SA launch drive: Porsche's new 911 keeps the legend alive
Cape Town - There are a couple of manufacturers who, when you mention their names, have at least one car that stands out as an icon of the brand; Mustang, Corvette, E-Type, Countach.
And then there is the Porsche 911.
Launched in 1963, it has gone through seven previous updates and now, in its eighth generation almost 56 years and just over 1 million units later, the 911 is still as recognisable as ever, staying true to its predecessors, as can be seen by the return of the bonnet recess.
Also back is the LED strip light at the rear, linking the tail lights.
This 992 version of the 911 rear wheel drive Carrera 2 and all wheel drive Carrera 4 share the same wheelbase as the previous model but also have the same wide body stance, 44mm at the rear and 45mm wider in front than the outgoing model.
With impressive wheel arches over the front 20 inch wheels and 21 inch rear rubber, there’s no doubt that it’s all 911.
It also means that both rear wheel and all wheel drive models differ very little visually but the two wheel drive version now has the advantage of driving dynamics associated with a wider track width.
Packing a serious punch
They both also have a reworked 3-litre turbocharged flat six engine at the back with two bigger turbos with symmetrical layout and electrically controlled wastegate valves, a redesigned charge air cooling system, increased compression and updated piezo injectors, which all combine to increase power by 22kW to 331kW and 30Nm more torque to 530Nm.
All that power is transferred to the wheels via a flawless eight-speed dual clutch transmission (PDK) that replaces the seven speed transmission of the outgoing model. All the gears have new ratios with a very short first gear and a long eighth gear that reduces engine speeds as you start to ignore any semblance of the speed limit.
Talking of speed, the 911 has always been associated with some crazy numbers. The Carrera S will level out at 308km/h and on the way there pass 100km/h in 3.7 seconds while the Carrera 4S will reach 306km/h and 100km/h in 3.6 seconds. Add a Sport Chrono Package and you’ll cut off another 0.2 seconds.
Innovative wet mode
Seen for the first time in wet mode, sensors in the wheel arches pick up significant amounts of water. It then advises you to switch to wet mode and turns off anything not required in the wet and slows down everything likely to cause you, other road users, or the car any damage.
But with a string of safety features that a top end car provides, even in the dry and at speed, you’re pretty much safely ensconced in the cockpit.
You’d think that getting behind the wheel of a car such as this would require all sorts of switches and fancy settings, but not at all.
A swift turn of the key fob and the exhausts jump in to lively action, the dash lights up and everything is laid out in perfect unison with a combination of digital and analogue.
And with tweaked seats that perfectly fitted my not too small frame and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake, the 911 has “please drive me now” written all over it.
The driver’s seat can now be moved 5mm lower than previously and you would think that being a sports car it could be a tad uncomfortable for us taller folk. This is not the case at all, as my driving partner Derek Watts will attest to.
The one thing you will notice though is that there has been quite a radical change to the gear lever. Gone is the traditional one, now replaced by a lever that resembles a USB stick so there’s no option to use it for manual changing but the paddles still work a treat should you so wish.
A car of many talents
Entering the Cape Town traffic in the 4S the 911 again confirmed what so many Porsches do, that as an everyday vehicle it’s perfectly suited to take you to work, pick up the (small) kids with the +2 seats or rip the rubber off the tyres at a track on Saturday. Not many of us are that privileged, but you know what I mean.
Road manners also continue to set the bar and there are only a handful of cars that manage to combine engineering and design to such a high level of balance, ease and comfort at speed.
Heading in and out of sharp corners and gentle bends the 911 gobbles it up with so much ease that it seems to keep on asking for more, and I reckon you’re going to run out of talent way before the car runs out of ability.
I’ve always maintained that if you have an option for only two cars in your garage one has to be a 911. The latest version only confirms that belief.
Porsche Carrera S: R1 708 000
Porsche Carrera 4S: R1 797 000
Maintenance Plan: 3 year/100 000 km