GEN NEXT : PORSCHE 992 911

IT’ ONE OF THE TOUGHEST JOBS IN THE CAR BUSINESS: IMPROVE THE 911. AS PORSCHE’ ENGINEERS SIGN OFF ON THE EIGHTH GENERATION, WE RIDE ALONG AND SEE IF THE MAGIC REMAINS UNDILUTED

WORDS KYLE FORTUNE

“WERE really busy now,” admits Alex Ernst, team leader testing, Porsche. He’s the man heading this test of the 992, Porsche’s replacement 911, out in the cars filled by top-tier management for final sign-off. The pressure is on then, not least as Porsche will reveal the next Carrera at the LA motorshow in late November. However, Wheels managed to negotiate release of official images to give you a proper look at the finished car, pictured here.

This test is one of the last for the new Carrera S. The cars we will ride in are disguised, though the iconic 911 shape is familiar, if subtly different. August Achleitner, vice president product line 911/718, elaborates: “There won’t be a narrow-bodied 911,” he says. All new 992 Carrera models will share the same dimensions with the cars here today, the rear as wide as the outgoing 991 GTS model. The front track grows by 40mm, the front overhang is 20mm longer for styling reasons, while height is boosted by 5mm.

Like the existing GT3, the new 992 Carreras will roll on staggered wheel diameters, with the front axle on the S boasting 20-inch wheels, and the rear 21s. Those, combined with the wider front track, allow Porsche to soften the rear anti-roll bar, enabling greater forces on the rear axle when accelerating out of a bend.

EVOLUTION OF THE ICON

1 Power for Carrera S is up to 331kW, the engine mounts more rigidly, PDK transmission has an eighth ratio. The sprint to 100km/h will take around 3.7 seconds.

2 All Carreras will now be widebodied, while greater use of aluminium has trimmed weight, although exhaust filters and additional tech has put some kilos back.

3 Pop-out door handles add a little theatre, but also contribute to the improved drag figure: around 0.29, depending on the angle of the rear spoiler.

4 Wheel and tyre sizes for Carrera S mimic the stagger of the outgoing GT3, being 20s at the front and 21s on the rear. Base Carrera now on 20s as standard.

5 Newly added Wet mode uses sensors in the front wheel wells to detect water on the road, adjusting the ESC, spoiler angle and transmission mapping accordingly.

There’s a mix of Carrera S coupe models in convoy, PDK dual-clutch automatic and manual, with optional Sport Chassis (riding around 10mm lower and featuring a slightly more prominent front spoiler) and standard.

The model line will be introduced with the rear-wheel-drive Carrera S and fourwheel-drive 4S at LA, in PDK guise only.

The standard Carrera will follow in 2019, bringing with it the choice of the seven-speed manual available across the entire Carrera line-up. Convertibles will also join the range in 2019.

Inevitably there are carry-over elements from the 991. The engine block is essentially the same 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six unit as the 991 series, though there are significant changes. Achleitner explains: “We have a connection between the cylinder heads on both sides, and link directly to the longitudinal beams of the body. It makes the whole set-up stiffer, it feels more rigid.”

It’s not only attached differently, but what’s attached to it has changed. There’s an entirely new induction system, as well as piezo injection to improve efficiency. More significant is the fitting of a new eight-speed PDK transmission, derived from the Panamera’s gearbox. It replaces the previous seven-speed PDK, the new transmission not just bringing an additional ratio, but the potential for hybrid drive.

The space in the gearbox housing for a hybrid drive won’t be utilised yet. Says Achleitner: “The whole car – in its layout, its structure – is prepared for any hybrid solution in the future. We are not doing it right now, because we are not yet satisfied with the performance, especially of the batteries.” There’s space in the body to accommodate batteries, too.

With new emissions regulations, weight reduction has been key in the car’s development. More of the body is formed in aluminium, the entire side panel from the A-pillar to the rear guard being aluminium, saving over 10kg. The need for exhaust filters for European models has added some weight – around 7.5kg – though the 3.0-litre turbo engine in S guise here gains 22kW, so it now delivers the same 331kW as the outgoing 991.2 GTS, with torque of around 530Nm. The Carrera will produce in the region of 283kW when it arrives in 2019.

Using launch control with the PDK transmission, the Carrera S will have performance to rival the 997 Turbo model, which means a 0-100km/h time in around 3.7sec As with its predecessors, the 992 will feature different drive modes, with Wet, Normal, Sport, Sport+ and the configurable Individual mode. Sport Chrono will continue to be an option, adding elements like active engine mounts and additional configurability within the driver modes. Of those modes, Wet is a new addition, and, says Achleitner, necessary due to the 992 being relatively light and on wide tyres.

