Truth be told, a good portion of the automotive aftermarket scares the hell out of me. I drive a bone-stock SVT Contour (that's Mondeo to you) when I'm not moonlighting as an automotive journalist, and there's a good reason it remains bone stock. To wit, the automotive aftermarket scares the hell out of me.
Having given the disclaimer, I must admit there are aftermarket sources that don't scare me. They're the ones who hang their research and development out to dry (or in the chat room, or whatever) for everyone to see. These are the types of places that don't focus on one single aspect of a vehicle, but rather take a holistic approach to their projects-that is, they develop their performance upgrades as a complete package wherein one system plays nicely with and complements the other. Places like AWE Tuning.
There's another good reason places like AWE Tuning (short for Air and Water Enterprises) have developed a reputation for excellence. The stuff works. Having successfully pushed the 996 platform to the tune of 600 hp, it was a logical enough progression to push the 997 even further; thus was Project 700S conceived for the most recent 911 Turbo. The goal here was pretty straightforward: developing reliable performance upgrades for the 997 Turbo, targeting 700 hp (at the crank) on pump gas in a completely streetable car.
The project is centered on a brand-new pair of turbos developed jointly by AWE Tuning and Borg Warner, which also supplies Porsche's OEM turbochargers. Crucially, they maintain the Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG) technology, and represent a direct plug-and-play replacement for the stock units. They feature an enlarged compressor housing in order to push around 20 percent more flow than factory-spec VTGs, but the turbine side has reportedly remained untouched in order to maximize spool-up.
The entire exhaust system has been replaced from the manifolds back with new hardware built entirely in-house at AWE's Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, HQ. The new headers feature 304 stainless steel construction, merged collectors and Swaintech thermal coating. The remainder of the system consists of 304 stainless tubing with 200-cell metal-core catalysts and brightly polished mufflers. Each system is meticulously hand-assembled and carefully prepared to improve the anemic factory exhaust note.
GIAC provided software coded directly to AWE's specifications; due to the complexity of the 997's engine management, it's currently undergoing another revision. Currently, power levels reside in the 680-hp range running 1.1 bar of boost and 93-octane pump gas. When it's ready-by the time you read these words-boost will have climbed to 1.4 bar and the 700-hp mark will in all likelihood be achieved. Throw a little race gas in the tank on the current program and you're already there.
Of course, all this power has prompted a thorough revision of the factory suspension and brakes. The former comprises a quartet of adjustable Moton Clubsport coilover shocks paired with H&R race springs. At the time of installation, no one had yet adapted this set-up to the 997 platform. Special parts were designed and machined by AWE engineers in-house. These included new front anti-roll bar tabs, necessary both for reattaching the bars and instrumental in properly corner-weighting the car. In order to even get the shock assemblies on, PASM had to be turned off completely. This was accomplished at the dealership using the Porsche PIWIS scan tool. The installation is seamless, with fault codes conspicuously absent. According to AWE, PASM's absence has helped shaved seconds at the track.
The brakes are big Brembos, but one step beyond your basic Gran Turismo kit. The motorsport GTR assemblies incorporate eight-piston calipers and 15-inch rotors up front and four-piston calipers with 13.6-inch discs in back. The brakes are caged by tough-looking BBS Motorsport alloys. They weigh only 22 and 23 pounds front and rear, respectively, sans tires. Michelin Pilot Sport Cups provide the contact patch.
custom tapered exhaust
It's difficult to relate exactly how fast this car is merely by using the written word. Acceleration is simply massive, and it only gets more massive as boost and revs build. You could liken the sensation to Wile E. Coyote hanging onto an out-of-control Acme rocket. When you're not sure what to expect, you really do reach a point where your casual clasp on the steering wheel spasms into a white-knuckle death-grip. Lag is a non-issue, and there really is no peakiness to power delivery, testament to GIAC's software massaging prowess. If you look at the dyno graphs and you'll see an extremely smooth set of lines. Torque levels off nicely at around 3500 rpm, and the horsepower curve is about as direct as curves come.
The ride is nice, firm but not uncomfortable. Admittedly, we did most of our driving on a well-maintained frontage road to and from the quarry where we shot, a couple blasts back and forth and one to the local bar in order to ply the quarry gatesman with a 12-er of Yuengling Lager (it's what they drink in Pennsylvania). Braking power through the big Brembos is unquestionably huge, as it must be to mitigate such intense acceleration.
It's hard to imagine this car making much more power, but according to AWE engineers, even 700 hp is still on the conservative side of what these turbos could produce. While quick to point out that their cars are more about going fast than looking good-not that this car doesn't look good-AWE Tuning has formed a partnership with carbon fiber benders, Vorsteiner, to produce aero kit pieces for this application.
AWE may or may not perform one final upgrade to the intercoolers. The guys are fairly nonchalant about it, regarding whatever performance gains are unleashed at that point as gravy. That sure is a lot of gravy.