THE SWEET SPOT
A 911 Carrera S draws the line between lust and love
IDON’T HAVE A SINGLE friend who grew up lusting after a Porsche. Heck even I spent most of my childhood lusting after the Ferraris and Lamborghinis adorning my bedroom walls. Back then we dreamt of something flashy, loud and exotic. A 959 with a whale tail did make the occasional appearance but to our adolescent minds, Porsches weren’t cars to lust after; their doors didn’t scissor up into the sky, their lines weren’t sharp enough to cut your fingers on, their curves delicious enough to give rise to the phrase car porn.
Now that I’ve driven many Porsches, I only want a Porsche. Nothing wrong with a Ferrari or Lamborghini, mind you, but a Porsche is something you can drive as its maker intended, even on our roads. Over the past two years I have come to learn that a Porsche warms up to you, it doesn’t shock you but it charms you. A Porsche draws the line between lust and love.
The first time I drove this white 911 Carrera S convertible, it was a graveyard shift. We drove out of Pune at about three in the morning to catch the 911 on the outskirts of Mumbai, to maximise every single hour we had with the car. It had rained the night before and the highway was damp in patches, wet in a few and dry on the other side of Lonavala. In the first hour of driving the 911, I got to experience it over different road conditions and nothing made a difference to the confidence the 911 inspired in me. I came back declaring the Carrera S convertible
to be perfect. It’s everything I would ever want in a sportscar; everything I’d ever want in a convertible (I’d like a louder exhaust but that’s easily fixed).
I reckon Porsche knows the enthusiast better than any carmaker in the world. There’s a pick for everyone in the range and even in the iconic 911 line-up you’ve got them all: from entry-level 911s (entry level!) to the Turbo and the GT track heroes. The Carrera S sits right in the middle and gets the blend of performance, usability and desirability right to the T. This is all the car someone who loves driving will ever need; it’s for the enthusiast who wants to go places, who wants to clock more miles than just driving to the 'Coffee and Cars' meet in the middle of town; who wants the open road, the winding road, the road less travelled, and the road at the end of the road. I’m not saying that it is going to be easy in India, but you can bet the `1.76 crore plus taxes this car costs, that you can take it to any place the A3 Cabrio will go, get back, have a coffee, and do the whole trip again. It is that usable. It does not break your back!
You shift through the 911’s driving modes and notice a seamlessness you won’t find in an M car or an AMG. There’s a subtlety to the change in drive settings (from comfort to sport plus) I’ve come to love. Even the 7-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox gives quick and precise shifts without the violent sledgehammer gear changes you experience in many other sportscars and supercars. There’s a fluidity to proceedings that gets you into a rhythm while driving a 911 that’s so signature 911, it leaves a lasting impression. I like the rhythm of the 911 because it encourages
I RECKON PORSCHE KNOWS AN ENTHUSIAST BETTER THAN ANY OTHER CARMAKER IN THE WORLD
you to drive faster, focus on positioning the car on a winding road for quick exits out of corners, get the rear end to slip a little mid-corner and wind on just a twitch of opposite lock, or just enjoy the solid balance on a highway run at speeds I’ve never done in any other convertible. The ride quality is outstanding for our badly paved highways. The 911 soaks in all the small irregularities with so much composure that you tend to forget that this car is still very exotic in India, like cars that need to be treated with extra caution on our roads. The front axle lift raises the nose so there’s no graunching over inelegant speedbreakers and there is rear-wheel steering to not just aid stability but also make it even more manoeuvrable at pottering speeds. Everything is so perfectly engineered it could very well have become a soulless advertisement for German engineering… yet… the 911 has soul. It gets under your skin. It inspires you to work harder (or smarter, whatever works for you) so that one day you might own one.
The new Carrera S is turbocharged, and the turbocharger does kill the sweet sound of the flat six, but what it does in return is provide 500Nm of twist at just 1700rpm. You ride the wave of torque and when you are into the power band, 414bhp pulls you past its peak of 6500rpm, and stays at it till 7500rpm. A 7500rpm redline from a turbocharged motor is simply superb, and there’s performance to be had all through the rev band. It is the most non-turbo-feeling turbo-motor I’ve ever experienced. It isn’t peaky too, the flat-six just pulls and pulls, smoothly and relentlessly, till you need an upshift. And when you need it, the next cog is already in. The PDK is really the gold standard for automatic gearboxes.
The rear-axle steer should soon make it to all sportscars in the future. It is quite a smart feature. At slow speeds, it turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the fronts to reduce its turning circle and at high speeds all wheels turn in the same direction (although not as much as the front wheels – that would be crazy!). As you go fast, you want a longer wheelbase for stability, and the 911’s increases virtually by 500mm due to the rear axle steering according to Porsche. Everything about it works towards improving balance of the rear-engined car, a physics-defying endeavour that has been going on for decades, to ensure 911s use the weight of the engine for better grip and not to slide backwards into the hedges. So much work has gone into it, to make the 911 better and better with every update, it isn’t easy for other carmakers to catch up and get on the same playing field. That’s the reason why Porsche walks away with the evo Car of the Year awards year after year. When I finally win the lottery it will be the 911 that I will splurge on, to go with wallpaper of the 356 Speedster that has just gone up on my laptop. I seem to have grown up. Lust has made way for love.
Above: The 911 is the easiest sportscar to drive fast and get better. Right: Rear engined layout gives the Porsche immense grip in corners