CAPE TOWN – Distant relatives within the Volkswagen AG family, the similarities between the Porsche 911 and VW Golf both in terms of their respective achievements to date, as well as where they find themselves within a modern motoring era, are quite pertinent. Both entering the eighth phase of their lifecycles while remaining cornerstones of their respective maker’s product portfolios, each has also in recent times been surpassed in terms of monthly sales figures by SUV-based siblings. It’s also unlikely the next generation of either the 911 or the Golf will be launched without some form of electrification within their respective drivetrains.
Having both reached a point in their design evolution where their makers prefer to fettle rather than experiment with a proven, winning formula, it’s the Stuttgart-based brand that is most precious about carrying the iconic shape of its 911 through each iteration. Under the current leadership of design guru Michael Mauer, the 992-generation 911’s shape represents a step forward in terms of dynamics and form, while also paying intricate homage to its predecessors. Look closely and you’ll note the return of the distinct bonnet recess while, for the first time since the (1994) 993, the headlamp units no longer cut into the front bumper. Also harking back to (Turbo) 911s of old is the LED light bar that links the taillamps and forms part of an intricate rear lighting arrangement that incorporates a hydraulically controlled wing and supplementary vertically mounted brakelamps.
Sharing its wheelbase with the outgoing model, the big news in terms of overall dimensions is the fact both the rear-wheel-drive Carrera 2 and all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 models now share the same wide body stance. With a 45 mm broader footprint compared with the 991-generation Carrera 2, this means owners of the rear-wheel drive 992-gen 911 are afforded the visual appeal of a more substantial posture, but also more assured dynamics courtesy of corresponding wider track widths.
Highlights of the updated interior include a driver’s seat that is now able to adjusted up to 5 mm lower than previously (at its lowest setting ultimately too low even for my 186 cm frame), as well as a neat application of the brand’s latest infotainment and switchgear arrangement. While a 10,9-inch touchscreen display offers crisp, concise functionality, I do miss the look and feel of some of the “old-school” buttons deleted for the cause; most notably the one to activate the (optional) sport exhaust. Here, Porsche has seen fit to retain a collection of analogue pre-select buttons sited below the touchscreen.
On the topic, I also miss the beautifully crafted transmission lever from the 991-generation cars. With the more compact new item looking like a USB stick, I did prefer using the fantastically positioned old lever for manual transmission inputs. While retaining its steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting, the new Carrera S range incorporates an all-new 8-speed PDK transmission mated with a heavily revised 2 981 cm3 flat-six engine. Boasting uprated turbochargers and Piezo injectors, larger intercoolers and an upgraded exhaust system, as well as re-engineered engine mounts, the new car delivers 331 kW and 530 N.m of torque between 2 300 and 5 000 r/min. Fitted with an optional Sport Chrono package (Porsche South Africa says virtually all customers tick this box), the new Carrera 4S is capable of a 0-100 km/h sprint in just 3,4 seconds (the Carrera 2S in 3,5 seconds). Top speed for the all-wheel-drive model is quoted as 306 km/h.
With our local test drive starting at 6:30 am on a Monday morning – a full hour before sunrise – it offered attending journalists an ideal opportunity to sample the new 911 in a real-world environment, complete with associated traffic congestion and, indeed, pedestrian activity. For the sportscar that has earned an enviable reputation for being able to manage all driving conditions in stride, the latest-generation 911 proved not only immediately comfortable while negotiating the confines of an urban setting, but also impressively inconspicuous and, indeed, unintimidating while integrating with other traffic.
Away from the city and enjoying the clarity of a crisp Cape winter’s morning, the latest 911 continues where the previous car left off by offering superb levels of balance, agility and feel, allowing its driver to explore the limits of his/her driving capabilities without the levels of intimidation or, indeed, intensity broadly associated with rival cars ultimately also capable of covering distances as effectively as a 911.
While I would like to say I was confident that I felt the 50 kg weight penalty associated with the Carrera 4S and that, as such the 2S felt the livelier of the two on the day, I think a lot of it has to do with the road conditions and, indeed, twistiness of the route being driven at the time. What I would say after a day spent with the new 911 Carrera S offerings is that especially now that there is no visual difference between the 2 and the 4, for our market, I would opt for the still impressively surefooted Carrera 2S and spend the difference on specification (not only on customisation but also around areas of cabin trim and detailing).
FAST FACTSModel: Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK
Price: R1 797 000
Engine: 3,0-litre, turbocharged, flat 6
Power: 331 kW @ 6 500 r/min
Torque: 530 N.m @ 2 300 - 5 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 3,4 sec
0-200 km/h: 12,4 sec
Top Speed: 306 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 9,0 L/100 km
CO2: 206 g/km
Transmission: 8-spd dual clutch
Maintenance Plan: 3 year/100 000 km
See Full Porsche 911 Carrera 4S cabriolet price and specs here