This article originally published on May 1, 1997. We’ve pulled this piece from the archive and updated it because who the heck doesn’t love a classic ’90s comparison test. Especially when it includes twin-turbocharged sports coupes such as the 1997 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, 1997 Porsche 911 Turbo, and 1997 Toyota Supra Turbo.
1997 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
Mitsubishi’s 3000GT VR-4 isn’t a sports car. There are 3,737 pounds of dense-packed, twin-turbocharged, all-wheel-driven car here. That’s about 500 pounds more than a Chevrolet Corvette, even though it’s just an inch longer overall. This is, more accurately, a grand touring machine. Put it on I-15 heading to Vegas, engage the cruise control at barely subsonic speeds, and no weather condition short of a chain-reaction ignition of the atmosphere will keep it from getting there.
Unique in this test, the VR-4 has a transverse-mounted engine in its nose, which belies its front-drive ancestry. That engine is a 320-hp 3.0-liter V-6, which gets a boost from two turbos blowing through individual intercoolers. The horsepower peak comes at a relatively lofty 6,000 rpm, but all 315 lb-ft of torque is available at just 2,500. It takes a high-rpm launch to ensure there’s enough boost on hand to catapult this much mass, but once primed, the car bounds forward with muscularity and pulls lustily through each of its Getrag gears—except sixth gear, which is a radical 0.59:1 overdrive ratio for highway fuel economy. Although it beats the similarly powerful Toyota Supra Turbo to 60 mph by 0.3 second (4.8 versus 5.1) thanks to the impressive all-wheel-drive launch, the Mitsu takes more than a second longer than the lighter Toyota to reach 100 mph (13.4 versus 12.3 seconds).
Not surprisingly, the great mass of the 3000GT tempers its on-track performance. The steering is heavy and relatively uncommunicative, and though its disc brakes are capable, the nose dives more than the others while entering a corner. Hustled hard, the big Mitsu will drift its rear, but at less frantic speeds, the natural tendency is toward understeer. Over the years the VR-4 has lost such gimmicks as “Active Aero” bodywork and electronically tunable mufflers. What remains is a big, luxurious, still handsome GT car that delivers its front occupants in comfort and with absolute confidence no matter what the conditions.
1997 Porsche 911 Turbo
The Porsche 911 Turbo takes some getting used to. Make that a lot of getting used to. Not because there’s anything wrong with the car, but because there’s so much right with it. A driver has to deal with all kinds of new challenges at the Porsche’s wheel, like learning how to make the shift to second gear before the rev-limiter intervenes (it seems nobody gets it right the first time); like the small-displacement twin-turbo flat-six that pulls like a huge V-8 through the midrange; like despite the all-wheel drive, the need to be ready for an entertaining amount of oversteer when the throttle position is abruptly changed in a tire-sliding corner; like having the road-going civility of a pleasant passenger car, coupled with the blistering performance of a race car. So, get used to the fact that the Porsche 911 Turbo is a tremendously good sports car and, even at $104,800, a remarkable bargain.
In just about every test we could concoct for our “High-Speed Gamble,” the Porsche was seriously in the hunt for first place, winning three events in all. By virtue of its all-wheel-drive slingshot performance off the line (all four tires spin for about eight feet at max acceleration), the 400-hp 911 got to 60 mph in a startling 3.7 seconds. It also seized the 0-100-0-mph go/whoa crown with an outrageous 13.7-second run. And thanks to its rear-engine placement, coupled with mammoth brakes and 18-inch tires, it stopped from 60 mph in a barrier-crash-like 104 feet. No other car in our group of exotic lust-objects could beat those figures.
Even when it wasn’t leading the pack, the 911 was performing with mouth-watering distinction. It pulled a monstrous 1.00 lateral g on the dry skidpad and wriggled through the slalom at a sizzling 69.6 mph. It hit a top speed of 181.8 mph and accelerated to that velocity again and again with such gleeful gusto that only a low-fuel warning light (fuel mileage at that speed is in the low single digits) kept our speed-crazed staffers from lapping our secret high-speed track endlessly into the night.
1997 Toyota Supra Turbo
Toyota takes cars seriously. The Camry is a serious family-hauler, the Tacoma is a serious cargo-hauler, and the Supra Turbo—well, the Supra seriously hauls ass. The Supra’s body seems melted around the cabin and mechanical elements; there’s hardly a definable line on the car. Inside, the circular instruments sit within a plain expanse of plastic, and the leather upholstery is starkly monochromatic. Any ornamentation is vulgar on this organic shape; indeed, the filigreed “Limited Edition” 15th Anniversary Edition logos on its front fenders are particularly cheesy. Take those off with a hairdryer and this car looks better—and more contemporary—than it did when introduced.
Twin turbos abound at this contest, but the Supra puts its two compressors in a sequential line, hung alongside basically the same 3.0-liter inline-six used in the Lexus GS 300. The turbinelike whoosher has 320 hp and a stout 315 lb-ft of torque available. After a year’s absence, the Getrag six-speed manual transmission returns as a seamless complement that’s easy to shift, featuring perfectly spaced ratios. On the track, the car runs to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds—swift by any standard except that of its companions in this test. The Supra’s 13.6-second quarter mile time matches that of the 320-hp 3000GT VR-4, but with a trap speed of 106.0 mph, the Toyota is more than 5 mph faster through the timing lights. Bouncing against the 155.1-mph speed limiter produced a 158-mph top speed.
While handling limits are high, the rear-drive chassis favors composure over communication. Everything happens predictably, yet feels more remote than in an Acura NSX or a Ferrari. The steering can be balanced with the throttle in a corner, but the torque band isn’t as forgiving as in the torque-laden Chevy Corvette or Dodge Viper.
Like every Toyota, the Supra feels as if it would continue to run after a direct meteor strike. But this one is swift enough to outrun that falling space rock in the first place.
Source: Read Full Article