WHAT IS IT
Nothing less than the eighth generation of the world’s most revered nameplate, which has been on the market since 1963, selling more than 1 million vehicles, and counting. To purists, it’s the reason Porsche exists. There can be only 911.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Because this is not just another variant, it’s a truly new Porsche 911, with only 20 per cent of parts carrying over from the 991 into this 992 edition. It’s also a solid five seconds faster around the Nurburgring, matching the time of a Ferrari Enzo with a 7:25.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
There is a moment - there is always a moment when they nail the formula - and this time it’s braking from a steep hill and accelerating through a swinging S-bend in southern Spain.
You feel it through hands and hips - the shift in weight, the outrageous power-down whack of speed, the heart-skipping shake of the tail, the purity and pointiness of that sublime steering - then the exhilaration escapes your lips. An irrepressible “wow”. The 911 is back, and what a joy it is.
Look, the 991 was a mighty fine, ferally fast car, but for me some of the magic went missing. And after my first stint in the new 992 Carrera 4S, I wasn’t entirely sure Porsche had found it again, but a switch into a loud yellow S, with its puritan rear-drive and just that snifter less weight and I was in lust all over again.
Anyone who’d seen this new 992 version - the eighth generation of the icon - in the flesh was probably already enamoured with its looks. Seeing old and new parked together at the launch, it was immediately striking just how much more aggressive this model is, and how visually striking the radical choice to use two different wheel sizes (20 inch diameter at the front and 21 at the rear) is, giving the 911 a new posture.
Mr 911 himself, August Achleitner, says those big rear wheels, with their increased contact patch, are “the most important element of the whole car, because that’s where the engine is and where the power goes to the road”.
Front on, the bonnet is wider thanks to a front track that’s up by 45mm, and looks more elongated with its angry creases, while the fenders are also larger, and the new LED headlights catch the eye. As Porsche designer Ivo van Hulten points out, however, “the best side of the car, the real beauty of the 911, is from the rear, because this is how most people see it, when they’re being overtaken by one”.
And what a rear it is, almost Kardashian in scale and legend, updated with Ivo’s “super-modern, super-snazzy” continuous light strip, that beard-trimmer style boot lid and new, retro-styled lettering. No one will wonder whether you’ve bought the new 911 this time, they’ll know.
Nor will you have to wait for the GTS, or choose the C4S, to get the superior wide look at the back, because the rear track for the S is now the full width (1557mm).
There’s plenty that’s new inside as well, with a shift from the busy, T-shaped, button-heavy vertical look of the dash to a cleaner, horizontal design dominated by a slick, 10.9-inch central screen. But there’s old here as well, with a central analog tachometer flanked by two seven-inch screens to provide the traditional, five-dial layout.
It all feels and looks fabulous, unless you opt for the new agave green leather, which looks like a flayed frog skin. Personally, I can’t stand nor understand the new PDK shifter, which looks like a key fob has been rudely jammed in where a gear lever should go, but then I’d probably wait for the manual version, which should roll out - along with the base Carrera version - at year’s end.
Beneath the rear deck, the S models boast the same engine capacity at 2981cc, but with more power (up 22kW to 331kW) and torque (up 30Nm to 530Nm), thanks to redesigned turbochargers, an electronically managed wastegate and a 14 percent bigger intercooler.
Achleitner puts the jump in performance times (0 to 100km/h in 3.5 seconds, down from 3.9, and 0 to 200km/h in just 12.1 seconds, a drop of 0.8), and its five-second faster Nurburgring time (it did a 7:25, matching a Ferrari Enzo) down to more than just the improved power-to-weight ratio. Incidentally, the body in white weighs 12kg less, thanks to a drop in the percentage of steel used from 63 to 30 per cent, yet the 992 is actually 55kg heavier than a 991. The performance benefit is all about mechanical grip, and that 45mm wider front track.
“The way it accelerates out of corners now is better, and that’s because we transmitted more of the rolling forces to the front axle, which is made possible by the wider track, so we don’t have to support those rolling forces over the rear axle so much, and this improves traction, and power down,” explains Achleitner, who will retire in March after finishing on a high.
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Out in the unreal world of the scarily narrow but sinuous roads outside Valencia, that ability to achieve maximum thrust instantly out of slow corners is very much in evidence. “Damn this thing is fast!” came the squeal from co-driver Nathan Ponchard, and it really was, bringing to mind for me the kind of accelerative excitement I found years ago in my first-ever supercar, a Ferrari F430. Sure enough, the new 911 is faster. Got to love progress.
Achleitner is also particularly chuffed with the blend of supple ride quality while retaining peerless wheel control, which he says is due to new damper technology that allows the 911’s computers to adjust them hundreds of times per second, with the result that “harshness is completely eliminated”.
“We no longer have to wait until the damper velocity becomes zero at the lowest or highest point of its travel, to make adjustments, and this is a first for us,” he says. “These dampers are more expensive, but it has been a really big step because we didn’t want to make the whole car softer to improve the comfort. It must be as stiff as necessary for what we need for a sports car, but for everyday use, this helps.”
And what of the steering, that vital element in any 911, and for me the essence of a sporty Porsche? Well, it’s definitely better, sharper and with “more go-kart feeling”, as Achleitner puts it. In exact terms, the 992’s steering is 11 percent more direct than the previous car, and the goal was to almost entirely remove any “elasticity”.
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Porsche engineers deny that this was because previous cars had gone a bit soft (although there was some talk at the 991 launch about customers not wanting the steering to be “so busy”), and Achleitner tells Wheels that the change, which I love, was more about fitting in with the overall feel of the new car.
“We just wanted the steering to match the new ability of the whole chassis to feel more precise and more direct, because it all has to fit together; the feedback from the tyres into the car means you can make the steering more direct, and then that has to work with the brake pedal feeling, which is now harder, with less travel. It all has to share one feeling,” he says. That desire to make the whole new car feel more direct, more sporty, more wondrous, sums up why every 911 is great, and why this might be the greatest of them all.
There is another moment, at the end of the day, when we are finally unleashed on a race track for some hot laps behind an instructor in a GT3 RS, which struggles to out-accelerate the new Carrera S down the straight. That moment comes in a flat out left-hander, taken too fast to even glance at the speedo, and in most cars it would be a heart-in-dry-mouth experience, but this new 911 just grips and rips and roars. And I can’t stop smiling.
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And then I have that sinking moment, when I remember that this new 911 will start at $265,000 (and $281,100 for the C4S). Sigh.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Making a car that’s already so close to perfection somehow more perfect should be a challenge, but it’s what Porsche engineers live for. The new 911 truly is a big step forward, and might just be the best of the breed.