels to book a set of loan wheels while he took mine away to be stripped, repaired and repainted. All four had been badly refurbished at various points in the past, and Chris pointed out some damage and incorrect repainting that I hadn’t noticed. One week later I got a call to let me know that my wheels were ready, and I’m happy to say the refurb job is excellent – they’re immaculate now, and Chris fitted new valves as well to complete the look. I can highly recommend Exel Wheels if you’re looking to get your wheels refreshed – and no, Chris didn’t pay me to say that!

As I mentioned earlier, the Turbo didn’t see much use in April but I was able to make up for that last weekend when I took a trip up to the Scottish Highlands along with a group of like-minded friends. We were there for what is fast becoming an annual trip to the fantastic roads and scenery in the Highlands, for three days of driving and petrolhead banter.

It’s a long way from my home in Hertfordshire, though, and it would be a stern test of the Turbo’s grand tourer credentials with a 450-mile drive to the first hotel, all of it on busy motorways and all of it in torrential rain, as it turned out. Traffic was appalling and the journey ended up taking 11 hours instead of 5, which is a long time to be in the driving seat. Luckily, the standard seats in the Turbo are pretty comfortable and the low average speeds on the motorways meant I achieved 29mpg average on the journey up, a new record for me.

Happily, the following day dawned bright and sunny, and my miles per gallon average tumbled as our convoy enjoyed the sweeping roads and incredible scenery. The Turbo behaved faultlessly throughout the trip, though the low nose meant that I caught the front splitter more than once on some of the more undulating singletrack roads. I’ll need to replace it at some point soon since it’s starting to look a bit scruffy, but it’s not urgent.

The weather wasn’t always bright and sunny, though, and some torrential rain on Sunday gave the Turbo a chance to show its all-weather credentials. I’m still not certain when the front wheels are actually getting power – the car feels resolutely rear-wheel drive to me most of the time – but it dealt with large amounts of standing water without budging off my chosen line and I even got to use the little Porsche-branded umbrella stowed away in the passenger side sill when we stopped for fuel.

One thing that was made abundantly clear to me while in the company of a group of experienced drivers in quick machinery, and that is that I need some tuition in the art of driving a 911 quickly in anything other than a straight line. The Turbo should have made mincemeat of most of the cars in attendance on our trip, yet I found myself struggling to keep up around the twisting Highland roads, and I put that all down to my deficiencies as a driver. I need to explore the limits of grip in a safe environment to learn the capabilities of the car and how to use them, and to gain confidence when pressing on. I’ll be booking some advanced driver training this summer, and if anyone has any recommendations on which courses to take, please get in touch via Twitter.

This article was originally published in the June 2015 issue of GT Porsche magazine.