Sexy, slick and speedy: The new Porsche 911 leaves car lovers licking their lips

Jun 07, 2019
Share:
Slide 1 of 4

If the all-new 2019 Porsche 911 were a car taken in isolation, an isolation that doesn’t draw on the model’s 55-year history, then what you would have is one bloody great sports car.

But, such is the storied history of the Porsche 911, an unbroken history that dates back to 1964 and seven previous generations, it’s almost impossible to separate the 992-gen car from those that have come before. That’s because the DNA of that very first car (no internal code for that one, just plain old 911) runs through the veins of every subsequent model.

And it’s a philosophy summed up in the final statement made at last week’s international launch of the new 911 in Valencia, Spain: “The 911 is still just what it has always been”.

At first glance, the new 911 looks like an evolution of the 991.2-gen it replaces. But don’t be fooled by the visual evolution. This is, in every respect, a new car.

How new? For starters, it’s bigger and heavier than its immediate predecessor. That might not sound like an engineering triumph, but bear with me here because pound for pound, this is a more potent 911.

The wheelbase remains unchanged at 2450mm, but the overall length has increased slightly to 4519mm; a 20mm gain that can be found in the front overhang.

The biggest growth spurt is in the 911’s width, and it is visible to the naked eye. And, oh my, it looks oh-so good. Previously, only all-wheel-drive models and the GTS were treated to those curvaceous haunches at the rear. Now, though, for this 992 generation, all 911s will feature those luscious hips that make you go weak at the knees just at the sight of them.

It’s a deliberate strategy, according to Porsche’s Ivo van Hulten, who says “The optical focus is all going to the rear … that’s the strength of the 911”.

And he’s right. Stand anywhere in the vicinity of the new 911, and your eyes are drawn to the rear where those hips hint at a technical mastery that lurks beneath. “The shape follows its technicality,” says van Hulten.

For the first time, too, the 911 will feature staggered wheel sizes; an aspect previously only reserved for hardcore RS models. The base Carrera will have 19-inch wheels at the front matched to 20s at the rear. But at launch, we were treated to S and 4S variants, both of which wear 20-inch alloys at the front and 21s out back. Bigger wheels, more rubber, no bad thing.

The 911 DNA is also visible at the front. The headlights (LED) are more upright than in the previous generation and the bonnet features a creased recess, both features reminiscent of earlier 911 models.

That homage continues inside, with a simple design that again harks back to the original. The dash now runs the full width of the cabin in an uninterrupted plane. The 10.9-inch touchscreen is integrated into the dash, while underneath five beautifully tactile toggle switches offer an array of functions.

The instrument cluster features a centrally mounted analogue tachometer that looks like it’s been lifted straight out of the original 911. It’s a lovely thing to behold, and adds an air of nostalgia to the cabin. That tacho is flanked on either side by four digital dials (two on each side) that can display any number of customisable views. The whole array of five dials, curved towards the driver, is a design lifted straight out of the original 911.

The seats have been redesigned too, and are now lighter and more supportive, especially in the shoulder area, according to Porsche. And again, early 911 DNA makes its presence felt via leather loops that facilitate the folding of the seats for back-row entry. Further, one of our test cars was finished in houndstooth cloth, trimmed in leather, and reminiscent of the 1960s. Of course, there are myriad options for interior finishes, but this particular example stood out for its slightly retro feel.

One nitpicking gripe, in PDK variants at least, is the design of the gear selector that looks a bit cheap. It’s small, plasticky, and a little out of place in a Porsche. Of course, a manual transmission would eliminate this gripe, but there are no manual variants of the new 911 yet – those promised further down the model line.

Of course, wearing a 911 badge (and it too has been given the homage treatment with the ‘911’ emblem festooned on the rear finished in the font of days gone by… Nice touch) brings with it an expectation.

The 911 formula is simple – always has been. Take a flat-six, cram it into the rear under those menacing haunches, and let physics take over. These days, of course, all 911s are turbocharged, which is de rigueur for those hunting performance and fuel economy.

Under the tail of this new 992 generation lurks a heavily revised version of Porsche’s trusted 3.0-litre flat-six. Power is quoted at 331kW (6500rpm) while torque is rated at 530Nm (between 2300–5000rpm). Those outputs are significantly up on the previous Carrera S gen (309kW and 500Nm), and now closely mirror the outputs of the previous-gen’s brawnier GTS model (331kW and 550Nm). Which begs the questions, just how much can Weissach’s engineers extract from this 3.0-litre mill, and what will the new 992-gen GTS look like on the power charts? A tantalising prospect.

