An all-new Porsche 911 is a rare thing. The new generation – codenamed 991 – is only the third completely new version since the iconic sportscar was first introduced in 1963. We’re driving the Carrera S model from Santa Barbara and into the Santa Ynez mountains in California via fast and twisting roads.
At first sight it’s clear that the car is longer, lower (it has a 20mm lower roofline) and is wider at the front. The new Carrera S rides on 20-inch wheels which have been moved forward and back on the car’s 10cm longer wheelbase. This means the overhangs are shorter and stability is increased. The result is a leaner, more aggressive, though also more curvaceous and elegant-looking 911.
Despite being bigger the new 911 is much lighter than its predecessor. Porsche have reduced the weight of the Carrera S by 40kg by using aluminium body panels on its stiff steel subframe. This means it was always going to feel like a very different car to drive but would it still feel like a 911?
The Carrera S’s 400hp 3.8-litre high revving flat six engine offers smooth yet powerful driving and sounds wonderful. The car is incredibly fast and just wants to go and go, relentlessly accelerating in all but its long seventh gear which exists to enable more economical cruising. The Carrera S accelerates from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds. Our test car was fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Pack which improves this figure – with the Sports Plus button activated – to 4.1 seconds.
In normal driving mode – with none of the sport features engaged – the new 911 is astonishingly refined for a sportscar. This is particularly noticeable over bumps in the road and the car feels quiet and relaxed.
Inside the cockpit is a massive step up in terms of styling and quality. The cabin feels bigger although it’s still traditional 911 in the back – you’ll not want to ride back there, not for any length of time in any case – but it’s the best 911 interior we’ve ever seen. New ‘sound symposer’ technology means there is an even better and broader cacophony of engine notes. Here engine sounds are picked up and transmitted into the interior when the sport button is activated. The result is that the trademark noise of Porsche’s iconic ‘boxer’ engine – in all of its glory – is even louder.
For the first time Porsche has chosen to install electro mechanical power steering – which only uses energy when cornering – instead of a hydraulic system which has been used in all 911s since day one. Has this led to a reduction in steering feel? Well, yes, a little, but the truth is, for all but the most hardened purists, the new system is worth the compromise for the fuel savings alone.
A new roll control system – called Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) – adjusts the car’s stiffness – keeping it flat – meaning the car is able to carry more of its speed through the bends. Interestingly there is now a G-Force display on the dash but trust me you won’t be looking at it while cornering.
The manual version – which has the world’s first seven-speed manual transmission system – will please the purists but the seven speed semi-automatic PDK system is so good with even faster gear changes. Simply put when you hurtling in and out of bends there's less to think about and switching gear via paddle shifters allows you the ability to keep both hands on the steering wheel which – for most drivers – is a big plus when you are travelling quickly.
So all in all the new 911 is a staggeringly good sports car. Phenomenally quick yet comfortable, fun yet refined. Is it a better sportscar? Undoubtedly. Is it a better 911? Whoa! I’m not even going there. Drive one and decide for yourself.
THE FACTS: 911 CARRERA S
TOP SPEED: 188mph
CO2 G/KM: 205g/km
MPG COMBINED: 32.4mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****