Car reviews - Porsche - 911 - Carrera & Carrera S
Creamy turbo engine torque, lack of turbo lag, sporty yet supple ride, vice-like grip on the tarmac, still has that sonorous boxer engine note
Room for improvement
$217k price of entry, high priced extras that should be standard, lack of knick-knack cubbies in the cabin
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10 Feb 2016
AS PORSCHE puts it, each time it sets out to develop a new 911, the only “competitor” it considers a burning need to beat is the current 911.
Yep, the iconic two-door sportscar is one of a kind, with its mid/rear-mounted flat-six engine and well-defined shape that has been honed over more than five decades.
But woe betide the person at Weissach who stuffs up the 911 when making a new-model change, as 911 owners have a greater sense of ownership and tradition than almost any other breed in the car universe. And they will let Porsche know.
Each mechanical change is greeted with suspicion until proved worthy. For example, take the switch from air cooling to water cooling on the boxer engine in 1998. Looking back, it was a common-sense move, with great all-round benefits in vehicle performance and longevity, but the engineers and product planners had to take a big gulp of air before leaping into that pool.
We suspect the latest move to a smaller 3.0-litre engine with turbocharging for the base 911 Carrera and 911Carrera S most likely would have also caused a sharp intake of breath around the Porsche AG board table, as it has long been stated that normal aspiration is best on the Carrera because it delivers instant throttle response and superb aural satisfaction.
People still remember the massive turbo lag on the original blown 911 – 1975's 930 – that could be measured with a sun dial before the eye-watering explosion of power came on stream. The four-cylinder turbocharged 944 had a bit, too.
Still, with advances in forced induction technology and Porsche's 40-odd years of experience in the blower craft on the track and in the sledgehammer 911 Turbo, the time seems right to make the turbo leap on Carrera in the interests of fuel savings and improved emissions. Even Porsche is not immune to those ever-tougher rules.
So, how did they go? Excellently, thank you. Not only is the latest 911 Carrera endowed with improved performance and a more abstemious thirst (improved 12 per cent), but it has lost none of the character of 911s of yore. Turbo lag? What turbo lag?The great improvement in the new version – a mid-life facelift of the 991-model 911 introduced in 2012 – is the increase in torque, right where it is needed in the low-to-mid range.
Along with 272kW of power – 15kW more than before, despite the 400cc engine size reduction – the base Carrera makes 450Nm of torque, up 60Nm on the previous 3.4-litre engine, coming on stream from just 1500rpm. This means stand-and-deliver acceleration at almost any engine speed.
It also means more lugging performance for relaxed, flexible driving in any gear, via the slick seven-speed manual gearbox or slicker seven-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission that 95 per cent of 911 buyers prefer, even though it costs a $5950 premium.
Instead of stepping up the performance of the Carrera S over Carrera by enlarging the engine capacity as before (it previously was 3.8 litres), the engineers this time kept the 3.0 litres but rammed up the turbo boost, played with the exhaust and messed with the 3.0-litre engine's management system to get the desired effect (309kW and 500Nm, which is 15kW and 60Nm more than before).
That will be an extra $35,000, sir, but we will throw in one-inch bigger 20-inch wheels, bigger brakes and a few other extras.
For the record, this 3.0-litre engine is mostly new, with a different bore, stroke and internal components to maximise turbo advantages.
In our media launch drive around northern Tasmania on a mix of country roads and hot laps of Symmons Park raceway, we sampled both coupe and cabrio versions, in Carrera and Carrera S levels with manual and PDK transmissions.
One of the most memorable moments came when my driving partner slammed a manual Carrera S coupe through the gears from a slow rolling start in first gear. With each gear change and release of the clutch, the force of the whack in the back bordered on painful. But exhilarating too.
At the same time, the howl of the turbo boxer six tearing towards 7000rpm sounded, well, just like a normally aspirated one.
To achieve this, the engineers have piped some of the soundtrack into the cabin, which is cheating a bit, but at least it is not artificial-sounding like similar efforts on certain other sports/luxury cars.
Oh, and all the cars we drove were fitted with the optional sports exhaust system to make sure we did not miss the point. How does the standard exhaust sound? Sorry, we can't tell you.
But there is the little pop and crackle on the up-changes, apparently the result of some clever exhaust plumbing to deliver this effect. Wonderful.
Mercifully, Porsche has thrown in its dual-mode suspension system in as standard equipment this time, which helps to explain part of the $9k price lift over the outgoing model.
This is a major advance, as it gives a supple ride when cruising and a firm, flat countenance when bruising, without smashing the spine. Yes, Porsche is one of the few hardcore sports manufacturers that truly gets it.
It also gets seat comfort and driver ergonomics. The cosseting leather-clad sports seats would be just as good for a 600km journey as a short mountain road hoot.
A new, easier to use touchscreen infotainment system is a welcome advance, but hey – when are we going to get some decent storage space for bits and pieces such as mobile phones?Cosmetically, the latest Carrera gets a new nose that includes a redesigned bumper with larger air openings fitted with automatically closing slats for better aerodynamics at higher speeds.
The new-look headlights get Porsche's new signature four-spot LED daytime driving lights, setting it apart from mere cars on the road.
All the cars were drove were fitted with the optional Sport Chrono multi-mode driving style system which we turned to Sport+ – the automotive equivalent of turning up the guitar amplifier to 11 – for the race track laps in PDK-equipped Carrera S coupes. Fun? Just brilliant.
Apart from prodigious lateral grip – helped by mega rear tyres that are 10mm wider than before – the great feat of the 911 is its communicative nature near the edge.
But unlike the early 911s that communicated the message that we are about to go from alarming understeer to terminal oversteer, the latest model's message is far more reassuring. Just let the big six-pot Brembos wash off the speed, tip it into the corner, wait a bit and then plant it again.
And that, folks, is as good as evidence as any that Porsche has made great calls on changes to the 911 down the decades. Now, you can add the addition of turbo power on the Carrera to the long list of good calls.
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