There are few cars on the road today as instantly recognisable as the Porsche 911. They have grown significantly larger over the last almost-60 years but the fundamental design has remained the same. Here I’m reviewing the latest iteration – the 992-generation – in Carrera S guise.
I won’t spend a great deal of time describing how it looks on the outside because, well, it looks like a Porsche 911. There are some nods to the past, including the forward-extended bonnet with a recess in front of the windscreen, which is reminiscent of the G series 911.
There are also many, many design differences between this generation and the last. For example, there are all-new LED headlights and one-piece LED light strip at the rear and it is wider, much wider, than its predecessor. The model reviewed here is 44 millimetres wider at the front axle and 44 wider at the rear.
I could go on to list the dozens of changes that Porsche have made but I’m almost certain to bore all but the most hardcore petrolheads catatonic at the very least so, rather than dwell on the aesthetics, I think it far more useful to focus on the things that matter, like how does it go, how does it sound, and how does it feel. And, ultimately, is it actually any good.
Well, climbing inside – although, for me, it was more akin to tumbling – feels pretty special. The revamped interior manages to be both minimalist and luxurious and every surface, switch or dial that you’re likely to interact with is beautifully finished. Indeed, all the controls feel well-damped, robust and look classy.
You sit very close to the floor, with your legs almost straight out ahead of you. The seats are quite narrow but provide plenty of support so, even though the padding is quite shallow, you should be comfortable even after longer stints behind the wheel.
Visibility out the front is good thanks to slim A-pillars and the bulging front wings serve as useful guides to the relative position of the front wheels. The view out the back is surprisingly clear too, thanks to a deep rear window. Front and rear parking sensors are fitted as standard so no one should find manoeuvring in tight spaces a chore.
Sitting behind the wheel you’ll find yourself looking at a traditional analogue rev counter that’s flanked by two freeform frameless digital, and customisable, displays that appear to float, harking back to the original 911.
The centre of the dashboard is dominated by a 10.9in flush-mounted touchscreen display. Its position – and the fact that it is a touchscreen –does mean that you have to divert your eyes from the road to operate it. Fortunately it is bright, clear and responds instantly to your touch so you won’t be distracted for too long. It could be a little more intuitive but overall the functionality is excellent.
You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included as standard.
Beneath the screen is a row of toggle switches that hark back to 911s of yore and, beneath those, you’ll find analogue controls for the air conditioning which, thankfully, haven’t been buried beneath one of the menus on the infotainment system.
Finally there’s a stubby drive selector that does exactly what it says on the tin. If you want to flick through the eight ratios manually, there are paddles behind the steering wheel for that.
The front seats slide back a long way and there’s plenty of headroom to accommodate all but the most extravagant of hairstyles. There are back seats. However, thanks to that sloping roof and very real absence of legroom, they really are only suitable for smaller people – also bearing in mind that a certain amount of agility is required to climb into the back – or additional luggage.
If you’re looking for somewhere to store the odds and ends that will inevitably accumulate then you’re restricted to relatively small door bins, a shallow cubby beneath the centre armrest that will accommodate a mobile phone or a wallet and a deep, but narrow glovebox. Porsche have found room for a pair of cupholders, though.
So far, so Porsche then. The new 911 is undoubtedly a beautifully engineered car but what is like to drive?
That’s an easy question to answer: Brilliant.
Straight-line performance is astonishing. And not just off the blocks either, because the Carrera S will keep on keeping on ever after that initial thump of acceleration. Peak torque – 391lbft – arrives at just 2,300rpm but, unlike many modern turbocharged engines it doesn’t run out of steam as the revs climb, rather it feels absolutely indefatigable in its pursuit of its relatively lofty 7,500rpm red line.
So rapid is it, in fact, that you truly appreciate the way the dual-clutch automatic gearbox responds so flawlessly and quickly on both upshifts and downshifts that the car always feels balanced, even if you swap ratios mid-corner.
The Carrera S and 4S are fitted with 20in wheels at the front and 21 at the back as standard and yet, despite their size and very shallow sidewalls the 911 does a remarkable job of isolating occupants from broken road surfaces although that changes quickly if you select the firmer Sport setting.
Now, don’t go imagining that it’s like riding on a cushion of air but for a car as focused on delivering a compelling and involving drive the 911 is tremendously comfortable. Tackle a series of challenging crests and dips and it will demonstrate remarkable stability and body control.
It isn’t just the ups and downs where the 911 performs brilliantly, thanks to beautifully judged steering that is perfectly weighted, communicative and predictable in its responses, you can confidently press on right to the limits of adhesion with absolute confidence.
The electronically-controlled dampers, fitted as standard, keep the body flat and infallible, meaning that there’s almost no lean at all in corners.
Fit the optional sports exhaust and your high-speed – but legal, of course – exploits will be accompanied by an appropriately raucous and racy soundtrack. Turning off this feature reduces the volume enough to ensure that the engine never becomes too intrusive.
It isn’t the best car for covering vast distances, though, thanks to a degree of wind whistle from around the frameless windows at high speed while those wide tyres are prone to generating a lot of noise over rougher surfaces.
The boot – or in this case the froot – is large enough to hold a carry-on suitcase while the rear seats split and fold down to allow you to carry longer items, like a set of golf clubs, relatively comfortably.
Every generation has invariably been better than the last. This, then, should be the best yet. It’s hard to argue against that fact when one day you’re threading your way through a series of tight bends in the countryside and the next you’re popping down to the supermarket.
There are few cars on the road that can deliver huge thrills and yet remain so easy to live with day-to-day. It is beautifully built, too, but a long options list means that you can very quickly add thousands of pounds to the list price.
Porsche 911 Carerra S
As tested: £109,302
Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed PDK
Max power: 450hp
Max torque: 530Nm
Max speed: 191mph
Extra urban: 7.9l/100km
Emissions (CO2): 205g/km
For more information visit www.porsche.co.uk