EVEN AUTOMOTIVE ICONS HAVE CHANGE THRUST UPON THEM, BUT FEW ALTERATIONS CAUSE A STIR AMONGST ENTHUSIASTS QUITE LIKE THOSE MADE TO THE PORSCHE 911.
Like water cooling and electric power steering - "quelle horreur!". But the concerns proved unfounded. And now turbos propel the entire range... talk about worrying over nothing.
The brand has ample forced-induction experience - a 911 Turbo or a recent GT2 is ample evidence of that - so, with that in mind, I clamber down into the ‘entry-level’ machine of the new 911 range.
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: from $217,800 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 272kW/450Nm 3.0 6cyl turbo petrol | 7sp manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.3 l/100km | Tested: 13.8 l/100km
A 911 Carrera seven-speed manual is at first glance a far from basic experience - the list price is $217,800, for which you get a two-door four-seater coupe with a solid, quality-built feel within the aluminium-steel body.
The doors, boot and bonnet are made of aluminium, keeping the kerb weight to a middling 1430kg.
The test car’s options list had adaptive LED headlights ($6490), the enjoyable sports exhaust system for $5890, $4990 for the electric glass sun roof (not a must-have), and the Sport Chrono Package which is $3890 well spent.
The optional Sport Chrono Package adds a tacked-on mode switch to the new sports steering wheel for the Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and 'Individual' driving modes.
You can use these to tailor the now-standard adaptive damping, active engine mounts, throttle and steering response.
Lane departure and blind-spot warning systems are optional, which does seem a little odd on a $200K car. The test car’s adaptive LED headlights replaced standard bi-xenon units, with four-spot LED daytime running lights within the main unit and LED tail-lights.
- Standard equipment: Cruise control, sports steering wheel, electric park brake, reversing camera, front and rear sensors, power windows and mirrors, trip computer, dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, auto headlights, leather trim, tyre pressure monitoring, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, traction and stability control, a post-collision braking function, hill-holder
- Infotainment: Touchscreen with USB & Aux inputs, satnav, digital radio reception, Bluetooth phone and audio link, Bose sound system with Apple CarPlay
Good first impressions of the cabin come from the soft-feel alcantara roof lining and leather-trimmed one-piece sports leather seats, the latter being more comfortable than first impressions suggest. The lateral support, a necessity, is also better than appearances first suggest.
The high-set centre tunnel carries the damper and sports exhaust buttons, as well as controls for the sunroof, all sitting aft of the manual gearshift.
There’s a small centre console best left for phone storage and folding door pockets for other items.
A grippy sports leather steering wheel and a three-barrel instrument set-up leaves little to the imagination, dominated by the tacho and a digital speedo.
A smaller analogue speedo and a trip computer screen sit on the outer edges, with the latter also able to display satnav, audio and performance data if desired.
The perfectly-placed pedals ache for enthusiastic manual driving, but those with large feet need deliberate footwork - it can be a little tight there.
The steering and seat adjustment works entirely as it should, allowing a sound driving position to be easily found.
The rear seats remain the domain of a primary school-aged occupant. Given the luggage space up front is 145 litres with some more space on the back parcel shelf, folding the rear seat backrest down improves storage (as well as the driver’s peace).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 272kW/450Nm 3.0 litre twin-turbo flat six petrol
- Transmission: Seven speed manual, RWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel cross-drilled and ventilated discs
- Steering: Variable steering ratio, power-assisted (electromechanical), 11.2m turning circle
The alloy flat-six has sprouted two turbos accompanying its drop to 3.0 litres in capacity, but outputs are up and thirst is down.
We’re off to a good start as that fact bounces around the brain box on the way out the dealership driveway. A prod on the accelerator awakens the marvel in the rear - a sonorous rising chorus, four overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, all with variable inlet and outlet valve timing as well as variable inlet valve lift.
Fed by direct injection, power is up 15kW to 272 kW at a musical 6500rpm, while the torque has increased by 60Nm to 450Nm and is now spread from 1700 to 5000rpm. Should be interesting.
My first meaningful squeeze of the throttle hints strongly at an in-gear surge in any of the seven speeds in the manual gearbox. Stamp it, in any gear, and the rear wheels get very busy, very quickly.
The manual gear change has good weighting to the shift action - as does the clutch pedal - with a clean, quick and relatively short throw between gears.
Get it right under full throttle and the claim is 100km/h in 4.6 seconds, 0.2 shy of the PDK, and 200km/h is topped in 15.3 seconds. There’s no real perception of lag and the remarkably linear surge through the rev range (for a twin-turbo) has events happening in fast-forward through the windscreen.
The soundtrack from the rear, assisted no doubt by the optional sports exhaust, rises with a characteristic chattering howl as it approaches the 7500rpm redline. Once into its stride and carving up a favoured back road, the aural accompaniment amuses in equal measure to the sublime handling.
And "sublime" it is, and riotous, but a controlled riot, with that rare and intoxicating feeling that comes with astonishing agility, balance and responsiveness. On any road you care to point it at, the 911 is the perfect blade.
We didn’t expect to replicate the laboratory derived number of 8.3 litres per 100km - it is a very rare occurrence in any vehicle, let alone one that’s this much fun - but 13.8 litres per 100km is more than respectable given the press-ahead driving being undertaken.
Bringing all the fun to a sharp halt is larger, ventilated and cross-drilled 330mm disc brakes, with four-piston callipers front and rear.
Also impressive is the ride quality, delivered by the black-magic Porsche adaptive suspension system acting on the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear, even more of an impressive feat given the optional 20-inch Carrera S wheels fitted.
The Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system’s electronically controlled dampers have two modes and both cope well on public roads.
Commuting in Normal mode - with no active exhaust soundtrack - and surfing the wave of torque, the 911 easily saunters through traffic with only some tyre noise noticeable in lieu of other intrusions on the ears.
The manual drivetrain doesn’t get grumpy in traffic, making domestic chores and the transport stages to roads more amusing become easy expeditions.
The sports mode passes on more of the road irregularities with less filtering, but it’s by no means harsh or jarring, but normal mode does offer compliance and comfort without losing the ability to destroy a corner with gusto.
Front-end bite in the corners is prodigious and prudent throttle use on exit results in rapid point-to-point progress. Excessive use of the throttle can result in extra attitude from the rear end, something which puts a cautious smile on any driver’s face.
THE VERDICT | OVERALL
Those who rallied against water-cooling and electric power-steering lost the fight. And turbo protesters may as well go and sit with them too - this newest Porsche 911 is a surprisingly comfortable (at least in the front) and seriously rapid sports coupe.
Tight in the rear, it's not as versatile as its four-seater specification might suggest.
But strap bags into the back seat, fire up the twin-turbo engine, re-acquaint yourself with a clutch pedal... and drive. Then, on any road, as if it needed to, it makes perfect sense.
(You probably already knew that.)
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