NEXT-GEN 911: UNDERPROMISE AND OVERDELIVER

THE MOST TRANSFORMATIVE ELEMENT OF THE 992 IS ITS RIDE QUALITY

ANDY ENRIGHT

PORSCHE 911 CARRERA S

MARK WEBBER looks bored. He’s hunting around for an apple core in the footwell of Porsche’s new 992 generation 911 but his foot hasn’t lifted a millimetre from the throttle. We’re approaching 250km/h and he’s looking at the floor. After Formula One and Le Mans, punting a 331kW Carrera 4S road car around The Bend must feel like driving through the aftermath of the Boston Molasses Disaster. It might feel slow to Webber but he’s really not like us. It’s a welcome introduction to the limits of what this car is capable of.

The Carrera S is blisteringly rapid. The 4S is as quick around the Nurburgring (7m25s) as a 2016 model 991 GT3. Or, if you prefer, a Carrera 4S with the optional Sport Chrono pack is quicker to 100km/h (3.4sec) than a 997 GT2 RS. By most conventional marks, it’s as fast as you’d reasonably need a road car to be.

It is easy to be lulled into thinking that the 992 is a modest evolutionary shuffle forward from 991.2, Porsche’s stylists hardly putting much of a dent into Zuffenhausen’s overtime budget. Its proportions are broadly similar but, like most Porsche 911 projects, closer inspection reveals an almost demented commitment to overengineering.

For a start, the 992 runs on an entirely new MMB chassis, is powered by a new 9A2 evo engine and runs on markedly different Bilstein dampers. The bodyin-white is bigger and lighter, thanks to aluminium content rising from 30 percent in the 991.2 to 63 percent here, while power is now deployed via a new eight-speed PDK transmission. A seven-speed manual is on the way, as is an entry-level Carrera that will shave a good chunk off the $265,000 Carrera S and $281,100 Carrera 4S coupes.

So once you’ve taken in that long bonnet that’s now fluted in a nod to the 1970s G-Series 911, the mandatory wide-body layout, the active aero in the front intakes and the staggered 20- and 21-inch alloys that represent a first for a Carrera, it’s time to flick the pop-out door handles and drop inside. The cabin features improved materials and a Panamera-inspired centre console but without the myriad buttons. Instead there’s a cut-down array of piano switches on the fascia, a 10.9in centre screen and an analog tacho in the classic five-dial binnacle, flanked by two pairs of customisable digital clocks. Thanks to a revised floor design, you sit lower and get an extra 8mm of headroom compared to the 991.

Crushing pace; improved ride; slicker cabin; wide-body aesthetic

PLUS

MINUS

Endless dynamic choices; can ground front end; it’ still bigger and heavier

Although the range is currently limited to just coupe and cabriolet versions of the 911 Carrera S, buyers can then choose options such as Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with a 10mm ride height drop, the PDCC Sport chassis with Porsche Torque Vectoring and four-wheel steering, the Sport Chrono pack, ceramic composite brakes to the point that even with a huge backlog of orders, Porsche Australia is confident that no two Carrera S models will be specified alike. The most transformative dynamic element of the 992 is its ride quality. On a lumpy route in the Adelaide Hills with the Bilstein DTX dampers set to soft, newfound front-end pliancy allows you to carry speed over imperfections that would have you backing out of a 991’s throttle. Most of the extra 20mm in length of the 992 comes in the front overhang though, and it is possible to scuff its chin on hidden dips if you really up the ante. Switching it into Sport tends to rectify that particular issue without making the ride too terse.

Porsche has borrowed a lot from elsewhere in its product line for the 992: the asynchronous inlet valve opening from the Panamera’s 3.6-litre V6; the electric brake booster from the Cayenne hybrid; piezo injection from its now-ditched diesel engines; the electronic multiplate clutch on the front axle of the 4S that’s also purloined from hybrid tech; and the cylinder-head engine mounts from the 718 Boxster and Cayman. The engine mounts replace a subframe in the rear of the 911, which featured a pair of narrow mounts, so the new system is lighter and means reduced mechanical advantage. This means that the ride can be softer when required or firmer, and during launch control starts, the engine is rigidly held. Porsche claims you can launch the Carrera repeatedly without issue. You’ll get nauseous before the car feels tired.

A few laps of The Bend reveals that the quicker steering makes the 911 feel alert without lapsing into dartiness and that the noise paths through the vehicle have been revised to allow more of that classic 911 breathiness into the cabin. It’s still a bassy growl but the bigger, contra-rotating turbochargers no longer mute all of the top notes. The PDK box is smart enough in Sport Plus to leave in fire-and-forget mode and the ESC Sport setting allows plenty of leeway before it thinks you’ve run out of aptitude.

The Rival

Win 350kW from a thunderous and a silhouette that’ still as as the day it was launched, entry-level GT version won’ hold a 992 on track but makes statement on the street.

The 911 now closes the gap to the AMG’ cabin quality and there remains a welcome approachability to it that lends it real utility. What’ more, the 911’ depth of abilities endows it with a level of authenticity beyond Affalterbach’ bruiser.

The all-wheel-drive system of the 4S allows you to get on the gas earlier mid-corner, the front dragging the car straight without overwhelming the friction circle of the 305mm rear Goodyear Eagle F1s. Were we spending our own money, it’d be hard to go past a Carrera S with Sport Chrono, PASM, the sports exhaust and front lifter kit; a suite of options that together tack around $17K to the asking price but sharpen the driving experience quite markedly while retaining the 911’s everyday utility. We’d also ask for the equivalent Michelin tyres over the Goodyear and Pirelli options available.

While the 911 remains the star in Zuffenhausen’s firmament, there’s been a welcome note of humility in the 992’s gestation, the engineering team adopting technical solutions from across the group. While we expected the 992 Carrera S to be a very complete and polished sports coupe, it’s nevertheless a surprise just how fierce the thing can be. Mark Webber might disagree.

ANDY ENRIGHT

THE MOST TRANSFORMATIVE ELEMENT OF THE 992 IS ITS RIDE QUALITY

Model Porsche 911 Carrera S Engine 2981cc flat-six, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo

Max power 331kW @ 6500rpm

Max torque 530Nm @ 2300–5000rpm

Transmission 8-speed dual-clutch

Weight 1515kg

0-100km/h 3.7sec (claimed; 3.5sec with Sport Chrono)

Fuel economy 9.5L/100km

Price $265,000

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