Porsche AG would have you believe VTG virtually eliminates turbo lag — the period between your foot going down and the boost kicking in — but VTG isn’t exactly lag-free. It’s considerably better than the 450-bhp 996 Turbo X50/S, but we remain unconvinced that it has less lag than the original, 415-bhp 996 Turbo. Put your foot down on the way out of a slow turn or when you’ve fallen off the boost and you’ll wait ever so briefly for the turbos to get the message from the ECU, alter the geometry of the vanes surrounding the impellers, and…blow. Fractional it may be, but lag is lag. When the boost does come in, however, the payoff is vivid acceleration.
Even in Sport Chrono’s Normal mode, the peak torque of 457 lb-ft from 1950-5000 rpm shoves the 997 Turbo down the road with an alacrity no car weighing close to 4,000 pounds should possess. The Tiptronic may be faster — because you can stand on both pedals to load up the turbos before leaving the line — but we still prefer the slick six-speed stick. We’ve noted some variance in the slickness of Porsche’s optional short-shifter (from too-notchy to brilliant), but every standard 997 shifter we’ve tried thus far has impressed us. Things are no different here, and stirring the ball-topped lever from second to third to fourth and back down again is as effective at keeping the stunning six on boil as it is fun. It also provides an element of involvement the Tip doesn’t while allowing you to more finely balance the chassis on your way into turns.
That said, Tiptronic is better than ever, with programming to raise revs to smooth downshifts on the way into fast turns. But there’s still a computer that must figure out which shift maps to apply and when to do so. It’s a tough job in any environment, but especially hard in the variable landscape of street driving. Also, Tip still won’t/can’t do exactly what you tell it to, when you tell it to. Occasionally, commands for downshifts are delayed longer than necessary or ignored completely, even when they won’t cause a mechanical over-rev.
We feel the Tip is good enough to be a viable choice for those who would prefer to (or must) skip shifting for themselves. Even so, DSG/PDK is a dual-clutch future that can’t get here quickly enough. We’ll be curious to see how quickly Por-sche can introduce a dual-clutch transmission that can handle 500+lb-ft of torque — and how much of the 100 extra pounds Tiptronic adds between the rear wheels can be eliminated. Those pounds can’t be helpful, but the good news is you don’t really feel them because of the Turbo’s overall heft and where it puts them.