Is this the best 911 ever built? We went to Germany to find out.
If you followed the history of the 911, every time you drove one, you thought it would be impossible to make it better. Then the new model comes, and a new benchmark is set for Porsche itself and the competitors. It’s frustrating because you think you are always driving the best car in the world, but five years later, you are driving a “Classic” because the new Carrera is available. You don’t need to match the pace of evolution because, for example, a 993 Series (1994-1998) or a 997 Series (2005-2012) are still marvelous machines, but this new 992 is again a surprise from the Stuttgart factory.
We have spent three glorious days at the Porsche HQs of Stuttgart and Leipzig, with some of the most relevant people that thought, designed, engineered, molded, and finally created the Carrera 992. We were blown, and here below the story
Let’s start with some numbers first: Porsche is a 33,000 people mega-organization, selling nearly 260,000 vehicles per year globally. The single most substantial market is China, which only 15 years ago was a “Zero” in sales. Europe and Germany sales are getting weaker every year. The most relevant model in selling is the Macan, followed by the Cayenne and the Panamera. The 911 counts only 13% of the world sales with a small 35,500 units. So, if we think that Porsche was producing only the 911 until 2002 (the year of the debut of the SUV Cayenne), you can understand how massively the company has changed in 15 years. Today Porsche is a car mass production Company, with a unique DNA, given by the previous 40 years of Sport, Racing and the Carrera. So yes, the 911 is the DNA of the Company but let’s be clear, it only pays the salary of 13% of the employees.
Luckily, at Porsche, they still love the 911, and the successor of the previous 991 series is a gem. Aesthetically it hasn’t changed much from a first glance, but with more attention and with the help of Chief Designer Ingo Bauer-Scheinhuette, you start noticing the new backend featuring the unique “old Style” continuous, horizontal line and the number plate has been moved further down. The back end looks wider, which is true. The “2S” is now as wide as the “4S” version. Furthermore, the rear grille is made with vertical lines, like the old 911s and when I asked why did they do it that way, the simplicity of the answer made sense to me: “We liked it.”
The side hasn’t changed much either apart from the door handle, which now is pretty annoying. The usual classic piece that could be held from above and from underneath it has been replaced by a more modern handle that sticks out automatically when the door is unlocked, but the access for the fingers is only from underneath. The reason for this change is aerodynamic and style. Result? Pretty unpractical. The front part I liked the most is the nearly square bonnet profile in the lower part and the muscle lines drawn horizontally. In a few words, very few changes. The 911 is still the same old shape. Beautiful.
When you enter, first thing you notice is that the center part of the cockpit just below and around the gear lever is now much cleaner. All the buttons have been moved elsewhere, leaving the area soberer. Also, the dashboard line has been inspired by the original 911 of the 70s, which follows a horizontal line from left to right, apart from the curve given by the rev counter instrument always in the center, rightly so. Even the fonts and the style of the instruments resume the feel of those years. At Porsche they clearly suffer from nostalgia; me too. One thing I didn’t like is the new gear lever. It looks like a little plastic Gameboy joystick. It has lost touch and feel of the previous towering, gorgeous looking, forged aluminum gear lever that a “real man like a Porsche driver” would hold with pride when selecting gears manually. Why? Furthermore, in order to select the Manual mode, you have to take your eyes off the road and press a button just underneath the lever. A button! Oh Dear… The cabin is a great place to be, and the sitting position is perfect as usual. The steering wheel is the most vertical one in the market, the pedals are where they should be, visibility is excellent, and it’s comfortable to travel too. We drove around 500 km from Stuttgart to Leipzig without the shade of stress. The ambient is the expected classy, elegant, intelligent and welcoming. Quality of materials is impeccable. I spent quite a while observing and admiring some details, such as the shape of the seats, the doors finishing, the stitching on the steering wheel and the old style levers in the center of the console. It’s always a good feeling to sit in a new model and recognizing your old sofa.
