Just looking at the lines of the all-new Porsche 911, many will snidely remark that little appears new at all. The same basic shape. The same headlamps. Where’s the “new” in this new car?
|1. Powered by a 3.8-liter flat-six the Carrera S makes 400-hp and with the PDK automatic transmission can hit 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds when equipped with the optional Sport Chrono Package.
2. The new 911 is the first car available with a 7-speed manual transmission.
3. A start-stop system that shuts off the engine at idle to helps achieve a 20/27-mpg rating
4. Priced at $96,400 base Carrera models start at $82,100.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s supposed to look similar. In over 100 years of automotive history the 911 might just be the most recognizable and consistently exceptional vehicle ever made. Its design is a thing to be cultivated, not rethought. The Porsche 911 is a brand unto itself.
Drive the latest generation 911, heck, even just sit in it, and the improvements are dramatic. From an all-new Panamera-inspired interior that brings 911 luxury to a new level, to the overall feel of refinement. Sit in the previous generation 997 car, which we did for our video review, and a one year old Porsche with just a few thousand miles on it feels a decade old.
Gone is the vibration that buzzes through the cabin. In its place is the comfort of a luxury sedan. Gone is the drone of the exhaust. In its place is near silence, which, thankfully, can still be amped up via a Sport button on the center console. And gone is the forearm-toning hydraulic steering. In its place is a new electric power steering unit.
Purists may morn these losses. And yet, outperforming the old 911 by a significant margin, while delivering a new level of daily driven, it’s hard to object to this type of progress. About the only item we truly miss is the old steering setup, less because of nearly insignificant (and possibly imaged) losses in steering feel when performance driving, and more because of the satisfaction the old heavy unit gives. Looking back, it’s perhaps the one item more than anything else that made the old car give you the feeling that you are in control of such a fine German sports car.
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While nearly indistinguishable in style, the new 911 is 2.2-inches longer overall, with a 3.9-inch longer wheelbase. True, reduced overhangs do aid in improving performance, but what’s more obvious is the larger stretch between the wheels that makes for a more comfortable highway drive. A quarter-inch reduction in overall height is part of the package as well, as is a wider front end, delivering more road presence and performance.
Porsche’s updated 7-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission has also been improved significantly. As a result it’s likely both the smoothest-feeling and fastest-acting DCT on the market. One expects shifts at wide open throttle at 7000 rpm to snap at you like a German nanny, but even under light loads when cruising gently the transmission movements happen with the speed of a light switch - and are just as smooth.
For those who really do get the most out of their 911s, there is a change in the new Carrera that is perhaps more dramatic than its improved comfort. That change is in the car’s handling dynamics.
Driving a 911 in anger has always been a leap of faith. In any front-engine, rear-drive car, when the rear end begins to swing around like a pendulum, it’s time to hold on tight and say your prayers. In a 911, you do the same, but you also add throttle, and the car catapults you in the chosen direction.
Driven on the street we were surprised that unlike all previous 911s, the rear doesn’t have a tendency to step-out – even with all the traction and stability control features turned off. Taken to the track and upping the pace considerably and the result, surprisingly, is no different. Gone is the point-and-shoot approach. In its place is more balance, neutrality and grip. As a result, the 911 is now easier than ever before to drive quickly with low levels of fear.
Numerous factors from the longer wheelbase, to the improved front to rear weight distribution contribute to this result. There’s also plenty more grip at the nose thanks to a front track that’s 2-inches wider. Also helping matters are wider front tires (245 compared to 235 on the previous generation) with the new 911 sporting 19s standard, while Carrera S models like our test car gain 20-inchers.
We’d be remiss to leave out discussion of a limited slip differential. Often criticized for not having one, the new 911 gets an electronic unit called Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) that uses the brakes to limit inside wheelspin and help rotate the car.
Powering down a straight is more rapid than ever before, with the Carrera S gaining a 15-hp bump for an even 400-hp. A respectable number, what’s amazing is how Porsche utilizes it. With the ultra fast PDK, weighing 100 lbs less than its predecessor and equipped with the optional Sport Chrono package, the car gets a claimed 3.9-second 0-60 time. With that statistic, not to mention a top speed of 185 mph, the 911 is now the world’s fist $96,000 exotic.
With a long and sleek center console, Porsche prefers a button for absolutely every function, rather than one of the control dials popular amongst its German contemporaries. Closest to the driver are a collection of buttons, including one for the optional PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) variable dampers as well as a Sport button. When pressed, the car shifts at higher rpm, the response of the throttle and steering become more immediate and the exhaust note becomes audible. Nearly silent the rest of the time (ideal for daily driving), Sport mode brings the car to life. To call it an exhaust note would be misleading. It’s less music and more noise, echoing decades of racing history.
The Sport Chrono Package, distinguishable by the small analog clock on the dash, includes features like a lap timer and g-meter, as well as a Sport Plus button that turns up the performance another notch, holding gears all the way to redline and limiting the intrusion of stability control. On the track the aggressive transmission program also ensures you’re in the perfect gear all the time. Even the lightest touch on the brakes will put the car in the lowest possible gear, just as your mind has thought to reach for the paddle shifters. True, pulling the paddles may be fun, but Porsche’s PDK will make your reaction times feel as slow as the up-shifts in a Dodge Neon.
A final button activates, or deactivates, another of the newest Porsche’s features: a start-stop system. When not in sport mode, it will automatically shut off the car’s engine when idling, delivering a tranquil feeling as you sit comforted in leather sport seats boxed in by traffic on all sides. True, the 911 may beg for the racetrack, but this latest car can now wait patiently for it – and get a vastly improved 20/27-mpg in doing so, again further improving its qualifications as a daily driver.
With so much praise to heap upon it, some notable gripes we did have include a brake pedal that feels too soft on the track and a “back” button for the display screen that’s hidden down below the screen and nearly out of reach of the driver. And if we’re being ludicrously picky, about the only thing detracting from the 911 as a daily driver is how hard it is to get into and out of. Then again, some sacrifices have to be made in building a sports car.
Demolishing its predecessor in both outright performance, as well as its ability to let even novice drivers push this car with ease, the newest Porsche 911 is a pitchfork-wielding mob of revolutionaries dressed in the garb of the establishment. A new level of comfort and quietness, this is not just another 911 in a long line of the very best daily driven sports cars, it’s the very first in a line of daily driven exotics.