Road test: we put the eighth generation Porsche 911 through its paces
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Timeless. Iconic. The yardstick. How do we write about a new 911 without rehashing commentary?
Over its 56-year lifespan the 911 has become known as all the aforementioned. Its position as the premium sportscar against which all others must be judged is not conjecture in the industry; it’s lore.
The question we must ask of this eighth generation 911 is whether it has evolved suitably to maintain its status as the category archetype?
And that’s becoming increasingly difficult to answer. Sportscar buyers today are in the enviable position of being able to trip over compelling 911 competitors from the likes of Audi (R8) Aston Martin (Vantage), Mercedes Benz (AMG GT), BMW (M4) and Jaguar (F-type SVR).
So, evolution for this 911 — or 992 model code for all you Porsche-o-philes — is particularly critical.
The gateway to the range, and the first of the latest generation 911 available in New Zealand, is the $248,100 Carrera 2S we have on test.
Straight out of the gate, the aesthetics are exactly what we’ve come to expect; full of homage for past iterations but with numerous modernised nuances you keep picking up each time you look at the car.
The big change is a slightly squarer front chin, wider rear quarters are now featured on 2-wheel drive models (previously only 4S models were the wider body) and the modernised rear end and horizontal tail-light strip which, except for a less elegant brake high-stop light, are stunning from every angle.
Inside is an even more obvious representation of how Porsche has stepped up the 911’s game amidst its newest competitors.
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Gone is the large double-din style infotainment centre stack that’s been a mainstay of Porsche interiors for a couple of decades; along with it Porsche has ditched the conventional automatic transmission lever.
Like the exterior, the dash now features a prominent horizontal edge spanning the whole width. This form factor is reminiscent of 70s era 911 and, embossed with contemporary patterning and accented with knurled switchgear and exacting fit and finish, it’s transformed the occupant experience.
Aesthetically it’s much cleaner but functionality is also significantly enhanced with a 10.9in high resolution touch screen with an intuitive and responsive Porsche Communication Management system, permanent connectivity, online navigation systems and phone integration/voice control.
The instrument cluster has received 2019 techy upgrades, too. The standard analogue tachometer remains front and centre as every 911 before it, now flanked by two more high res, full colour digital screens allowing the driver to scroll through a secondary navigation display, trip computer readouts and, if fitted with the Sports Chrono package ($5290), a lap timer and G-force indicator for track use.
The steering wheel marginally interferes with the driver’s view of the outer edges of the instrument display but that’s a minor niggle from an otherwise great driver-orientated interior.
And, despite plenty of new-fangled technology, Porsche has done well not to bloat the 911 with elements that over-complicate. It’s all simple to navigate on the road without distraction.
That’s good news, too, because there are better things to appropriate your attention with when behind the wheel of the Carrera S. The growly 3-litre flat six bi-turbo powerplant is a carryover, but with larger turbos, improved breathing and injectors, there’s a healthy 22kW power increase and 30Nm torque increase taking the engine to 331kW, 530Nm respectively.
This is mated to a standard 8-speed PDK transmission (manual gearboxes remain as an option on the 992) and with the Sports Chrono package you can switch between Normal, Sport, Sport Plus drive modes from the dial on the steering wheel.
Among the new features are Porsche’s WET mode supporting the driver for optimised wet driving performance and in the centre of the drive mode dial you can activate Sport Response mode for a 20-second stint with a push button at the tip of your thumb. Sounds gimmicky but it’s a great “press to pass” type of functionality you can initiate without really thinking about things. We used it more often than we had anticipated.
On the road, mere mortal drivers won’t identify a paradigm shift in driving dynamics, but that speaks to the pedigree of the 911 rather than any shortcomings with the latest version.
The good news is it remains delightfully engaging and lithe to drive; 0-100km/h in 3.5s with the must-have Sports Chrono package and a wave of forced induction torque livens up the rear end easily from stand still. Around bends, the signature 911 rear engine layout and low centre of gravity rewards with balance, weight transfer, steering weight and turn-in precision that just can’t be replicated. There’s no shortage of mechanical grip on offer either from the standard 245/35 20in front boots and huge 305/30 21in rears.
It’s a car that envelops you as a driver and puts you immediately at ease. And, with the attractive new interior and user-friendly features, it’s even more enjoyable to spend time in, whether you’re on twisty backroads or in the thick of an urban motorway grind.
Porsche has successfully nudged the goalposts out with the new 911. It’s retained all the driving pleasure the model is known for but modernises the experience with cleaner linage, a vastly improved interior and new technology to keep it at the forefront of this increasingly competitive segment.
Timeless? Sure. Iconic? Absolutely. Yardstick? That’s a yes from us, too.