It’s quicker in a straight line and more composed in the corners ... but is the new 911 better?
Has there even been a car that’s defined its segment as clearly as the 911? Through eight generations, Zuffenhausen’s two-door has beaten all comers, offering a compelling blend of everyday usability and expertly honed handling. It seems the 911 simply can’t be faulted. Will the 992-generation continue this masterclass in automotive evolution?
The signs are promising. Under the rear deck whirrs a 3,0-litre flat-six engine boasting two larger turbochargers, a fresh charge air-cooling system (with coolers now positioned atop the engine for improved airflow) and, for the first time on a 911, piezo injectors. The result on this S model – a Carrera will soon join the range, as will the inevitable GTS, Turbo, GT3 and GT2 – is 331 kW at 6 500 r/min, plus 530 N.m between 2 300 and 5 000 r/min. You may have noticed the power figure is identical to the 991 GTS’, while the torque reading is just 20 N.m short of that sportier model’s.
Working alongside fantastic traction on the rear axle thanks to a 36:64 mass distribution, plus 305/30 rear rubber (with mixed rim sizes for the first time on a 911 Carrera), the 992 S rocketed to 100 km/h in a mere 3,41 seconds.
Credit for that stunning figure is shared with the eight-speed dual-clutch ‘box; thanks to a quick-shift function activated in sport plus – which we used coupled with race start – it fires through the ratios at breakneck speed. It all happens quite undramatically, though, as is the norm in a 911 Carrera. There’s a slight chirrup from the tyres just as the vehicle squats gently and shoots off the line efficiently. No AMG histrionics or BMW M complicated launch assist; just an impressively clean (and easily repeated) effort.
Fitted to this Agate Grey Metallic test vehicle is an optional R50 120 sports exhaust (distinguished via two oval outlets instead of four tailpipes) offering intermediate sound settings instead of just subdued and loud through map-controlled exhaust flaps actuated through new stepper motors. It’s effective in the upper reaches of the rev range – where the 3,0-litre sounds much like you’d expect a Porsche flat-six to – but emissions regulations appear to have muffled the lower revolutions, where the powertrain exhibits a curious coarseness around the 1 500 r/min mark. Thankfully, that’s below the top gear’s 120 km/h cruising speed.
Under the evolutionary, though attractive skin, sits wider tracks – up 46 mm front and 39 mm aft – imbedded in a chassis derived from the 991’s, but the Porsche Active Suspension Management now offers a wider envelope, being softer in normal mode than before in both the compression and rebound stages. The flipside is even firmer damping in sport plus.
A new drivetrain mode, wet, uses acoustic sensors in the front wheelarches to recognise sprayed-up water and adjusts the stability and traction-management systems to intervene sooner, flips up the rear spoiler at 90 km/h and softens the throttle response. A team member had a spirited blast in the Carrera S up a rain-soaked pass and confirmed the 911 was stable and unintimidating. That’s not where you want to drive your Carrera S, though. Find a serpentine dry road, switch PASM to sport plus, stomp on the long-travel throttle and revel in the 3,0-litre’s marvellous rate of response, the body’s spooky resistance to roll and the suspension’s skill of cushioning the car from the worst blows without ever seeming loose-limbed.
There’s an intoxicating depth of character here, but the 911 always feel rear-biased. Gone are the days of a 911’s nose bobbing gently as the mass aft dictated the front’s behaviour, but the front axle still feels light as it quickly tucks in with a lift of the throttle. Mid-corner, the balance can be deftly controlled with the throttle: a bit more power and the line widens; a little less and the front tyres sniff out the inside line.
Kudos to the engineers who designed the steering system, too. Fitted here with Power Steering Plus (R5 050) as well as rear-axle steering (R43 270), the electrically assisted system ranks as the industry’s gold standard. There’s feel aplenty and a natural rate of progression. The new brakes are phenomenal, too. In fact, the S sets new CAR records, braking in an average of 2,50 seconds across just 32,66 metres. No car, not even one with carbon-ceramic brakes, has ever required less time on our test strip to come to a halt, nor less space.
And what of the interior? Well, it’s as solidly constructed as ever; better equipped (charging extra for full electric seat adjustment is cheeky, though); and the Porsche Communication Management system with its 10,9-inch touchscreen is easy to master and looks crisp. Space for two is generous, too (the driving position is flawless), but we wonder why Porsche persists with the comically small rear seats instead of adding luggage room to supplement the 112-litre cavity in the nose. Would any prospective owner care their 911 is a straightforward two-seater?
Certainly, Porsche will one day equip the 911 with an electric motor, plus most likely the ability to drive itself. And odds are it’ll be another fantastic 911.
But, right here and now, we’re elated the 992 has a fierce internal-combustion engine and rewards the driver with a gloriously honed chassis. Through meticulous evolution, this is as good as it gets in the world of sportcars, and this 992 is unquestionably the most balanced 911 Porsche has ever made.
ROAD TEST SCORE
See Full Porsche 911 Carrera 4S coupe price and specs here