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Feature

30 May 2024

Photos by Rich Pearce

The 911 Turbo with a Brabus twist

The Brabus 820 gives the 992 Turbo an extra dose of power without losing refinement  

Even if you know only the scantest details about Brabus, you probably know the tuner built its reputation with ferociously powerful Mercedes-Benz upgrades and that its conversions are usually carried out in-house in Germany. That makes the car we’re driving today quite a break from Brabus norms: a 992-generation 911 Turbo S converted to Brabus 820 specifications by Topcars, the official Brabus dealer in the UK.
 
It turns out that Brabus has been expanding beyond the Mercedes-Benz niche for a little while now. Along with a sideline in motorbikes and yachts, its broadened automotive remit now includes Rolls-Royces, Range Rovers and Porsches, with the Turbo S marking its first crack at both the 911 and Porsche mechanical upgrades more widely. Cosmetic upgrades are also available for the electric Taycan.
 
Topcars, meanwhile, has previously sold Brabus models built at the factory, but it’s converted this particular 911 at its Brabus-approved Sheffield workshops. There are apparently more in the pipeline and, when we visit, there’s a partially dismantled Range Rover on the ramps, waiting for the Brabus treatment. It’s a relationship that owner Tony Singh describes as begun to meet demand for a Brabus dealer in the north of England, but which has since blossomed thanks to Topcars’ in-house technical ability, its relatively short lead times and its willingness to tackle complex projects that have proved too daunting for some.
 
The nub of the Brabus 820? An increase from a standard Turbo S’s 641bhp and 590lbft to the thumping 820hp of the name (or 809bhp in old money) and 701lbft, much carbon fibre finery and a warranty to match the manufacturers’ own – three years, in the case of this box-fresh 992. The 0-62mph time is claimed to drop from an already brutal 2.7 seconds to 2.5, while the top speed jumps from 205mph to 211mph.

 

None of this comes inexpensively, of course. Topcars advertises this particular car that began life as a £207,000 base vehicle for £329,995, representing a premium over the standard 992 Turbo S coupe’s £180,600 – not to mention bona fide supercars. Alternative models are available from £270,000, and they also offer pre-owned vehicles and Turbo S conversions.
 
As I settle into the low-slung sports seat and fire up the 3745cc flat six, it’s fair to say there’s a mix of fear, excitement and mild bewilderment flowing through me. A standard Turbo S is already something of a rocket ship, so one with an extra 168bhp and 111lbft chucked at its hard-working all-wheel-drive system is really quite hard to fathom. There’s also a nagging suspicion that the Brabus philosophy – bred on luxurious, torque-rich AMG products with whopping great engines tuned for autobahns – will struggle to translate to the more sporting nuances of the other Stuttgart brand.
 
Reassuringly, Brabus prides itself on delivering OEM-standard development at a far smaller scale and has honed the 820 in collaboration with seasoned Porsche Supercup driver Lance David Arnold. All this shines through from the driver’s seat. Threading up and over fractured tarmac to the spectacular moors less than 10 miles from Topcars’ Sheffield base, it’s quickly apparent that there’s far more depth and sophistication to this conversion than cranking the boost and crossing your fingers.
 
The engine is tractable and progressive from low revs, the unchanged PDK gearbox glosses over fast-paced shifts and the shouty-looking full Inconel exhaust system actually slips into the background with a purposefully meaty if thankfully discreet note in its default setting. A particulate filter means it remains both noise- and emissions-compliant.

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Gently tickle the throttle and the most obvious sign that this is not your standard Turbo S is pronounced whooshes from the BoostXtra blow-off valve. There’s no question that the Brabus 820 can still ace the long-distance GT thing that’s been so key to Turbo DNA for the last half century.
 
Perhaps most striking is this car’s ride quality. When I learned that the Brabus 820 combined lowering springs with 10-spoke centre-lock alloys measuring 21 inches at the front and 22 at the rear (one inch larger than standard all-round), I feared it would ride like a steamroller on Belgian pavé. However, this car retains stock PASM adaptive dampers, the lightweight brakes are carbon ceramic and its bespoke wheels are forged Monoblock Zs (no weight stats, sadly). It actually flows beautifully, with a supple gait that controls the body over larger swells of topography while snuffing out the worst of the secondary imperfections.
 
