Car reviews - Porsche - 911
Powerful and responsive engine, super-quick gear shifts, razor-sharp steering, commendable ride comfort, hugely improved interior, prodigious grip
Room for improvement
Some tyre roar on average road surfaces, engine note could be louder, not much else
Porsche continues to set sportscar benchmark with dynamic new 911 coupe
28 Mar 2019
For over five decades the Porsche 911 has been one of the automotive industry’s undisputed icons, regularly regarded as one of the best driver’s cars available on the market.
Now in its eighth generation, the all-new 911 is the culmination of 50 years of refinement and improvements from the German car-maker and its unique, but tried-and-tested, rear-engine layout.
While the previous-generation 911 ended with as many as 24 variants, the 992-type 911 is initially launching in rear-drive S and all-paw 4S guise, with a gradual rollout of the full range to occur over the coming months and years.
We took the new 911 to The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia to see whether the engineers at Porsche have been able to further improve on an already legendary platform. Spoiler alert: of course, they have.
With the arrival of each new generation of the 911, Porsche engineers have never tried to fully reinvent the wheel, but rather have fine-tuned the existing layout for a gradual series of improvements that make an already excellent car even better.
For the latest 992 generation, Porsche’s spanner-turners have focused on improving the car’s handling prowess, on-road ride comfort, engine and transmission response as well as some major upgrades to the car’s interior.
Visual changes are relatively minor, with the new generation more recognisable from the rear thanks to an LED lighting strip that connects both tail-lights, as well as new badging across the rear flanks that adds ‘911’ in old-school font to the existing ‘Carrera S’.
New staggered wheel sizes have been added for the first time, with front wheels measuring 20-inch x 8.5-inch in size, while to accommodate the extra weight of the engine over the rear axle, rear wheels measure 21 inches in diameter and a massive 11.5 inches in width.
The widebody style reserved for select variants on the 991 generation has been made standard in the new model, which increases track width and therefore aids stability and handling.
Testing the feel of the new 911 for the first time involved a drive from Adelaide to Tailem Bend through the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, to see how the car fares on twisting country roads with sometimes sub-optimal surfaces.
One immediate impression we received from the new 911 is just how liveable its suspension calibration is for everyday driving, in particular compared to other offerings in the $200,000-plus sportscar segment.
Porsche has adjusted the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) to make the spring and damper settings more pliable in normal mode and stiffer in sport mode, and the result is a car that is a genuinely capable of being a daily driver (provided luggage space is not important).
The car soaks up bumps and road imperfections surprisingly well, and while the low-profile wheels create some tyre roar on average road surfaces, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are generally commendable.
Furthermore, the throttle and brake settings in normal mode allow for a relaxed and user-friendly driving experience, never feeling too twitchy or highly strung.
Adjusting the settings to a more-performance-oriented set-up stiffens the suspension and gives the 911 a feeling of supreme surefootedness, aided by the massive rear tyres and extended track width.
The car stays flat and remarkably poised through corners, and encourages generous throttle out of the apex thanks to its prodigious rear-wheel grip and locking rear differential.
So effective is the 911’s grip that even in a stint on a skidpan with traction controls turned off, the car is still reluctant to oversteer and get the rear end moving sideways.
A new driving mode called Wet Mode has been included on the new 911 which adjusts throttle, engine and differential settings to minimise oversteer and loss of traction in slippery conditions, and after a trial on the skidpan we came away impressed by how foolproof Wet Mode is, with the nose of the car staying pointed in the right direction despite our best efforts to disrupt it.
Transitioning onto the track, the 911 feels poised and stable around corners at high speeds, with wonderfully direct and precise steering that has a heavy and analogue feel, providing plenty of feedback to the driver.
Some understeer can be found when driving on the limit, but easing off the throttle and allowing the nose to dip slightly quickly amends this problem.
Driving the 4S brings greater grip thanks to its all-wheel traction and heavier front end, however the rear-drive S has a nimbler and more playful feel in the twisty stuff.
Braking power is prodigious, with the fleet of 911s at launch being regularly flogged around The Bend’s international circuit for hours at a time without any hint of brake fade.
On the road, the brake pedal offers a soft and intuitive feel that is forgiving for daily driving.
For the new generation, Porsche has heavily revised its twin-turbo 3.0-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine, with power in the S grade boosted by 22kW/30Nm to 331kW/530Nm.
Much work has been done on the turbochargers and intake manifolds, and the proof is in the pudding with razor-sharp throttle response and plenty of punchy torque in the mid-range. Power keeps piling on all the way to redline, and the Porsche engineers have even given the new 911’s engine a sound more reminiscent of its barking normally aspirated forebears.
Putting it in Sport Plus mode wrings the engine out all the way to redline, and ensures snappy gear changes and an addictive aural experience that is complimented by the huge shove of power from the flat-six mill.
A new eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic derived from the Panamera has been fitted to the new 911, which is user-friendly and pliant around town without the usual low-speed niggles of dual-clutch autos.
In performance settings, gear changes are lightning quick and smooth to boot, encouraging the engine to rev all the way to redline before shifting. Using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters show just how quick the changes are, moving perfectly in sync with your hands.
Inside, the 911’s interior has been overhauled with a new 10.9-inch touchscreen displaying the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system, as well as twin 7.0-inch TFT displays in the instrument cluster and a redesigned centre console.
While the 991 generations’ interior was beginning to look tired by the end of its lifecycle, the 992’s cabin feels fresh and modern, with a significantly decluttered layout and superb fit and finish.
The 10.9-inch PCM screen offers great clarity and responsiveness, and is also fairly easy to use.
While retaining the hallmark analogue tachometer in the middle of the instrument cluster, the two 7.0-inch screens on either side are beautifully curved towards the driver and offer plenty of customisation, however are positioned so that the upper sides of the steering wheel are directly in the way.
Head- and legroom is comfortable for front passengers, however if your age contains double digits you can forget about sitting in the rear.
Porsche has managed to do something that is not easy in the automotive industry – it has consistently improved an already fantastic product, and the 992-type 911 is no exception.
We can’t wait to see what the German car-maker has up its sleeve when more potent versions such as the Turbo and GT3 roll around in the future. For now, the 911 S should satisfy all but the most hardcore Porsche enthusiasts.
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