Ask any layman on the street to differentiate the previous 997-generation 911 to the new 991 and they’ll probably give you a loud sigh (of the ‘you-are-wasting-my-time’ sort, that is). You cannot blame them. You will be hard pressed - unless you’re a Porsche aficionado - to really identify the key differences between the two.
That is until you view it from the side; the first give away. After all, the 991 was stretched by a further 100mm.
Porsche was wise enough though, they knew better than to do something radical (think F430 to 458 Italia, Murcielago to Aventador), or they would lose the plot. Anything too wild, and the car will fail to attract its target audience: those who enjoy driving and feel connected with the car BUT at the same time, one that’s not too flashy nor too loud. The sort who has already past the BMW or Mercedes-Benz phase and are looking for something one step up in their (motoring) life.
Kind of predictable, really, but now that I’ve driven it, the new Porsche 911 (in Carrera S guise here) definitely reminds me of the ultimate expression of Porsche’s ethic; it is the highest point, if you like, on a graph which measures driver involvement next to performance.
There are quite a number of tourers out there that you can place next to this particular Porsche: BMW’s 640i Coupe (we cover that in this issue too), Mercedes-Benz’s SL350, the Maserati GranTurismo, and even to a certain extend, Audi’s S5 Coupe. But please understand this; all of those cars are brilliantly engineered, some of the best money can buy. However they are so crushingly competent to the point where you’ll find yourself getting a little bored too quickly. Ultimately, leaving you cold. The Maserati did that to me.
Aesthetically speaking, the 991 is a handsome piece of work. A new face (although still recognisably 911), nicer alloys (those are 20-inch wrapped in 245/35 R-20 front and rear 295/30 R-20 Pirellis), longer side profiles (apparent particularly from the B-pillar onwards) and a reworked rear (the slit tail lamps just made the rear sexaaay). If Porsche was vain before, they surely did a good job with their scalpels to give you this (FYI, half of the 991 consists of aluminium). It doesn’t end there though – the front track has been widened by 52mm, giving an imposing stance, good to keep those pesky Hyundai Sonatas off the fastest lane.
Take a look inside and you’ll be surprised how familiar it is. The centre console, adopted from the Panamera/Cayenne, doesn’t look out of place here. In fact, every control button is much easier to reach with this configuration; surprisingly though, those mentioned controls feel no different than the 997’s. Also deserving praise are the tightly screwed fittings. Every gaps are properly shut, the extensively leathered interior together with soft plastics for the dashboard ensuring potential owners do not feel short-changed.
The 18-way seats are downright comfy and supportive, a form of art in Porsche’s case. However if there’s one thing you can nitpick on, it’s how they lack shoulder support especially when you’re driving it hard down a set of twisties. The 911 was never built as a four-seater, more as a 2+2, but the extended wheelbase did ensure extra legroom for rear passengers; although my 7-year old critic (a.k.a daughter) enjoyed the free space between her knee and the front seat, she complained of the rather stiff backrest. That aside, you can rest assure your child’s booster seat or golf club can fit in. It’s boot remains up ahead, and it’s just big enough to fit Seletar in there.
Engineered for driver’s satisfaction, the perfectly sized steering wheel gets a flat-bottom. On it, you do get the usual audio control, paddle-shifter and whatnot, but the coolest bit here is of course the classy strip that displays what mode you’re currently on - Sport or Sport Plus. Toggle around a little bit more, and you find yourself the g-force meter. And unlike other cars, the 911 doesn’t get a traditional glass sunroof – instead, the aluminium roof will open wide to welcome extra sunlight. Good attention to details, Porsche.
The Carrera S retains the 3.8-liter flat-six, but gets a power hike from 385bhp to 400bhp. That’s not all: previously, all 420Nm of torque presented itself at 4,400rpm. Now, an extra 20Nm will kick in at 5,600rpm - meaning you get more punch in the higher rev range. It also translates to a shorter century sprint timing of 4.1 seconds. Figures aside, the car actually feels lazy initially. But push it close to 4,000rpm and suddenly the action builds up and tadaa, you’re way beyond the legal speed limits. Also, Porsche hasn’t forgotten about Mother Earth. This 991 is 16% more efficient than the 997 – thanks largely to the engine auto start/stop function and the significant weight difference.
Purists might not like this, but the 7-speed PDK box’ is a gem. It responds quickly and effectively, downshifting when you need it to without a huff. The engine even blips itself when you manually bring a gear down - so yes, you can appear as a real hero while driving this car. If you love hearing the engine singing away in all its glory, push it all the way to the 7,600rpm redline. Ahh… sheer aural pleasure.
Throttle inputs start even as you’re just thinking of pressing your right foot. The nose goes where you point it; quick direction changes are easy. This might be the first 911 to get for itself an electric power steering (‘electro-mechanical’ in Porsche’s words), but by golly, it doesn’t feel that way. Instead, it acts not much different than the hydraulic set-up in the 997’s (weight wise), the key difference only apparent at three-figure speeds where you can feel the weight and the steering wheel staying straight.
Credit for knowing how much grip you have goes to the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus and active PASM dampers. If you’ve always had the impression that rear-wheel driven Porsches allow you to be a hooligan (actually they do), in the case of the 991, it provides more balance and front-end bite. You can provoke it, but all you’ll get is some understeer and then followed by a tinge of oversteer, but the rear will not kick-out. Never. These technological nannies allow you to take bends faster and with more surefootedness…
So far, the 991 seems to have ticked all the right boxes. If you’re still not convinced and think the Porsche 911 is just a toy for the weekend, remember this: overall quality is a notch higher, the speed is there when you want it and the brakes are utterly dependable. Practically speaking, it’s got the capacity and the capability. So, if you want an everyday sports car, the Porsche 911 Carrera S will suffice. The wife should wilfully approve.
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