Car reviews - Porsche - 911 - Carrera
Lag-free performance, ride quality, docile daily nature, quality cabin
Room for improvement
Rear seat limited, cargo space, not in my price range
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19 May 2016
Price and equipment
WHEN looking at a range of vehicles it is probably best to start in the entry-level machine and then build from there – I should be so lucky to spend time in more than one example of the new Porsche 911, but slotting into the snug seats of the Carrera manual’s cabin is far from a basic experience.
The list price is $217,800 (plus on-road costs), for which you get a two-door, four-seater coupe with a solid, quality-built feel within the aluminium-steel body. Although the doors, boot and bonnet lids made of aluminium, keeping the kerb weight to 1430kg.
The features list is largely commensurate with the asking price. Top of the list is the upgraded Porsche Communication Management system, the touchscreen controlled infotainment system that includes satellite navigation with real-time traffic information, digital radio reception, Bluetooth phone and audio link, voice control and the ability to write letters on the search screen.
The system also offers the choice of using Apple CarPlay or taking audio input for the high-quality Bose surround sound system without fully integrating the rest of the phone’s functions.
Dual-zone climate control, power windows, a sports steering wheel with heater, phone, audio and trip computer screen controls, power-adjustable heated sports seats with memory function, split-fold rear seat backrests, an electric park brake, LED cabin lighting, a reversing camera and parking sensors are all here.
The test car had a long list of options – adding adaptive LED headlights ups the price by $6490, as well as the enjoyable sports exhaust system for $5890, the electric glass sunroof is $4990 and the Sport Chrono Package with mode switch is $3890 well spent.
Porsche has also ticked the box for 20-inch Carrera S wheels painted in black (a $6000 extravagance), as were the Guards Red seatbelts and Porsche crest embossed on head rest for $1480, as well as $1290 for SportDesign exterior mirrors.
The optional Sport Chrono Package adds a mode switch (which does look like an after-thought) on the new sports steering wheel – taken from the 918 Spyder hybrid’s mode switch – delivering the four driving modes Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual to tailor the now-standard adaptive damping, active engine mounts and throttle and steering response.
Getting down into the cabin, the suede roof lining and leather-trimmed tombstone-style sports leather seats are much more comfortable than you’d expect from looking at them the level of lateral support, something of a necessity in this instance, is similarly excellent despite appearances.
The now-familiar high-set centre tunnel is beset with buttons but most are easy to decipher and use.
The damper and sports exhaust buttons, as well as controls for the sunroof all sit aft of the manual gear shifter, as does the small centre console best left for phone storage as not much else fits – the folding door pockets are better options for wallets, keys and other paraphernalia.
Settled in behind the grippy sports leather steering wheel, the three-barrel instruments leave nothing unknown – dominated by the tachometer and digital speedo, there’s a smaller analogue speedometer and a trip computer screen to the right, which also has sat-nav, audio and performance data on show as required.
The pedals are perfectly placed for enthusiastic manual driving – although big-footed folk will need to be deliberate with their hoofs – and a comfortable driving position is easy to find with powered adjustment of seat and steering.
The rear seats remain a single-digit age bracket proposition, although I’m reliably informed they are better than those in the Ferrari California T, but given the car’s overall height is just 1303mm there are always going to be compromises.
Luggage space up front is 145 litres, although there’s more on the back parcel shelf and if you fold the back seat backrests down, but again, that compromise springs to mind.
Engine and transmission
The alloy flat-six has sprouted two turbos during its drop to 3.0 litres in capacity, but outputs are up and thirst is down. Mission accomplished.
There’s four overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, all with variable inlet and outlet valve timing as well as variable inlet valve lift.
Fed by direct petrol injection, power is up 15kW to 272 kW at a musical 6500rpm, while the torque has increased by 60Nm to 450Nm and is now spread from 1700 to 5000rpm, meaning in-gear surge in any of the seven speeds in the manual gearbox gets the rear wheels busy quickly.
