Performance, ride and handling

The base Carrera now features a smaller but more powerful 350bhp 3.4-litre flat-six instead of 3.6-litres in the 997 Carrera. The Carrera S tested here retains a 3800cc flat-six that now makes 400bhp at 7400rpm, 15bhp more and at a higher engine speed than the unit in the old 997 Carrera S.

With its 440Nm torque peak (40Nm more than the old Carrera S) produced at only 5600rpm, the Carrera S’ DFI Direct Fuel Injection and VarioCam equipped flat-six can feel a tad lazy and sluggish at low to medium speeds. It can also sound grumbly at these pottering speeds, encouraging you to egg it on beyond 4500rpm, where the engine note changes to a higher pitch and comes truly alive while the acceleration becomes more intense. Select ‘Sport’ mode and the mechanical flat-six chat from behind the driver’s ears sounds angrier and a tad louder. The power surge doesn’t wane all the way to the engine’s 7800rpm redline, which is 300rpm higher than previously.  

Activate ‘Sport Plus’ mode and the sequence for Launch Control and the PDK equipped Carrera S will accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in a mere 4.1 seconds, four-tenths quicker than the old Carrera S, with top speed rated at 302km/h, 2km/h higher than previously.

Despite the extra power and additional performance, the new Carrera S is more fuel economical and emits less CO2 than the 997 thanks to new features like the auto start/stop system, energy recuperation, intelligent thermal management, the new electro-mechanical steering system as well as the coasting function for PDK models. As a result, the 991 Carrera S’ average fuel consumption figure of 8.7 litres for every 100km is noticeably better than the 997 Carrera S’ 10.2 litres per 100km. Correspondingly, CO2 emissions are down to 205g/km from 240 g/km.

The new 911 Carrera models are available with either an enhanced version of the 997’s PDK twin clutch box or a world first for a passenger car, a seven-speed manual transmission. With the majority of Porsche models sold here having two pedal set-ups, the PDK model will inevitably be the more popular one.

The 991’s Porsche Doppelkupplung gearbox certainly feels like it is much improved and sharper over its predecessor’s. The gear changes are even quicker and crisper than before. It goes one better when ‘Sport Plus’ mode is activated – the shifts are not only faster than in ‘Sport’ but also artificially more violent to mimic the feel of a race car’s. 

 PDK is not all perfect though. The box’s new coasting function might save fuel but it dampens response a tad in automatic mode as it’ll take a moment or two before a gear hooks up once again when coasting down to a slower speed. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen when the box is switched to manual mode.

Another major gripe are the gearshift buttons/paddles on the steering wheel. In Porsches with PDK, you push the button down on either side of the wheel to shift up and pull the paddles to shift down. In most other cars though, the right paddle/button is for up shift, the left for a lower gear. It makes Porsche’s layout rather unintuitive. Also to nitpick about is when selecting gears manually via the gear lever. While in most race cars and even in road going BMWs and Mazdas, you pull the lever towards you for an up shift, forwards for a down shift, Porsche follows the VW style – the less intuitive forward for up shift, back for down shift. Guess it runs in the family then. Thankfully, Porsche offers an optional steering wheel with proper gearshift paddles. This optional feature might set you back a couple of grand more to your final 911 buying price but I’m pretty sure that it’ll be worth every penny.

The biggest news on the 991’s chassis front are the new electro-mechanical steering system, which replaces the previous car’s hydraulic set-up and the wider front track and longer wheelbase. Typical of electro-mechanical steering set-ups, the 991’s helm feels a tad numb on the straight ahead or at low loads. Wind in some lock in the corners and the steering starts to load up and start communicating to the palm of your hands. At this point, the helm reminds me once again what good steering is all about. The 911’s direct and accurate sublime steering makes almost any other car’s helms out there feel blunt. The 911’s just so nicely weighted and talkative – you can almost feel all the bitumen on the tarmac through the three-spoke wheel.

While the 997 still had a tendency to pitch and raise its nose under hard acceleration, the 991 feels more planted, offering stability and surefootedness to a whole new level in a 911. Unlike in earlier 911s, you will hardly feel the tail squatting a tad and the steering getting light as the weight transfers to the 911’s fat rear in the 991, a trait that was previously inevitable in a rear-engine car and a bit disconcerting for the unwary and beginner drivers.

 The longer wheelbase also helps in the stability department as well as in improving the overall ride quality. The wider front tracks and the revised suspension have aided the 911’s cornering abilities further – the front now feels like it is more eager to turn in and hence, makes the car feel sharper overall. With so much grip from the chassis and tyres, it will still stick to the desired line valiantly when pushed hard into a corner. Further aiding turn-in and agility is the new Porsche Torque Vectoring PTV Plus differential lock that is standard on the Carrera S.

Ride quality is much improved when compared to the 997 – the 991 actually rides better than some sports saloon models. The impressively pliant ride and significantly reduced roar from the tyres make the 991 the most refined and easiest to live with 911 ever.

 


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