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From this point of view, the smooth curves take on a much meaner look

When you sit in the driver's seat and get your hands on the steering wheel, a feeling of familiarity within the 959 sets in. The instrument panel is an old friend - one immediately recognizes the five round dials from the 911, and that other instruments would be added was only to be expected. There is, after all, a mass of new technology about whose functioning the driver has to be kept informed, with warning signals in case of faults or failures (the occurrence of which, however, given the quantity of monitoring devices on the car, is hardly imaginable).

The center console is relatively high, and separates the driver from his or her passenger. Priority here is assigned to the transaxle tube, which is designed to deliver torque to the front axle. Here too, a number of instruments and levers are to be seen, but their arrangement is clear and logical, and a quarter of an hour is quite sufficient to master their intricacies to an extent where no further problems are to be anticipated. The almost upright windshield offers excellent visibility. One has the comforting feeling that nothing on the road ahead is likely to escape one's attention - which, in a car of this kind, is absolutely essential. The front of the car is something of a featureless expanse of metal, offering no visual landmarks: one rather misses the 911's high fenders. However, this too is something to which one soon grows accustomed. At the back, the massive rear wing clearly indicates where the car ends, and parking should present no problems.

911 Turbo S--Formidable competitor?

Anyone who has ever sat in a 911 will feel almost instantly at home in the 959, and will know where to find the ignition: to the left of the steering wheel console. Slip in the clutch (which, being servo-assisted, is easier to operate than one expects) - take hold of the gearstick (one soon gets used to the four different levels for the seven gears) - engage neutral turn the ignition - and you have 450 bhp at your fingertips. The six-cylinder engine starts immediately and idles quite happily in neutral: all expectations of primadonna-ish racing car behavior are immediately dispelled. Before the start of the turbo era, a specific power output of over 150 bhp per liter was exceptional even for Formula I engines. Now, with just such an engine, the 959 can be used for shopping trips to the supermarket or cruising along city center boulevards.

In hot weather, the air conditioning springs into operation. It is quick to take effect, which is partly due to the near-upright windows. If it is cold, the heating speedily adjusts the temperature to the required level. The heat is taken from the cooling system for the cylinder heads. The decision remains whether to start off in the 'G" gear or in 1st. 'G' stands for "Gelande" (cross-country) and is relatively shortspaced; the ratio on the normal first gear, on the other hand, is if anything rather too long. Whichever gear one selects, however, the car moves off without a hitch; the clutch and gearshift are smooth, and the occupants have little idea that they are sitting in the world's fastest road-going sports car - a car which, complete with leather upholstery and air conditioning, would be ready to compete at Le Mans allowed to do so.

Cautiously exploring the cars performance, one moves up through the gears. The shift is effortless; the clutch separates the gears cleanly, with no dragging or jerking. As the project director Manfred Bantle explains: 'We were determined right from the start to offer the 200 customers both top-rate performance and ease of handling. The 959 is capable of idling in city traffic in fifth or sixth gear at 1500 rpm." At low speeds, the power steering makes for literal fingertip control, which is a definite help when maneuvering the 959 in and out of parking bays. When the pace heats up, however, the steering requires more effort, but this is precisely what the engineers intended: at speeds of 160+mph, the steering needs to offer more resistance. Having got out onto the open road, one opens up the throttle it little further, and the six-cylinder engine begins to make its presence felt: the engine note becomes lower and more muscular, and the acceleration thrusts one firmly back into one's seat. At 2000 rpm, the car delivers around 100 bhp, rising to 170 at 3000 rpm. And the power output keeps rising steadily, with 250 bhp at 4000rpm, 420 at 6000, and the maximum of 450 bhp at 6500 rpm.

The engine on the 959 differs considerably from other turbocharged power units. The sudden jolt with which normal turbochargers come into operation is markedly reduced. Even at low revs, the engine delivers an astonishingly large amount of power, which makes driving pleasant and easy. The point at which the 959 really gets going, though, is around 4000 rpm, when the second turbocharger springs to life. Here, in the higher rev range, one begins to understand what it is that distinguishes the 959