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CAPE TOWNDistant 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).

VALENCIA, Spain – You're looking at the eighth generation of one of the world's most iconic sports cars, the Porsche 911 (here in Carrera S guise). We hit some quiet roads in the Spanish countryside as well as the Ricardo Tormo circuit to get to grips with this model's new technology, improved engine (with better performance) and wider footprint.

What’s new?

In short, as much as 80 percent of the car. Interestingly, there will be only one body across the range; the wide body we usually associate with Carrera S models. The use of a broader range of materials has led to the percentage of steel being lowered from the outgoing 991.2's 63 percent to just 30 percent in this new model. There is also a vast list of fresh technologies on offer, from updated lighting systems to on-board infotainment and safety assistance.

Although the engine fitted to the new Carrera S (an entry-level Carrera will soon be released, too) is similar to the unit used in the outgoing GTS, numerous changes have been made, while Porsche has now also introduced its eight-speed PDK transmission.

Behind the wheel

While the new model is modern and technologically advanced, Porsche enthusiasts will be happy to hear the 992 is still "pure 911". The Zuffenhausen-based firm's designers wanted to replicate some of the horizontal cabin elements first seen on earlier 911s – and they have achieved exactly that.

Still, there are some changes to get used to. The permanent five-dial layout has, for instance, been replaced by a large central rev counter flanked by two screens, each showing two dials. However, these can be configured to the driver's liking. The larger infotainment screen is positioned above the transmission tunnel and offers all the necessary details and information.

As expected, the driver still sits satisfyingly low in the car, while the range of adjustment on the pilot's seat and steering column makes it a cinch to personalise the driving position.

As we leave the pits, I notice the engine note hasn’t changed much over that of the previous generation. There's still that typical flat-six sound together with a blowing noise from the turbo. Pay close attention and you can hear how the latter sound changes depending on the throttle input.

The steering may be 11 percent quicker, but the turn-in is just as direct as that of its forebear. After two warm-up laps, I edge closer to the 911's grip limits through the slower corners; as before, this car instils immense confidence in its driver. I enter the corners at conservative speeds, allow the car to settle and accelerate hard on the exit, taking advantage of the weight sited over the rear wheels. I sense how those wide rear tyres are working hard to put all the torque down through the rear axle. It's truly a unique experience.

Even though peak power is developed at 6 500 r/min, delivery tapers off only slightly as you approach 7 500 r/min, a fact that urges the driver to rev the 3,0-litre all the way to its redline. The brakes are strong with good feedback through the pedal, while the additional ratio in the transmission has little effect on the car’s outright capability, both on and off the track.

After the circuit experience, I'm able to view my lap with Porsche’s latest Track App, recorded using a smartphone mounted to the windscreen. Not only does it visually record the lap, but it also indicates the engine’s revs, the chosen gear, G-forces generated and speed, to name but a few parameters. Previously offered for Porsche’s GT cars, this app is now available for buyers of Porsche’s Carrera models as well.

Summary

A fellow enthusiast recently confided in me that he doesn’t understand 911s. "They all look the same ... and some classic 911s are worth R10-million and others only R500 000". He may have a point, but this is also one of the reasons these cars are unique in the automotive industry.

The eighth generation of the 911 takes Porsche's iconic sportscar to the next level. It still drives like a 911 (and thus feels charmingly familiar) but offers the latest technology in a package that's hard to beat, particularly if you consider the performance on offer at this price point.

Ultimately, I walked away mightily impressed with the Carrera S, a car that I’d be happy to drive on a daily basis or merely on special occasions. Of course, now's a pertinent time to throw in the classic “but wait, there's more” line, since more powerful models are coming soon...

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