This is the 8th generation of the 911 and easily the most tech-laden version of the quintessential sportscar. Has Porsche been able to keep its iconic model relevant? We drove the newcomer in the Western Cape to find out.
The rear LED blade is the easiest way to spot the 992-series Porsche 911.
The numbers assigned to 911 models tend to be confusing. This one is the 992 911, which replaces the 991.2 911, but at least the exterior shape of the Zuffenhausen-based marque's champion has never been confusing – you know what you’re in for when Porsche makes a 911. This model does have a few defining traits that help it stick out, however. The rear blade light is the easiest to spot: the LED, with its piercing red light, runs the width of the rear. At the front, it’s again the lights that are most noticeable: their LEDs form a crosshair that’s terrifying to spot in your rear-view mirror.
As for the newcomer's mechanicals, there are higher peak power and torque outputs, a faster Nurburgring lap time and lighter bodywork materials – all of which we expected. Thus the benchmark numbers for the 911 are better than before and, yep, it’s still rear-engined. At launch, South Africa has a choice of the Carrera 2S (rear-wheel-drive) and 4S (all-wheel-drive), both of which are fitted with a new 8-speed PDK (auto) transmission.
By virtue of more power and lighter materials, all the 911's benchmark performance numbers have been improved.
The 3.0-litre flat-6 turbo has been reworked to produce an extra 22 kW and 30 Nm. Top speed has improved by 2 kph to a v-max figure of 308 kph.
The acceleration numbers that the new 911 can achieve are exceptional, thanks mostly to immense rear traction and a rapid double-clutch gearbox. While many manufacturers are moving back to conventional auto ‘boxes, Porsche maintains that the advantages of its PDK ‘box suit its sportscar better. With the optional Sport Chrono pack specified to the 911, the Carrera 2S hits 100 kph from 0 in 3.5 seconds, with the 4S a 10th quicker.
Porsche still favours the double-clutch PDK for its sportscars.
Substantial (21-inch) rims shod with soft Goodyear rubber help the 911's rear wheels grope the tarmac during a full-bore launch procedure – as a result, the 992 positively catapults off the line. The front end features 20-inch items and much-narrower tyres, in typical 911 tradition.
The PDK has 8 gears (up from 7 in the previous range) and has had its 1st ratio shortened (and 8th lengthened) in order to give the 911 rapid acceleration and a quiet cruise in top gear, which also benefits efficiency. It’s the most responsive version of the PDK yet with zero flaws, whether you're using the paddles or not. Shifts are prompt, smooth and, on the way down the ‘box, accompanied by throttle blips of the "heel-and-toe" kind.
Is it better to drive?
The 911 has been refined and crafted since 1963, so you would expect that Porsche knows all too well how to deliver a thoroughbred sportscar. That's not to say that there haven't been a few blips along the way... The electronic steering of the previous generation was not loved by all and purists argued that the non-hydraulic setup took something away from the near-telepathic connection that a 911 is supposed to have with the road.
Less clutter around the centre console makes it easier to find what you're looking for.
Well, the steering has certainly improved in the 992 – it has better feel to it and is more naturally weighted. Our test units had the Power Steering Plus option, which increases the steering wheel's heft the more you turn it and then lightens at slow speeds (when you need to park, for example). The system doesn’t feel as artificial as other electrically-assisted setups, but it still isn’t perfectly granular in the way it conveys feedback.
It is, however, perfectly balanced thanks to the newcomer's pointy front- and "unstickable" rear ends. You can carry heady entry speeds into corners and, in all likelihood, you’d still be able to successfully collect up the apex and bury the throttle much much sooner than you imagined. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself in a trance, because the 911 is palpably easy to manhandle and get into the rhythm of brake, turn, accelerate, repeat. This is the perfect car to take out on a Sunday morning mountain-pass assault... the only thing it’s missing is a howling soundtrack to serenade the speed.
How’s the inside?
The array of buttons inside the cabin has been dramatically reduced for the 992 thanks to the fitment of a 10.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It’s a much simpler cabin to understand now and you can programme shortcut buttons to access favourite options or screens. The driving mode selector no longer has the modes inscribed on the dial, so you have to resort to the digital instrument binnacle to see what mode is selected.
All the digital screens are angled towards the driver.
It’s a very driver-focused instrument cluster with the 2 digital screens flanking the analogue RPM dial facing inwards, towards the driver.
Meanwhile, the seats have been designed to offer more lateral support, so they feel firmly positioned when lateral Gs load up. Rear passengers have never really been overly catered for in a 911, but there are 2 individual seats in the back (with a smidgeon of legroom) if you're interested.
Carrera 2S or 4S?
Ah, the toughest decision a Porsche buyer needs to make. In the previous (991) generation I had no doubt that the 2S was the better car; it was more alive, raw and had a better front end. This time around, the 4S is just as nimble as the 2S and its front end darts around with equal agility. The 2S is a little more lively in the corners and you can feel it isn't quite as planted when you power out of corners. It's more of a challenge, but aside from that, the excitement levels are similar between the 2 versions. I would be content with either, but if forced, I'd probably still pick the 2S... just.
Somehow the recipe gets slightly better with every generation of 911.
This is the best 911 to date, there's no doubt about that in my mind. By virtue of that extra power, it's more exciting to accelerate in the 992, but the chassis is more than capable of dealing with the extra urge. There is no better weapon to take on your favourite road, this side of R2 million.
The in-car tech systems are now bang up to date and the interior design is more function than flair. You’re cosseted in a supportive seat with the cabin designed to aid you in keeping your eyes on the road and having easy access to driving modes and relevant information.
It’s perhaps not as quiet, nor as comfortable as a GT, but it’s certainly usable as an everyday car that will thrill you on weekends. More models will join the fray over the next few years, including a manual version (remember those?), but suffice to say this is a pretty exceptional base to work from.
New Porsche 911 - Price in SA
Porsche 911 Carrera S - R1 708 000
Porsche 911 Carrera 4S - R1 797 000
A 3-year/100 000 km DrivePlan is standard.