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Frankfurt show: New Porsche 911 throws away history

Changes: The new 911 switches to electro-mechanical steering for the first time.

Porsche 911 lead engineer says new model started on a blank sheet of paper

16 Sep 2011


THE man they call Mr 911 says Porsche has “thrown away history” with the latest generation of the iconic rear-drive coupe to lift it to a new level.

Porsche 911 vehicle line director August Achleitner said the new Type 991 model is seventh-generation but only the third all-new model in the 911’s existence.

The most recent new platform was introduced in 1993 when the 993 model was introduced, along with water-cooled engines.

Mr Achleitner said that platform was ready to be retired.

“That is a good time,” he sdaid. “During production we have so many things changing, legislative regulations and so on,” he said.

“It makes more sense to make a clear piece of paper and throw away history and make a new design and a new concept for the car that considers all the requirements for the beginning.”

Improving the performance and handling further was one of the main objectives with the new car.

“Of course, it is a sportscar and it is faster than the other one, the performance is better and the performance is coming from the total layout,” he said.

25 center imageLeft: Porsche 911 vehicle line director August Achleitner.

“The chance came by creating a new platform to make the change in some directions.”

Apart from a 100mm increase in wheelbase, he mentions a stiffer body and new suspension parts as the key elements of improvement for the new car.

“With the new platform, we have many cast aluminium suspension parts with a bigger stiffness and a better damping behavior,” he said. “This is the most critical point in this area.” The new platform also enabled the Porsche team to improve the refinement of the car, an element of the previous model that had been criticised.

“Before you start development you write down all the targets and developments for the new car and of course we wanted to improve the noise characteristic,’ he said.

“One was tyre noise and the second was wind noises. And we achieved a dramatic reduction of both noises in the new car together with the new platform.

“Improving the comfort of the car means a reduction of the noises but not the reduction of sound. By reduction of the noises we can transmit better engine sounds into the interior so you can hear what you want to hear and not what you don’t want to hear.”

The new body layout – and especially the redesign of the section below the rear window where transmission noises were channeled – have allowed for a big improvement, although German customers are more likely to benefit than Australians.

“In Germany when you do 200km/h, the 997 conversation with your co-driver is almost not possible, because it is getting too loud in the interior, but with this car there is absolutely no problem,” Mr Achleitner said.

Sitting at the traffic lights is also quieter, thanks to idle-stop, that also reduces fuel economy.

Mr Achleitner said the 911’s improved refinement was a great achievement, but that the car was still an exciting sportscar when the driver selected one of the performance modes.

“There is a wide range between on the one hand comfort and reduction of fuel consumption and if you operate without the sport button the car is very economical and cruises at switches off the engine at the traffic lights,” he said.

“Then you have one button, the Sport or Sport Plus, and it changes from a very economic modern car to a race machine so dramatically that you almost can’t imagine it.” One of the biggest changes, and one that is making plenty of enthusiasts a little nervous, is the switch from a hydraulic power steering system to an electro-mechanical system.

The 911 has been regarded as one of the best, if not the best, steering vehicle available.

The rack is largely the same as the 997 model, but it now carries an electric motor.

Mr Achleitner said the adaption of the system would deliver fuel benefits, but especially in a straight line when no assistance was required.

But he said the new system enabled engineers to cut out some of the negative feedback through the steering wheel.

“(With) Today’s 911 you always have this movement in the steering system,” he said. “On the one hand you get the perfect information from what is happening, and I think it is still benchmark, but there is some information (coming through) that you don’t need to feel.”

Mr Achleitner said the electric system could be more easily tuned, allowing for more accurate set-ups for all 911 variants.

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