For now, though, Porsche has been busy with its 9A2 3.0-litre flat-six, upgrading the twin turbochargers (they’re larger) and re-engineering the charge air coolers that now live in a space above the mufflers (as opposed to under the rear light assembly in previous generations). The end result is more efficiency and more direct power and torque delivery. And that, obviously, is a good thing. We could write pages about the technical improvements/changes to the 992-gen Porsche 911. And in fact, we have, here.

But what really matters, and what we have done for the first time since the car was unveiled at the LA Auto Show late last year, is drive it. Hard.

The global launch of the new 911 comprised both a road loop through the back roads and mountains of Valencia in Spain, and a hardcore track session at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo. Both provide the perfect canvas to exploit the 911’s performance, albeit in vastly different ways.

With the sun still rising over the Mediterranean, the day starts with a road loop of around 170km; a mix of highway and mountain blacktops. And it’s immediately apparent there is a duality to the 911. On the highway, there is a refined quietude, the Carrera S humming at a loping 1800rpm in eighth gear at the signposted 120km/h. It’s quiet (bar some intrusive wind noise) and comfortable, even if those newly designed seats – which Porsche proudly proclaims are thinner – are a touch on the firm side. They’re not uncomfortable exactly, but you are aware of how firm they are.

Stab the throttle for a burst of overtaking, and the nose lifts and the Porsche hurtles down the road like a jet fighter about to take off. It’s insanely fast under hard acceleration. How fast? Try 0–100km/h in 3.5 seconds and 0–200km/h in a blistering 12.1 seconds. Those figures are with the optional Sports Chrono fitted. If you don’t tick that option box, your 911 Carrera S will perform at a much more leisurely pace – 3.7sec and 12.4sec respectively. So yeah, it’s quick. Quicker than the 991.2 model it replaces (4.1 seconds).

And this is despite the new car being heavier by some 55kg (1515kg against 1460kg). Most of this weight gain has come via Porsche future-proofing the 911 for hybrid and electric variants, with the 992 chassis already primed for battery packs and electric motors.

To combat this heftier 911, Porsche has reduced the amount of steel used in its composition down to 30 per cent (from 63 per cent). Underpinning the new 911 for the first time is the Porsche-developed MMB modular platform. As well as providing the platform for the all-new 911, MMB will also underpin the next Cayman and Boxster models.

Hitting the highway at cruising speed highlights the 911’s duality as a comfortable daily driver, albeit one with the type of performance that simply makes you squeal like a child. But it’s on back roads, those twisting, dipping, climbing, cresting stretches of tarmac high in the mountains around Valencia, where the new 911 really shows its mettle.

With the shackles of highway driving cast asunder, there is a whoosh from the engine matched to a sudden surge as the new eight-speed PDK swaps cogs in the hunt for torque and the 911 throws you at the scenery. It all happens in an instant – there is just no lag whatsoever. The car responds with a willingness that is other-worldly. Your brain almost can’t keep up.

Cornering is a delight. There is no slip, no understeer or oversteer. This car has limits that are beyond mere mortals. There is just a surety under wheel that inspires you to attack the next bend a little harder. And you do. And the result is the same. Rinse repeat.

There is simply nothing about this car that gives pause for hesitation. It is sublime whether on the motorway where she happily cruises at the speed limit with barely a ripple, or out in the mountains where the only thing holding you back is your fear of mortality.

That new eight-speed PDK is delightful, and so good you’d be a fool not to use it, even when you’re having a red-hot go. I switched to manual transmission, using paddle shifters to swap cogs. But honestly, I was no match for the intuitive nature of the PDK, my shifts either too early or too late (with the commensurate needle bouncing off the rev limiter). Instead, the PDK left to its own devices is simply sublime, no matter the drive mode – Normal, Sport, Sport+ – chosen. It’s just so intuitive, almost as if lurking somewhere within its casing there sits a Formula 1 driver (Mark Webber, maybe?) changing gears at exactly the right moment.