Brabus says ride quality is not negatively impacted by its changes, but there’s more delicacy to this suspension than I remember. Everything from this car’s Continental SportContact 7s to tyre pressures can, of course, affect all that, but the takeaway is that the Brabus 820 remains a highly compliant and stable-feeling cruiser.
 
Pulling up at a popular walking spot high above Sheffield on a late winter Friday afternoon, we’re quickly surrounded by admirers. Schoolkids pour from a minibus for a closer look, while a chap presumably here to snap flora and fauna piggybacks on our photoshoot like Peak District paparazzi, long lens and all.

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It’s understandable given the Brabus 820’s visual aggression, which includes pre-preg carbon fibre front and rear spoilers, sideskirts and rear diffuser, not to mention its monstrous alloys and the Inconel exhaust with tips like rocket boosters. In lighter colours, the carbon makeover is visually heavy and I count 25 logos on the outside alone. In our test car’s Jet Black Metallic – long a trademark Brabus hue – the carbon fibre integrates much more harmoniously, and the quality of the parts and the fitment appears first-class.
 
Reassuringly, the styling upgrades also preserve the Turbo S’s active aerodynamics, with a rubberised splitter sticking out like a tongue and a rear spoiler that extends on its struts with speed. All Brabus 820s are also specified with the optional nose lift, a feature essential to minimising the risk of expensive crunching sounds from the carbon-draped front bumper – handy whether you’re negotiating inner-city speed bumps or our gravel car park muster point.
 
With the engine warmed, it’s time to experience the full fury of this car’s 809bhp on these well-sighted and thankfully bone-dry moorland roads. Once again, it’s the user-friendliness of this car that makes it feel so approachable, with prompt throttle response and the flexibility of its low-rev delivery turning into something altogether more serious just below 3,000rpm. Push through that threshold and the 820 surges forward on a huge wave of boost, stretching like elastic to 7,000rpm – a pretty extraordinary bandwidth for such a highly tuned machine that also balances daily driveability.

There’s no question that it feels significantly faster than a stock Turbo S when you really let it fly, but this is not the ferocious, hang-on-for-dear-life tuned turbo experience I’d feared, where a dead spot is followed by a violent spit of boost, itself followed by a sudden sneeze of exhalation each time you shift gear. Rather, it’s mind-blowingly rapid with a burning intensity towards peak revs, but power feels controllable, progressive and easy to dole out in increments.

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There’s an OEM level of integration at work here, the key being the PowerXtra control unit combined with twin turbochargers featuring larger compressor and turbine wheels and a modified iteration of the Variable Turbine Geometry that makes the standard car so flexible. If you’d prefer to go under the radar, the engine upgrade is available to order independently. Also, if 820hp feels like a bit much, a still-impressive 720hp option is available too.
 
But the chassis is equally key to this car’s approachability. Naturally, there’s masses of grip, but it combines here with a sensation that this lowered, big-rimmed car is breathing with the road, not occasionally making contact with it like a pebble skimmed over a lake. There’s generous communication from the road surface, whether it’s weight loading up through the steering as you turn or the sense of power shifting to the rear and the tyres chewing hard at the tarmac as you power on from a corner. Things happen quickly, but there are no nasty surprises and the extra power simply makes the standard all-wheel-drive set-up easier to exploit.
 
In short, this is a very complete package and one that successfully enhances the original Turbo S rather than compromising it in a quest for headline power outputs. The big questions really concern whether you actually need more performance than a stock 992 Turbo S.
 
Then again, you could step up to the altogether more serious Rocket R. Long established as the pinnacle of Brabus’s product line, the Rocket R elevates the Turbo S to 888bhp and adds even more radical ‘Widestar’ carbon fibre body styling. Just 25 will ever be built and Topcars will sell the only UK-bound right-hand-drive example to a suitably exclusive client. Then again, if it takes everything that impressed about the Brabus 820 and runs with it, the Rocket R should be a very special car indeed…

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