HE WORLD is a funny place. Prior to 1997 the only thing a Porsche 911 needed to keep cool was a steady breeze over its finned mechanical undercarriage.
But then they went and ruined everything with the 996 whose engine was dressed in a layer of coolant and in whose front bar, like gnashed teeth, lived a pair of new radiators.
Nobody had seen such an arrangement in a 911 before and it was decried as an intruder Ė the end of an era. To an extent, it was.
But while many purists loved to hate the 996, many learned to appreciate it for what it was: a better car.
Since then itís only become better to the point that, the most recent 991 911 Carrera S (weíre focusing on the S as itís the one weíve driven most for this review) is quite a sweet thing.
You got to know the tacho quite well in the 991 Carrera S. Its 3.8-litre naturally-aspirated flat-six made 294kW at 7400rpm and 440Nm at 5600rpm. It was certainly on the peaky side and an engine you had to rev out to get the best from. But that was never a chore, as the noise it made on the way to its 7800rpm redline was truly something.
But theyíre the good old days now, because a change has arrived thatís effectively as serious as the switch to T water cooling, even if it hasnít got purists up in arms quite so much.
The old 3.4 and 3.8 engines are gone, replaced with a new twin-turbo 3.0-litre unit in two tunes for Carrera and Carrera S.
Compared to the old S, power is up 15kW to 309kW at 6500rpm, but torque is the big one, a 60Nm increase to 500Nm available from 1700rpm to 5000rpm.
The base Carrera, meanwhile, has a different ECU tune, a 2mm smaller compressor wheel and runs less boost Ė 13psi to the Sís 16 Ė and youíre looking at 272kW and 450Nm.
The new Sís V8-matching glut of lowdown torque is interesting when you consider the previous Carrera S didnít make its peak torque until 5600rpm. Redline is down from 7800rpm to 7400rpm. Boo, yes, but itís not as significant a cut as couldíve been. Porsche has toiled hard to make this engine behave as naturally aspirated as possible.
The noise is one of the biggest departures from the NA car Ė itís certainly different. It was always going to be tough matching the old NA noise given it was one of the better sounding engines around, full stop.
For a start the new car seems quieter, but with the taps fully open it bellows a note about an octave lower and one a bit more technical than mechanical. Itís still recognisably Porsche flat-six, just not quite as distinctive as previous.
And the new car certainly doesnít sing its way to redline like the old one; in fact you donít saviour the final 1000rpm like you did the old car because itís just not the same event.
Turbo fans, though, will enjoy the BorgWarnersupplied whistle available at low rpm with the windows down, but perhaps more, theyíll dig the extra muscle Ė the Carrera S is a car whose swollen mid-range torque you surf, rather than whose punch you need to rev out every gear to get.
Thereís a flexibility about the engine the old NA car couldnít hope to match. In fourth gear at 3000rpm?
No problem Ė boot it, give it a fraction for the turbos to spool, and youíre boogying. You had to bang the old car down a few gears to get the same effect.
And the new turbo Carrera S is fast. Itís not quite bordering-on-scary explosive like its 911 Turbo big brother, but itíll still push you back in the seat and have you paying attention. The power is smack bang in the Goldilocks zone.
Launch control and short-ish first and second gears help it to 100km/h in 3.9sec, or 0.2sec faster than the old car. The base Carrera, armed also with launch control and PDK, hits the tonne in 4.2 seconds on its way to 293km/h.
Either way you look at it, both cars are seriously fast, particularly when you consider the 996 911 Turbo did 0-100km/h in a (probably conservatively) claimed 4.2 seconds. That's progress for you.
Porsche says turning Carrera S turbo has saved 1.0L/100km, combined consumption now 7.7L/100km.
Our test car said we were doing 26.9L/100km Ė mind you, the driving was, err, especially enthusiastic.
Donít blame us, the Carrera S is remarkably well sorted, much like the old car, and itís serious fun up a twisty road. The 911 really is one of the best handlers around and the 991.2 is no different Ė itís got its scheisse together.
The steering is accurate and honest, the damping spot-on and it even rides sweetly. As an all-round product, the Carrera S is super impressive.
Thatís not mentioning the bullet-fast, responsive and faultless PDK íbox, the nigh-on perfect driving position and impressive interior quality, either.
In the upcoming comparison European correspondent Herr Kacher talks about the biggest change to the 911ís interior (changes MOTOR readers care about): a little rotary knob thatís grown like a wart to the steering wheel, marking a move of the carís personality-buttons from its centre stack to the tiller.
Borrowed from the 918, aside from the usual offerings of a Normal mode, Sport and Sport Plus, the big news here is Porsche has gone the way of Audi in allowing punters to customise settings in a new Individual mode. Itís more helpful than the function of the knobís middle button, which tenses the car in full pounce mode for 20 seconds with an accompanying countdown timer in the instrument binnacle TFT screen. Itís one of those things you use once, then never again.
And itís worth mentioning all-wheel steering is now available for the Carrera and is standard in Australia.
Strangely, aside from making U-turns easier, it hasnít seemed to have had the same transformative effect on the entry-level modelsí cornering performance as it has on GT3 and Turbo.
The prices are a reasonable change, at least in Australia, as well. When it arrives in March next year, $217,800 will be your cheapest ticket to a turbo base-911, and thatís for the entry-level, seven-speed manual Carrera coupe. Itís $252,800 for the same car in S guise. The manual Carrera cabrio will be $239,300, the S cabrio $274,300. PDK, on any model, is an additional $5950.
Across the board prices are up by between $7500 and $9800 (the biggest increase is on base, manual Carrera) but Porsche will point out its Active Suspension Management (adaptive dampers), previously a $4000 option, is now standard across the board.
Itís interesting, though, how much a smaller engine and turbos can change a car. The 911 is still a cracking, impressive, satisfying and easy car to drive fast. Few other cars scratch the driving itch like a 911, and thatís still the case.
But turbos have changed its personality from a car than once sung its lungs out at high rpm like some opera singer Ė a car whose neck you had to half wring Ė to something just as fast, if not faster, but a little more mature in the delivery.
The turbo Carrera S feels less highly-strung than the old car, more relaxed, yet potent as hell and just as fast Ė in fact, as the numbers attest, faster. Certainly, if nothing else itís made the 911 more useable and, in the process, perhaps a more appealing car to a broader audience than the old one.
Itís an outstanding car. If the tacho suddenly turned into a clock itíd just take you a little longer to notice. M