Is AWD more important than power at the drag strip?

Quarter-mile times were a big thing back in the 1960s when the big American companies were operating by the motto "win on Sunday, sell on Monday." It’s no longer used as a business model nowadays, but quarter-mile times are still a cool way to measure performance. In today’s comparison, we take a look at an exciting drag race between the Porsche 911 Turbo S and the McLaren 720S thanks to Carwow.

Porsche 911 Turbo S vs. McLaren 720S

A Porsche 911 Turbo S and a McLaren 720S Roll Onto the Drag Strip - Can You Guess Who Wins?
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These two cars are entirely different. The 911 Turbo S features a twin-turbo, 3.7-liter flat-six engine rated at 641 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, and all-wheel drive. The 720S comes with a larger, 4.0-liter V-8, also twin-turbocharged, 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque, but it’s rear-wheel-driven. On top of being more powerful, the 720S is also lighter. At 3,130 pounds, the McLaren is some 500 pounds lighter than the Porsche. That must count for something, right?

A Porsche 911 Turbo S and a McLaren 720S Roll Onto the Drag Strip - Can You Guess Who Wins?
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Well, the folks over at Carwow ran two quarter-mile races, and both were won by the 911 Turbo S.

Thanks to its AWD system, the Porsche launches incredibly quick and leaves the McLaren several feet behind. The 720S begins to catch up halfway through, but the Turbo S still wins, crossing the line in 10.1 seconds. The McLaren’s best run was 10.4 seconds, so that’s 0.3 clicks behind.

A Porsche 911 Turbo S and a McLaren 720S Roll Onto the Drag Strip - Can You Guess Who Wins?
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However, things are a bit different when the two are compared in a rolling race, both in comfort mode at 50 mph. In this setup, the 911 Turbo S gets its nose in front for a couple of seconds, but then the 720S launches really hard and gets in front, with no chance for the Porsche to catch up.

A Porsche 911 Turbo S and a McLaren 720S Roll Onto the Drag Strip - Can You Guess Who Wins?
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Given that the McLaren is some $50,000 more expensive than the 911 Turbo S, it’s a bit disappointing to see it fall behind in a drag race, but AWD makes a big difference when it comes to off-the-line sprints. Still, both cars are very capable, so give this comparison a look for some authentic high-revving action.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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