MERCURY RISING

ITS RIVALS, PORSCHE HAS SOMEHOW MADE THE 911 EVEN HOTTER. ENTER 992

BY GEORG KACHER

IN MANY ways itís almost irrelevant how good the new 992 generation 911 is. The seven forebears have built up such an enviable reputation that many will part with their cash irrespective of informed opinion. The venerable 911 has always embraced tradition and change in equal measure; one to the frustration of critics and to the delight of enthusiasts. However, for those who like cutting to the chase, the 992 lives up to the hype. Itís good - bloody good in fact. But really, we shouldnít be surprised. Weíve come to expect nothing less from Porsche.

This is now, finally, the real deal. After a prototype drive months ago, Iím finally nestled inside the redesigned cabin of the 992 and ready to turn the starter key. Whatís more, not only is the new 331kW Carrera S my steed, Iím also on a track - Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia to be exact. Matthias Hoffsuemmer works as a driving instructor for Porsche, coaching, among others, the German Supercup team. Today he is giving me tuition from behind the wheel of a 991.2 GT3 RS.

So, not only is the teacher and his pupil separated by a wealth of talent and experience, thereís also 52kW and a generation between us. Of course, itís no contest. But seen from the driverís seat of the pursuit car, the two 911s are closer than youíd think - much closer. When the tyres and the steel brakes start to feel the heat after 10 laps, the racecar-esque warrior has to invest more than seven tenths to keep pulling away from the four-pointed headlights in its rear-view mirror. A sign of things to come.

Finding reasons why the GT3 RS is having such a hard time shaking the Carrera S (and trust me, itís not down to my driving) can initially be found on the spec sheet. For starters, the base 992 Carrera is now endowed with 283kW... for the entrylevel version. However, the S acquires GTS-rivalling power and torque figures, meaning it has 331KW and 530Nm to play with; thatís 22kW and 30Nm more than before. With launch control and the new eight-speed PDK transmission, itíll even rocket to 100km/h in 3.5 seconds (with Sport Chrono) while its top speed on this track is a mere 4km/h shy of the RS-branded GT product.

Thundering down the long start/finish straight and the gap invariably widens all the way to the braking area and turn one apex, but thatís also due to the carbon-ceramic stoppers and Cup 2 rubber fitted to the atmo racer. ďStick the drive-mode selector in Sport Plus and leave the PDK in Drive,Ē Hoffsuemmer says. ďPDK shifts faster in Auto than a pro can in manual.Ē Half way through the session the car, thankfully, tyred (pun intended) faster than its driver. Although amazingly, the 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros up front and the 21 inchers fitted to the rear wheels collect and relinquish heat almost simultaneously.

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE CUTTING TO THE CHASE, THE 992 LIVES UP TO THE HYPE. ITíS GOOD - BLOODY GOOD IN FACT

WHAT I CANíT QUITE SEEM TO SHAKE THAT THIS CARRERA S ISNíT A DEDICATED GO-FAST MODEL

992: STEP INSIDE

01 BE SEATED New seats 5mm lower, increased lateral support and now also 3kg lighter

02 LOOK Iconic folding cup holders have been scrapped, instead you get one at the end of the centre console

03 TOUCH Totally new dash design dominated by 10.9-inch touchscreen with latest infotainment system

Hence, it seemed a good point to dial in PSM Sport, which underlines the new modelís benign attitude at the limit of adhesion. Only when you take too much speed into a corner and turn in too early does it fall into understeer - but then, this has always been a trait of the rear-engined Porsche.

Become too eager on the loud pedal with handfuls of steering lock and the riposte is more than a faint trace of roll oversteer, which isnít the fastest way of getting in and out of a corner. Rather than paying the price for late braking, itís better to balance the composure by treating the steering, throttle and brakes with sense and sensitivity.

With this in mind, we enter the drift-style photography phase with trepidation. Doing cornering shots on hot liquorice rubber quickly becomes a harder task than first thought with the frontend coming unstuck before the rear decides to break loose. ďShe doesnít want to do it,Ē comments Hoffsuemmer. However, as it turns out, practice makes perfect as using less opposite lock and giving it the berries seems to work wonders. Still, the takeaway remains that the 992 feels less tail-happy than its predecessor. It could pass as a mid-engined coupe to the uninitiated and a sudden lift-off at the limit is no longer a widow-making error thanks to the Porscheís electronic brain.

