PORSCHE 911 CARRERA

THINK OF A

BY RICHARD LANE

THINK OF A Porsche 911. One thatís twin-turbocharged and rear-drive, with huge tyres. One that will sprint to 100 in a shade over four seconds and flat-out will see almost 300km/h. You may be thinking 993 GT2, but this is the new entry-level 911 Carrera. Itís an extraordinary thing: the performance of a pulverising homologation special of the mid-1990s can now be matched by the most junior member of the family Ė and at half the cost.

The 3.0-litre flat-six is detuned with smaller turbochargers and less boost. Power and torque are down (by 48kW and 80Nm), but the smaller turbos spool up quicker, practically eliminating lag and sharpening throttle response. Occasionally accompanied by a faint metallic yowl reminiscent of old 911s, the engine is phenomenally responsive, and the way it spins to the 7500rpm redline is relentless.

Porscheís PDK gearbox also remains outstanding: shifts are cut-throat quick but effortlessly smooth. In short, the powertrain is excellent and, raw pace aside, more enjoyable than that of the Carrera S. What a coup.

Base 911s have often been among the sweetest to drive. Smaller wheels, narrower hips and softer suspension made them easier to place on the road and even more expressive in their handling, at least at realistic speeds. But this one gets the wider body previously reserved for S-badged variants and the 46mm-wider front track now matches that of the outgoing

GT3. The 911 is now a large car.

However, this is the way of the modern 911. And considering that almost two-thirds of the mass lurks behind the driver, they are freakishly composed. Porscheís staggered wheel set-up pushes the balance point forward, and wherever you point the neat little 360mm steering wheel the car simply goes, effortlessly.

In every respect, the base model is just as impressive as every other 992 weíve tested. Accurate, neutral, phenomenally quick. But the entry-level 911 doesnít take itself as seriously.

The standard ride height makes it appear a little perched at standstill, at least compared to cars equipped with PASM Sport suspension (which is most of them), but the more generous travel introduces extra fluidity into the body movements on the move. At real-world speeds, thatís invaluable.

The suspension breathes more freely, allowing the carís natural weight distribution to come to the fore. And rear-wheel steering? Didnít miss it.

No longer do you need to pay a premium for the Carrera S. At no point does the less powerful carís 283kW feel underwhelming. Supple, uncomplicated to drive, but at its core still a deadly serious sports car, this least expensive Carrera Ė $34,900 less than the Carrera S Ė is the best of the bunch to drive at eight or nine-tenths. And if youíre going any harder than that, youíre probably on track and need a GT3. Or a 993 GT2.