The manual gear change has good weighting to the shift action – and the clutch pedal for that matter – with a clean, quick and relatively short throw between gears.
Get it all right and the claim is 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds – the PDK (auto) is 0.2 of a second quicker – while 200km/h is topped in 15.3 seconds.
The linear lag-free surge through the rev range gets things happening quickly in the windscreen and the accompanying soundtrack still has plenty of aural appeal as it approaches the 7500rpm redline.
The optional sports exhaust no doubt helps offset the turbocharged muffled flat-six, but when rowing through the gears on a favoured back road, the soundtrack still tickles the eardrums.
Given the presence of idle-stop fuel-saving systems and the addition of turbos, the aim of improved fuel economy is key to the new model a combined cycle claim of 8.3 litres per 100km (0.9 thirstier than the PDK) is a solid improvement over the outgoing model.
We didn’t expect to replicate the laboratory-derived number – it is a very rare occurrence in any vehicle – but 13.8 litres per 100km is more than respectable given the press-ahead driving being undertaken.
Ride and handling
Almost more impressive than the performance – almost – is the ride quality delivered by the Porsche adaptive suspension system, using a MacPherson strut transverse link front and multi-link rear and sitting 10mm lower than the outgoing model’s conventionally-damped set-up.
The Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system’s electronically controlled dampers have two modes and neither is unable to cope on public roads.
Commuting in Normal mode – with no active exhaust soundtrack – and making the most of the considerable torque, the 911 is not at all difficult to direct through traffic and only a bit of tyre noise is noticeable, in part due to the lack of other noise.
There’s no grumpy shunting from the manual driveline and journeys to roads more amusing and less travelled are an easy jaunt.
The Sports mode does relay more of the road irregularities with less filtering, but it’s by no means a filling-shaker the Normal mode gives an exceptionally compliant and comfortable ride, while still being able to carve up a bumpy back road with arrogant indifference.
The rev-matching function in the Sport Plus mode does take some of the art out of a well-driven manual but it does make for an amusing drive.
Front-end bite in the corners is prodigious and prudent throttle use on exit results in rapid point-to-point progress, or excessive use of the throttle can result in extra attitude from the rear end.
Safety and servicing
As you’d expect, the driver and front passenger get front and side airbags, but anyone scrunched into the back seat is on their own.
The side airbag set-up has two airbags – a thorax airbag positioned in each side bolster and a head airbag that deploys up out of the door panel.
The safety features list also includes tyre pressure monitoring, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, traction and stability control, a post-collision braking function and a hill-hold assist all acting on the larger, ventilated and cross-drilled 330mm disc brakes, which have four-piston callipers front and rear and bring the fun to a crushing halt in short order.
Lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems are optional, which does seem a little odd on a $200K car the test car’s adaptive LED headlights replaced standard bi-Xenon units, with four-spot LED daytime running lights with the headlight unit and LED tail-lights.
The 911 has a three year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assistance (that continues on if serviced by a Porsche dealer), requiring a service every 12 months or at 15,000km intervals.
The turbo nay-sayers can start a club with those who bemoaned air cooling and electric power steering, assuming they are not the same people – the new 911 is a comfortable, seriously rapid sports coupe that is perhaps not as versatile as its four-seater specification might suggest.
But ignore the back seat, fire up the twin-turbo engine, reacquaint yourself with a clutch pedal and drive.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage from $219,895 plus on-road costs
The Aston coupe reeks of British pomp and ceremony but an extra 200kg on board falls short of the pace of the Porsche despite decent outputs it’s sub-$200k price tag helps its cause but fit, finish and reliability clouds remain.
Jaguar F-Type V8 R coupe from $229,190 plus on-road costs
Jag has resurrected its sportswear ranks with the F-Type and the supercharged V8 R coupe sits right in the 911’s pricing ballpark if a little on the pricey side.
The British coupe has a belligerent bark from the supercharged V8 and its bite matches the bark in a straight line, but it doesn’t have quite as supple a ride, nor is it as easy to drive quickly as the 911.
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