Interestingly, the new eight-speed PDK is the same as the one developed for the new Porsche Panamera, albeit in reverse to suit the 911’s rear-engined platform. Also interestingly, if you could peek inside the transmission casing, you’d see a reasonably large empty space. Again, future-proofing for a hybrid 911. Make no mistake, it’s coming. Porsche isn’t saying when, though.

Arguably, the 992’s greatest party trick is its handling, with Porsche’s PASM adaptive dampers again offering a superb blend of comfort and performance. Highway cruising offers a soft, compliant ride, the 911 ironing out bumps and lumps with barely a ripple in the cabin. Dial up the performance, though, and the 992 firms up. Not uncomfortably mind you, just nicely, to provide greater feedback through the steering wheel and a better connection to the road.

Yes, this is a bigger 911, in every way, and yet despite its larger and heavier profile, it remains in every respect a proper sports car. Hustling through the tight and twisting mountain passes at launch highlighted just how agile and confidence-inspiring the 911 remains. The steering is beautifully weighted, while feedback through the wheel is sublime, nuanced even. Every movement of the chassis and wheels when cornering, and cornering hard, is fed straight back to your hands. There’s no guesswork, simply a telegraph of feedback that is both grin-inducing and confidence-inspiring.

That feeling is only amplified on the racetrack, where the shackles of road rules are cast asunder and the 911 can stretch its not inconsiderable legs. It takes less than two laps to throw off the cloud of circumspection. Instead, with as much swagger as you can muster, you can manhandle the Carrera S with an abandon and a willingness that incites laughter inside the cabin – loud, raucous laughter. A car is not supposed to be this much fun.

As much as the Carrera S is a grand tourer, perfectly at home on the highways and the urban environment, it is also an intoxicating (and somewhat mind-blowing) sports car. With everything set to maximum performance (Sport+), the Carrera S stuns with its blend of speed and agility.

I won’t describe an entire lap of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, but its technical nature, with tight apexes and sweeping bends married to a long straight, offers a perfect backdrop. Even as an amateur, you can drive the 911 with menacing intent, your confidence growing with each lap. Changes of direction do little to unsettle the rear end. Instead, the Carrera S goes exactly where you tell it to, and with a surety that sees you pushing a little harder with each successive lap. And still, you fail to get anywhere near its limits.

The brakes, too, urge you to push that little bit harder with each lap. There’s no fade, and neither does the 911 become light in the tail under heavy braking. There’s no squirming under brakes, just a measured and clean retardation of speed that again gives you the confidence to brake just that little bit later the next lap. It’s as intoxicating as it is wide-eyed fun.

Porsche is staggering the rollout of the new 992-generation 911. First to make their way Down Under will be the Carrera S and the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S. We briefly sampled the 4S at launch, but it was a short 40km stint exclusively on Valencia’s motorways, so any definite review will have to wait until it lobs locally in the second quarter of this year.

Porsche Cars Australia has confirmed the Carrera S will start at $265,000 plus on-road costs, while the 4S can be yours for $281,100 (plus on-roads).

Standard on both models will be what Porsche is claiming as a world first. Porsche’s Wet Mode (selectable via the rotary dial on the steering wheel) adjusts the car’s stability systems to suit the ultra-slippery conditions, in short, dulling everything down. Sensors located within the front wheel arches detect sonic frequencies coming off the road. With wet roads having a distinct sound, the system will then alert the driver and suggest Wet Mode be engaged. Once engaged, throttle response is softened while Porsche’s traction-management system is optimised for the slippery conditions.

We sampled Wet Mode on a wet course at Circuit Ricardo Tormo and it works incredibly well. Even throwing the 911 into soaking wet corners at a speed no-one is ever likely to hustle in those conditions failed to unsettle the Porsche. Instead, traction control and ABS worked in conjunction to ensure the 911 remained on the road. It’s probably not completely idiot-proof, but I’d venture it’s pretty damn close.

It’s a long way from the original 1964 Porsche 911 to today’s high-tech, performance-focussed model. But, that unmistakeable bloodline remains – the 911 as immediately recognisable as it has always been. That this iteration is as good as it is should come as no surprise. After all, Porsche has been developing this car for 55 years. It just keeps getting better with age.

Taken in isolation, the 992 Porsche 911 is a great sports car, but looked at in the context of its family tree, it is a successor worthy of the 911 emblem. As Porsche states, the 911 is “a pure sports car and the beating heart of Porsche – our icon”.

And it is.

Leave your comment

Retrieving conversation…