Porsche 911: Leading the Pack

Porsche 911

Following our global unveiling piece on the latest Porsche 911 (992) in our January edition, Driven editor LERATO MATEBESE travelled to Valencia, Spain, to put the new eighth generation model through its paces and ascertain whether the company has done enough to keep it at the top of the sportscar totem pole.

As far as sportscars go, the Porsche 911 has most aspects of the genre thoroughly licked. Decidedly sporty – check. Thoroughly entertaining to steer, you bet! Boasting the most telegraphic and granular steering feedback in its segment – unequivocally yes. These, for the most part, are at the cornerstone of the model’s repertoire, while its everyday usability remains an elusive quality for even the most ardent of sporty sedans.

Thus, to be the leader of the pack comes with its own merits and drawbacks, but the scales tip in favour of the former as far as setting the tone for the rest to follow. For the past 60 years, the Porsche 911 has remained in this pound seat, creating a delta between it and its nearest rivals with each new iteration, yet remaining true and loyal to its design ethos and its legions of fans the world over.

LINEAGE

Porsche 911

Now in its eighth generation, the latest 911 (codenamed 992), has taken over the baton from the previous generation model and pushed both the performance and efficiency envelopes that much further up. It is, quite frankly, an arduous task for the engineers, but as I found out at the launch of the new model, they’ve managed the feat quite admirably. Styling-wise, it would take the most eagle-eyed spectator to tell apart the front-end of the new model from its predecessor, but there have been some minor design tweaks, particularly the front valance, which is now wider in the interests of improved aerodynamics.

PORSCHE 911 STYLING CUES

Porsche 911

Walking towards the rear of the vehicle, however, exposes the most significant design changes where a set of new taillights in their slim design flank a light strip that connects the two, while an automatic rear spoiler that deploys at speeds above 100 km/h, features a small vertical brake light strip. The new 911 range adopts the wide body design that formerly was the repertoire of only the Turbo. This begs the question of just how much wider the new Turbo will be when it eventually arrives.

That said, the rear design is easily the model’s most charming aspect, and yet both the Carrera S and Carrera 4S variants we drove at the global launch now sport 20” and 21” tyres front and rear respectively – a first for the genre outside of the GT3 RS – and a consequence that affords the new model even higher grip and traction levels at the rear, but more on that aspect later.

COCKPIT

Porsche 911

The model’s new, flush door handles, which pop out when unlocking the vehicle are said to give the vehicle a much cleaner design. Meanwhile, swinging the driver’s door open gives access to a new, minimalist yet decidedly functional cabin, replete with a horizontal dashboard design that harks back to the original ‘60s 911.

It is festooned with a 12.3” touchscreen infotainment screen similar to that of its Cayenne and Panamera siblings, while the new instrument cluster is a heady mix of retro-meets-modern design with the analogue rev counter taking centre stage. It is flanked by digital screens that display various vehicle vitals such as the speedometer and the navigation, among others.

The drop-down centre stack is now home to a stubby gear lever and a host of driver-centric buttons for the various vehicle settings, while the ergonomically sound steering wheel houses remote buttons for the sound system and sports response drive mode toggle switch.

BARKING INTENTIONS

Porsche 911

Both the Carrera S and Carrera 4S are powered by a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo flat six engine that now thumps out 331 kW (22kW more than its predecessor) and 450 Nm, and now feature an 8-speed PDK transmission – replacing the previous model’s 7-speed PDK – while a manual transmission will join the fray at a later stage.

Against the stopwatch, both models are claimed to romp to 100 km/h in 3.7 and 3.6 seconds respectively, while top speed is pegged at 308 and 306 km/h a piece. To put that another way, the new Carrera models are essentially as quick – a whisker here and there perhaps – as the outgoing Carrera GTS.

We drove both models on public roads and around the racetrack and, in the latter environs, it proved to be in its element. Capable in the handling department and thoroughly quick on the straights, the 911 thrives here without trying too hard. But, since most owners are likely to use it on the public roads, it is here that the new model’s other forte truly shines.

It can nonchalantly drive through the urban jungle tootling behind conventional European hatchbacks, and still manage to plaster an insatiable smile across your face when you finally bury the throttle. That hoarse, flat-six bark we have become so accustomed to has been further amplified here and adds a fair dose of aural splendour through the cabin.

Another stand out feature of the latest model is the Wet Mode driving feature, which as the name suggests, aids traction in inclement weather by priming the traction and stability controls to intervene and cut power from the engine much sooner, thereby quelling any impending oversteer that may arise from the driver getting a little too giddy with the throttle. It is an excellent feature that will save many a Porsche 911 driver’s bacon in the process.

LAST WORD

Available to order now with deliveries earmarked for May this year – the Convertible will follow in June – the latest Porsche 911 continues the trajectory that has made its predecessors the benchmark sportscar and, metaphorically speaking, the arch leader of the pack.

If these Carrera S and Carrera 4S models are the prelude of what we can expect from the rest of the range soon, then any would-be rivals ought to sit up and pay close attention.

Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © PORSCHE AG