Porsche 911 Carrera

Turbos boost performance; sky does not fall

ALEX INWOOD

IíVE been sitting in this facelifted Porsche 911 Carrera for less than two minutes and already thereís a noticeable difference. Not in the way it looks Ė those changes are much more subtle Ė but in the way it sounds. Squeezing the throttle results in a whistle of compressed air, clearly audible above the familiar flat-six growl. Itís quiet, like a whisper, yet itís a sound that fills me with trepidation.

Unless youíve fallen off the planet, youíll know Porsche has turbocharged the Carrera. Purists have been moaning about it for months, as you would expect.

No other sports car is as fiercely protected as the 911 and now, after 53 years of dogged naturally aspirated tradition, Porsche has switched to a new 3.0-litre twinturbo flat-six.

The same engine powers both the Carrera and Carrera S, and the on-paper benefits are obvious.

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE Outputs are up 15kW/60Nm in both, so the Carrera now produces 272kW/450Nm and the S 309kW/500Nm. Itís quicker from 0-100km/h, down to 4.4sec for the Carrera and 4.1 for the S, in optional seven-speed PDK trim.

Fit the optional Sports Chrono pack and the S manages 3.9sec.

And of course turbocharging means it is now more efficient, with Porscheís boffins claiming a 12 percent improvement in realworld driving.

So the turbo logic is sound, but still an ugly question lingers Ė what if theyíve ruined it? What if turbocharging has ripped an irreparable hole in the fabric of the Carreraís DNA?

Time to nail the throttle. Hard.

Second gear, right foot pinned.

Iím in a base Carrera PDK and the new donk responds instantly from 2000rpm, the power delivery is linear, and the noise as the flatsix howls to its 7500rpm redline (just 300rpm less than the old rev-happy atmos) still has that unmistakable flax-six rasp. Itís an experience eerily similar to the old car, but drive it more and differences begin to surface. The bottom end of the rev range is more muscular and thereís so much extra twist you quickly find yourself blasting through corners a gear higher than you would have in the old car.

So the new engine is a proper Porsche product, but what has changed for the worse is the sound. Swapping to the S Cabriolet and dropping the roof only reinforces whatís been lost.

Itís not a bad noise, itís just a bitÖ flat. And thatís with the optional sports exhaust fitted. The spinetingling effervescence of the old atmo engines as they fizzed above 6000rpm is gone.

The consolation is a real boost in speed. Acceleration numbers are one thing, but on twisty Tassie roads the base Carrera and particularly the even more ferocious S are seriously rapid.

Fatter rear rubber transfers the grunt to the road, bigger brakes provide superb stopping power and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which lowers the ride height by 10mm and adds adaptive dampers, is now standard. So the Carreraís unique rear-engine handling traits remain.

Inside thereís a brilliant new sports steering wheel, while the infotainment interface has been upgraded with a 7.0- inch touchscreen and greater connectivity.

So has the switch to turbo power ruined the 911? Hardly.

Porsche has transitioned to turbocharging so seamlessly that this new Carrera is not only more efficient, but grippier and noticeably faster. Yes, some of the magic and rawness of the old car is gone, but all things considered, the trade-off is a just one.

Spot the difference

The new 911ís biggest visual changes are at the rear, where thereís a bold new intake to feed air into a pair of intercoolers housed deep inside the 911ís curvaceous rear guards. An optional active rear spoiler is also new.

Up front, there are active cooling flaps nicked from the 918 Spyder. The three louvres open at speeds below 15km/h to aid cooling, but remain shut up to 160km/h to reduce drag and lift. New lights front and rear complete the makeover.

Jaguar F-Type R Coupe $226,580

It matches the 911 in price, but Jagís F-Type R monsters it for power. Its 5.0-litre supercharged V8 churns out 404kW/680Nm. Throw in rockstar looks and one of the best noises in the business and the F-Type is a worthy alternative.

Porsche Cayman GT4 $189,900

So, turbos arenít your thing and you desperately want a Porsche powered by the old Carreraís aspirated 3.8-litre flat six? This is the car for you. The beautifully balanced GT4 has been worked over by Porscheís iconic motorsport division. Itís sold out, though, so find one second-hand.