It’s linked to a new sensor system in the front wheel wells that uses acoustic monitoring to detect water on the road surface. If a wet surface is detected, the driving systems are primed automatically: the rear spoiler changes its angle of attack for greater downforce, the PSM (Porsche Stability Management) adjusts its responses, and the gearbox is put in its less aggressive Normal mode.

That Wet mode is one of a number of new technologies for the 992, the new Carrera also being offered with active driver aids like lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. If that technological creep to autonomy raises a concern, Achleitner is quick to counter: “I think the 911 will be one of the last cars which will be offered with an autonomous system. I’ve been asked ‘do we really need adaptive cruise control for the 911?’ And I said, well, just offer it, and if you’re travelling in heavy traffic then why not? It’s an option so if the customer wants it, and has a situation where they want to use it, okay, but of course it can be switched off.”

The entire side panel, from the A-pillar to the rear guard, is now aluminium, saving over 10kg

Trickle to flow

Trickle-down tech is in clear evidence in the new 911 – not because it’s a lesser sibling, simply because of the timeline in which new models are rolled out. The adoption of the eight-speed PDK transmission from the Panamera is one example; the tungsten-carbide coating (‘PSCB’ in Porsche speak) on steel brake discs, to improve heat dispassion and cut down dust, is another. Other details include a five-percent quicker ratio for the steering rack, and a greater span of damping action for the adjustable Bilstein dampers. As for the base-model Carrera, power from its (same-size) 3.0-litre twin-turbo six has been bumped 11kW to 283kW, but specced as a manual with the mechanical LSD and smaller wheels and tyres, we suspect it will be a little-explored delight.

August: hotter than July

For nearly 20 years, August Achleitner has been the father of the 911. So will he preside over an electric version? “I wouldn’t categorically rule it out,” he concedes. As for a hybrid, “It could be an option somewhere down the line.”

Achleitner describes his ongoing change of heart: “I drove the prototype of our coming electric sports car, the Mission E, and it was a very compelling experience.” Consider a hybrid a case of when, not if.

In addition to that, the 992 will be offered with a night-vision option, which detects pedestrians and animals on and around the road. That is displayed on one of the screens surrounding the analogue rev-counter dial, which retains its classic central position in front of the driver. The interior, still largely covered on these preproduction models, is significantly changed, featuring a large central screen that’s shared with the Cayenne SUV.

Opening the doors will be more of an event (all 911s will be keyless go), with the door handles popping out as you approach, returning to position after 10 seconds. Retracted, these help with the 0.29Cd drag figure, that number achieved with the rear spoiler in its raised ‘eco’ position in European models, other markets having a slightly greater angle of attack at highway speeds for greater downforce.

There’s still plenty of familiar 911 inside: you sit low, the haunches visible in the rear view mirrors. Sadly it’s passengerseat only for us today, as Ernst and his team of engineers do driving duties. In the traffic in town it’s quiet and smooth, the suspension riding with real composure, and there’s a notable reduction in road noise from the front tyres.

Thankfully, the seven-speed manual has been retained, helped by a resurgence of demand – especially in the USA

Key to the engine changes, over the efficiency gains, admits Matthias Hofstetter, director, powertrain product lines 911/718, are improvements in response. The intake system helps here; so too does the revision of the intercooling, from a split system either side of the engine to a unit above it. The result is palpable, the 992 feeling hugely quick when escaping the confines of San Francisco’s busy streets, exploring the roads that wind up into the mountains.

Optional rear-wheel steering assists with the agility, though even without it the promise is of a sharper turn-in, and greater grip. The road surfaces here are poor, the 992 managing the tricky tarmac with fine control, both wheel and body. As standard the 992 will feature steel brake discs, with both Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) with their hard tungsten-carbide surface, or Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) offered optionally.

The eight-speed PDK shifts with the speed we’ve come to expect from Porsche’s dual-clutch transmission, while the manual retains the rev-matching throttle blips when in Sport modes and above.

Thankfully, the manual has been retained, helped by a resurgence of demand. Global manual sales sit around 15 percent, but markets like the USA actually take a greater percentage of manual models, particularly higher up the model range.

That model range will follow the established route, with Carrera, Carrera S and GTS, in coupe, Targa and Cabriolet guises in rear- or four-wheel drive, while there’s room for the more driver-focused T model, its success surprising insiders at Porsche. Above that will come the inevitable Turbo and Turbo S versions, the mightiest anticipated to have in excess of 485kW, while the GT department will add GT3 and GT3 RS models for the hardcore and track-day drivers out there.

Rumours abound that the GT cars may switch to turbocharged engines, but they currently remain just that, rumours. The hope is the GT team will hang onto the naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat-six for a while yet.

More details will come as the official wraps come off the line-up later this year, but our early ride in the 992 does little to suggest that Porsche has done anything to gamble with the 911’s unique appeal, and made its future all the more certain at the same time.