- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

There aren't many places left on Earth where you can drive your car as fast as you have the nerve to drive. One of those places lies just east of Reno, Nev.

Black Rock Canyon has more than fascinating rock formations. It has a nearly level dry lake bed for anyone brave enough or perhaps insane enough to drive a vehicle flat-out. Stomp your right foot to the floor and don't lift until your vehicle reaches its top speed, or until you lose your nerve.

Some might think putting a few hot-footed motor heads behind the wheel of the new Porsche Turbo isn't the smartest thing a company can do. But that is exactly what Porsche did. And, I was one of the fortunate few who were invited to test my, and the Porsche folks', nerve.

Having driven many race cars at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour, I wasn't concerned about my ability to drive the new Porsche at high speed. I was, however, nervous about the experience of having just a few hours experience on a dry lake bed. Part of that nervousness was brought on by the fact that sitting in the right seat during this ordeal was three time 24-Hours of Le Mans winner Hurley Haywood.

Now, I have driven with him many times before, but never looking for a flat-out top speed. The one thing I was sure of was that if anyone could show me the correct way to handle a Porsche at high speed, it would be Hurley Haywood. Of course, I would be driving one of the most advanced and capable automobiles produced today. The new Turbo is without a doubt one of the most finely crafted machines on the road. Take away the awesome performance of the horizontally opposed engine, and you have a vehicle that fits you like a glove.

It just so happens that this glove is capable of speeds that would make lesser automobiles melt at the mere attempt.

The entire package that manifests as a Porsche Turbo is taken from the 959 supercar Porsche produced in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, that vehicle was not easily brought into the United States. In fact, the few that made their way to this country did so illegally and until recently were not allowed to show their air dams on any street.

In a nutshell, the new 911 Turbo is nearly as close to a race car for the street as you will get. The 3.6-liter, twin-turbo, six-cylinder engine produces a wonderfully smooth 415 horsepower and 415 pounds-feet of torque. This is the first time Porsche has place a liquid-cooled engine in the rear of a production car and certainly the first time for water to flow through a street 911.

Under the automobile sits an all-wheel-drive system that is reminiscent of the one introduced in the 959. The main power is transmitted to the ground through the rear wheels. However, as the computer monitoring the slippage of each wheel senses loss of traction, the power is sent to the wheel or wheels with traction.

This was particularly appreciated during my three-mile run through the speed traps at Black Rock Canyon.

The interior is all Porsche, and in typical German manner the fit and finish is impeccable. Every switch, gauge and control is in the right place. The large Porsche trademark tachometer is front and center just forward of the steering wheel. To accommodate the American marketplace, there is now a digital speedometer readout in the lower area of the tach. There are few words that can describe the experience of driving a Porsche Turbo. It is one that must be lived to appreciate. I certainly learned very quickly how much respect I had for this vehicle. It is a sheer joy to drive.

I may not have reached my goal of hitting 200 miles an hour by only breaking the 178 mph barrier but that's OK. You couldn't have removed the smile from my face with a jackhammer. I cannot remember a drive I have enjoyed wore than my Sunday drive next to Hurley Haywood, in one of the most exciting automobiles available.

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