Together, the words ‘Porsche’ and ‘turbo’ conjure images of fast wide-bodied rearengined flat-six cars with the ability to tear your face off at a moment’s notice (maybe several moments, in the case of some of the older-generation cars). To even the most casual Porsche fan, the ‘turbo’ moniker represents the brand’s ability to push the limits of engineering and add a dash of lunacy to the 911. But now when you think of a 911 that’s turbo, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be going home in a casket. This is because the new 911 has been fitted with not one, but two turbochargers, in the name of better economy and reduced emissions.
I know what you’re thinking: the 911 can’t be turbo unless it’s the Turbo. Naturally aspirated flat-sixes are what make 911s the cars they are.
Now, I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool Porsche fan, so I can say this easily enough: adapt or die. If turbocharging makes sense to the brand we admire for creating 911s year upon year — all the while making them easier to drive, less likely to kill you, and a wee bit faster — so be it.
Of course, Porsche sentimentality means a good portion of readers won’t be convinced by being told that as the world changes, we must change with it. They will argue that in this PC world gone mad, surely our final refuge of senseless indulgence is that of the fast car. So, has Porsche managed to progress its most important car further, while changing tack entirely on what drives it? Let’s see.
The cool factor
Importantly, the 911 looks great. Not so ostentatious that you couldn’t take it to a TPPA protest without getting mauled, yet low and wide enough to say “I’m a sophisticated thug who’s ready to play”. There have been several small tweaks around the body for this new-generation 991, but, to the untrained eye, it has stuck with what was working on this car’s predecessor. The wider arches of the all-wheel-drive cars (44mm over the two-wheel drives) don’t necessarily let you discern between the two, so a seamless light strip across the rear has been installed on all four-paw models, just so you know who’s going to leave you for dust in the corners or who might leave you in a cloud of dust if the traction control gets switched off.
Our test car for a few days was finished in Agate Grey, which borders on a slate-brown colour (we liked it), and rode on 20-inch Carrera Classic wheels. Perhaps because we drove mainly in and around central Auckland, the 911 barely raised an eyebrow from fellow commuters and — in our opinion — this is a good thing. In days gone by, if you were driving a 911, you were a considered a bit of a — well, a 911 driver. Now that there are so many Audis and BMWS that have been done up by the factory and the end-user to look fancier than the 911, you could almost argue it’s modest to look at. There is a sense that the gaudiness of Porsche ownership has dissipated somewhat since the release of the Cayenne, the Panamera, and, most recently, the Macan, as the brand dips its toes into the family-friendly waters of supermarket runs and restaurants at which one might eat free on one’s birthday.
Replacement for displacement
The new 911-standard twin-turbo 3.0-litre engine has proven that there is, in fact, a replacement for displacement. Although forced induction has been a way of life for a number of other brands’ performance cars for a few years now, Porsche has been squeezing every last bit of power it could from the naturally aspirated flat-sixes. This midgeneration change is a sensible move from Porsche. Getting the buy-in from customers who realized the first generation was a good car means we can never look back at the entire 991 model range and say yuck, as some (many) did with the 996.
Both the Carrera and Carrera S have dropped their respective 3.4 and 3.8 engines in favour of the 3.0-litre unit. The 911 Carrera jumps from 257kw (345hp) to 272kw (364hp). The Carrera S’s numbers are even better — 309kw (414hp), up from 294kw (395hp). Pretty impressive given that, in terms of Porsche’s recent history, these are very, very similar numbers to those offered by the first generation 997 GT3 and GT3 RS.