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First drive: Base-level Porsche 911 arrives

Porsche 911 Carrera to share title of most popular 911 variant alongside S grade

6 Feb 2020

PORSCHE Cars Australia’s entry point to the legendary 911 range has touched down in Australia following the new-generation model’s launch a year ago, with the Carrera entering showrooms priced from $229,700 plus on-road costs.


The arrival of the Carrera and Carrera 4, which officially went on sale in December, follows the 992-type Carrera S and 4S which began deliveries last April, followed by the 911 Cabriolet versions.


Speaking to GoAuto at a drive event held in conjunction with the Bathurst 12 Hour last weekend, Porsche Cars Australia head of public relations Chris Jordan said he expects the Carrera and Carrera S to juke it out for the title of most popular 911 grade.


“The two most popular model lines for 911 are Carrera S and Carrera, and really they fluctuate as the best seller really based on when they launch and the cars we have,” he said.


“So usually we launch with Carrera S which makes it the best seller to start with, and then just as supply of Carrera S ramps down is usually when Carrera grows.


“They actually sell in relatively similar volumes – across the three-year cycle they sell in reasonably similar numbers – Carrera S to start with and Carrera after.”


The 992 911 will see its first full year on sale in 2020, however when asked about an increase in volume for the legendary coupe, Mr Jordan said outright sales are not a priority for the German sportscar-maker.


Yet Porsche is seeing strong demand for the 911, and with the slight backlog of deliveries and more variants on the way, eclipsing 2019’s 504 sales should be well within reach.


We got a chance to sample the 911 Carrera in and around the home of Australian motorsport, Bathurst, which left us with the impression that the term ‘base model’ does not come close to doing it justice.


The 911 Carrera uses a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged flat six-cylinder engine like the 331kW/530Nm S grade, but in this case is tuned to produce 283kW at 6500rpm – up 11kW over the outgoing model – and an unchanged 450Nm from 1950-5000rpm.


All Carrera variants are, for now, teamed to an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, sending power either to the rear wheels or all four with a rear-biased all-paw set-up.


A seven-speed manual is also on the way towards the end of the year, which should be offered across the majority of the 911 range.


For what is an entry-level model, the 911 Carrera produces an awesome level of performance, with the rear-engined flat six barking its way through the gears and providing smile-inducing thrust.


The engine enjoys being pushed to redline and provides plentiful power delivery just about anywhere across its rev band, with the optional sports exhaust ($5470) fitted to our test car providing a cacophony of snaps and crackles from behind the occupants’ heads.


Throttle response is razor-sharp with a natural feel, increasing in resistance the further you push it down. For a car like this, full throttle is rarely needed.


The eight-speed dual-clutch auto’s response is razor-sharp, with lightning-quick gear changes and an intuitive character that will instantly kick down a couple of gears when the accelerator is pushed, even in Normal drive mode.


If there is one complaint about the 911’s powertrain, it’s that the entry-level version could use a greater dose of torque, particularly for rolling acceleration bursts.


The peak torque band is wide, however stepping up to the S provides that extra punch when already travelling at speed. Keep in mind this is a minor gripe; the Carrera’s engine is otherwise stellar, especially considering it only gets more potent from there.


Our drive returned fuel economy results roughly between 14 and 15 litres per 100km, well up on the 9.0L/100km official figure but that was with a healthy dose of right foot and the tachometer spending most of its time north of 3000rpm.


While the 911’s powertrain is undoubtedly a highlight, it is arguably overshadowed by its sublime chassis balance and handling, which is among the best in the industry.


The steering of the 911 is beautifully balanced, with perfectly calibrated steering inputs and ample mechanical-feeling feedback that gives the driver a genuine feeling of connection to the road.


This is paired to a stiff, well-balanced chassis that stays wonderfully flat through corners, and refuses to over or understeer unless pushed to the absolute limit, which is out of the realm of most drivers, and most road-legal conditions.


The stiffness of the chassis and the firm ride quality typical of a sportscar does lead to some harsh ride characteristics, especially on coarse-chip roads where the 19-inch front/20-inch rear alloys can struggle to contain the harsh road conditions.


On smooth roads, the ride quality is otherwise perfectly fine for a car of its capabilities.


The rear-mounted engine weighing down the fat rear tyres together ensure grip is plentiful even when mid-corner, with little to no hint of tyre squeal to be found.


With how poised it feels, the 911 is the kind of car that will give its driver an over-inflated ego and an exaggerated sense of driving ability.


Like its wonderfully mechanical-feeling throttle and steering, the Carrera’s brakes similarly feel perfectly set up, giving ample feedback and a smooth brake feel that can turn into fierce stopping power with the pedal pushed all the way to the floor.


Put simply, the 911 is a fantastic driver’s car, even in base Carrera spec – but that’s been known for over 50 years now.


Stepping into the cabin of the 911 Carrera, Porsche’s designers have taken inspiration from the clean, well-integrated designs of its larger stablemates like the Cayenne and Panamera to create a simple and classy interior that removes much of the clutter and busyness of its predecessor.


The 10.9-inch multimedia display is embedded sleekly into the dash, and operated via the touchscreen and a handful of surrounding buttons.


This is a significant improvement over the outgoing 991 generation, which felt too cluttered with a mish-mash of buttons that would leave uninitiated drivers overwhelmed.


The instrument cluster is now made up of two digital screens flanking the central tachometer, which in theory look great, but realistically when in use are largely blocked by the steering wheel, depending on your seating position.


Dimensions are comfortable for front passengers, however the two rear seats are largely tokenistic and most people will have a very hard time fitting in.


The 911’s rear pews do come in handy for extra storage, with the 132-litre ‘frunk’ only good for a couple of overnight bags.


The interior otherwise feels well put together, with only some soft plastics on the dash giving away the fact that it is the entry-level model.


If there is one genuine issue with the 911, and Porsche models at large, it is the expansive options list that can quickly cause the asking price to balloon, with some features on the options list that should be standard on a vehicle that starts at $229,500.


For example, the Sport Chrono package fitted to 90 per cent of Australian 911s costs $4890, adaptive cruise control asks $3570 and park assist with surround-view monitor is $2170.


This is despite the fact that Australian Porsches generally have a higher level of standard spec compared to other global markets.


The 911 Carrera test car we drove was fitted with $48,400 worth of options, pushing the asking price to $277,900 plus on-roads, so prospective buyers should be prepared to budget some extra coin over the manufacturer’s list price.


While the 911 has its flaws, it is without doubt one of the great driver’s cars on sale today.


The entry-level Carrera may not quite provide the neck-snapping straight-line performance of some of its more powerful siblings, however its sublime handling, chassis balance and overall visceral driving experience justify its status as an automotive legend.


Bring on the 992 Turbo and GT3.

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