On the Road
I drove the Convertible 992 2S from Stuttgart to Leipzig and thank to the glorious weather of June, I always kept the top open, apart from the last 50 km, to test the noise insulation of the “canvas”, which is “German” perfect. To drive on German Autobahns is a pleasure we forget. The general road conditions and the road education of the locals, combined with no speed limitation in the most of the stretches, allowed me to push the new 992 to the proximity of 295 km/h. Despite of the open top, the car felt completely at ease. Porsche claims more than 300km/h as a top speed in 6th of the 8th gears available. The front end of the car is a rock solid guide to your direction. The 90s 911 memory of a volatile front is long gone. The new 992 is very stable at any speed. In the twisty roads, the Carrera gives her best. The chassis is rigid enough to make the suspensions work with a great deal of precision. The steering is a bit filtered by the electronic but still one of the best in the market. Milli-metric adjustments can be made at any pace, directing the front wheels to very accurate lines. The back end is loyal and follows. It surely doesn’t feel the engine is right behind you. It truly is well balanced (maybe too much?). At the limit, where possible, you feel the behavior is neutral and getting under-steering if you push a touch beyond the limits. The 992 remains sensitive to the throttle management mid corner, although quite gently and surely less than in the past. This new Carrera gives you immediate confidence to drive fast, safe and with a big smile on your face.
The engine is a 6 Cylinder, 3 Liter turbo charged, capable today of 450 bhp. The best and the worst part is its immense torque at any regime. Let me explain. The power distribution in this new Turbo unit is extremely linear. 100% of torque is available at less than 2,500 rpm and stays “flat” until 5,500 rpm, which gives a constant push with no interruption. The great advantage is the drive-ability, the gentleness of power delivery, the immediate availability of acceleration. However, I said that before, if you have driven the older naturally aspirated boxer 6 Cylinders versions, you can remember the excitement of when the needle was passing the 5,000 rpm line. The noise, the push, the character was like entering the “privee” of the most exclusive party. You were buzzed with that very excitement that only that engine could give you from that line till the red zone. These new Turbo engines are surely better in every sense but I am afraid to say, they don’t make me shiver anymore.
On the Racetrack
When reached Leipzig, I joined a few sessions of testing on the Porsche private racetrack facility, which includes some of the most famous corners; the Karoussel of the Nurburgring, the Monza Parabolica and the Spa Francorchamps “Bus Stop”. It only takes few kilometers, to find the confidence and push hard. Front and back end are extremely amicable giving plenty of feedback in regards top the available grip. Following the local Instructor Frank, I could push the 992 2S close to its limits. The excellence of the chassis comes alive and remains perfectly controllable in any condition. The body stays incredibly stable under braking (my 992 had the insane PCCB Carbon Ceramic units, which never fade), the cars enters the bends very quickly, especially with a touch of “Trail-braking” and keeps the line strongly. Coming out of corners, the immense traction and the generosity of the engine help you being launched into the straight line. The updated PDK Gearbox is as good as you can get. Always precise and very quick. Probably a good contribution to this immaculate behavior is that the engine has been moved forward, considerably closer to the center, creating a more neutral dynamic and an enhanced control of the masses. We eventually played with the electronic aides, going through the different settings. The Porsche Active Stability Management has been so well tuned that probably the “Sport Plus” stage is the most engaging and it is very difficult to “beat”, unless you have a past of race driving. The leeway given and the subtle control of the ECU let you play with under and oversteer still remaining in a sort of safe zone. Hat off to the electronic engineers.
In the wet skid pad, I could test the car with no electronic controls. The way the 992 let herself driven through a long controlled drift reminds me of the days on the iced lakes in Finland at the time of the 997 II generation, where machine and man were the happiest companions in the most exhilarating dance. If a modern car can perform so well, without the help of a computer, it means that the project is extremely healthy, and that the combination of chassis, suspensions, geometry and power delivery have reached the Nirvana of engineering.
So, is this the best 911 ever built? Surely it is, what do you expect? It is a truly majestic machine. Does it have the same old soul? Probably yes but it has matured and has lost a touch of its legendary character, that thrill, that presence in your spine that always makes you stay alert. I can’t hide my partisan preference for this iconic machine but I wish it was less perfect, less civilized. I am dreaming, I know.
Photography by: Mr. Solo and Porsche AG