Initial failings for the camera aside, the inherent completeness a 911 brings to the table is evident. The fact the S can also do 0-100km/h in 3.5sec, 0-160km/h in 7.8sec and 0-200km/h in 12.1sec is mighty impressive. Yes, speed matters, but less so in absolute terms compared to the emotional experience it generates. The low-rpm tip-in is ultra-quick, but never brutal, while the mid-range punch between 2300 and 5000rpm, using all 530Nm, sucks the car forward like a giant, invisible Hoover.

Thankfully, for pretty much the first time, Sport Plus isnít too annoyingly crazy for public roads, either. It spares dispensable downshifts and death knell upshifts for a truly intuitive persona.

The ability of the PASM damping system also works on the open road, maintaining a sweet balance between compliance and contact at all times on all surfaces. The electronically assisted steering, maligned in the original 991, is convincingly calibrated and neatly weighted, which works wonders in the palms of a keen driver (just remember to turn off lane assist and lane-departure warning).

On a racetrack, low tyre temps arenít an issue. However, on the road, single-digit ambient temperatures make it mandatory to warm up the rubber before the red mist descends. Roadholding, traction and cornering grip depend on it, especially when the optional rear-wheel steering is fitted, which aims to clip ever tightening apexes with abandon.

The most apparent dynamic advantage of the 992 over the 991 is the front-end. It bites with more determination and it hangs on the more you push it, increasing confidence and driving pleasure. With the advent of rear steer, Porsche wisely widened the front track and increased the tyre size so that the extra bite from the back wouldnít render the front axle toothless.

After 10 laps on the circuit, envy begins to kick in as an accompanying Carrera S wears yellow brake calipers - which denote the extra-cost carbon-ceramic brakes. And after an hour punting along narrow rural Spanish roads in it, this verdict remains unchanged. Boasting ultimate stopping power, stamina and pedal feel, the four cross-drilled and ventilated discs are peerless. The previously pneumatic brake booster is now of the electric kind and deceleration has become an integral part of the 992ís flow. However, itíd be interesting to see how they perform in the rain and cold.

It wouldnít be a modern performance car without myriad drive modes, and the 992 is no different. To shed the sleepy passivity of Normal, Sport automatically kills start/stop and tightens everything up - itís essentially a pseudo do-it-all modeÖ except when it rains. Such conditions are picked up by microphones in the front guards and encourage you to select Wet mode, in turn activating maximum stability and traction control. Admittedly it works well, but despite the undeniable active safety benefit, Wet mode takes another piece of responsibility and control away from the person in charge.

Inside, the entire instrument panel, sans the analogue rev counter, has been digitised. And in typical 911 fashion, it pays homage to the past while satiating the needs of the techsavvy smartphone generation. The five-gauge dash is now partly virtual, but sadly, thereís no head-up display. Inspired by the Panamera and the Cayenne, the 911 also receives a new infotainment system with a large touchscreen display. Numerous menus and submenus are available, which are okay when youíre sitting idle, but at speed they become overly fiddly and distracting. Simplification is needed.

Having driven both engine tunes, both transmissions (a more positive and faster-acting manual transmission becomes available later in the year) and both layouts (RWD/AWD), naming a favourite is easy. The Carrera 2 S is the pick of the litter.

You should opt for the PDK íbox and ideally the beefier brakes, but adding steering to the rear axle isnít vital. And you do need the Sport Chrono Pack to access all the dynamic goodies.

What is now more apparent is the fact that you donít need one of Porscheís GT cars to head to a track. Given Iím currently at one with the Carrera S, it seems criminal not to experience it again.

This time I slipped out on track without a pace car. Of course a racetrack never tells the full story, but it brings the limits closer within a safer reach. The last blast uncovers some final thoughts, too. The added punch of the high-revving turbo engine is clearly noticeable, the extra gear cuts the torque curve into six nicely portioned morsels (first and eight are relatively redundant) and the inherent 911 dynamics remain true to form. It sounds good, too, and thereís also now a deeper layer with the adaptive aero kit prioritising minimum drag in a straight line and maximum downforce through the twisties.

True to form, the 992 Porsche 911 is a complete sports car with plenty of evolution potential - expect hybrid versions (both PHEV and BEV) to come. However, as I return to the pits and the 3.0-litre flat six sits ticking away as it cools, what I canít quite seem to shake is the fact that this Carrera S isnít a dedicated go-fast model. It has an inherent level of dynamic ability and performance intent, yet the Ďhotí 992 GT models are still to come. And that is a very tantalising thought.