PORSCHE CAR­RERA S

The 911 has evolved once again. Is this lat­est it­er­a­tion – the 992 – a re­gen­er­a­tion for the bet­ter?

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EN­THU­SI­ASTS AN­TIC­I­PATE THE ar­rival of each new gen­er­a­tion of the 911 with some trep­i­da­tion. Evo­lu­tion is in­evitable, but its fruits are not al­ways wel­comed. Ev­ery new 911 is a bet­ter car, but there’s of­ten de­bate around whether it’s a bet­ter 911. This is be­cause with each gen­er­a­tion, the es­sen­tial 911 char­ac­ter gets di­luted, by the han­dling be­ing safer and by im­proved re­fine­ment and ever-stricter reg­u­la­tions mut­ing the flat-six. Usu­ally. Seems like the 992 is dif­fer­ent…

It cer­tainly looks dif­fer­ent, and the all-new body is much more alu­minium in­ten­sive. All ex­te­rior pan­els are now alu­minium and there is no nar­row-body 992; it’s one size fits all. The wider-hipped rear is mated to a new, wider­track front (+45mm) and also in the mix for the first time are dif­fer­ent-size front and rear wheels (20-inch front, 21-inch rear), all of which has the po­ten­tial to change the 911’s dy­namic char­ac­ter. Our first drive is at the Hock­en­heim cir­cuit so we’ll be able to fully ex­plore the car’s dy­nam­ics, and with the Car­rera S and 4S both here in oth­er­wise iden­ti­cal specs we’ll also get the chance to dis­cern the dif­fer­ences be­tween the rear- and four-wheel-drive 992.

This is the first time I’ve seen the 992 in the me­tal, and while I was ex­pect­ing a chunkier car I wasn’t ex­pect­ing the sharp­ness. There’s a crisp­ness of swage and shut line that along with the ex­tended nose gives the new model un­ex­pected def­i­ni­tion. The high-mounted, Tay­can-style light treat­ment works too; it’s dif­fer­ent, but fol­low­ing the 992 from a dis­tance there’s no doubt it’s a 911, just a more mod­ern one. Put me down as a fan.

It looks dif­fer­ent, sharper, but there’s no doubt­ing it’s a 911, just a more mod­ern one

The in­te­rior is even more rad­i­cally over­hauled. The broad sweeps of the ar­chi­tec­ture are fa­mil­iar but ev­ery­thing in here is new. Ex­pect Ger­man switchgear man­u­fac­tur­ers to re­port a drop in out­put, be­cause the ranks of but­tons that lined the 991’s cen­tre con­sole have gone, re­placed by smooth, blank trim. Key off, sig­nif­i­cant ar­eas of the 992’s fa­cia are also blank, the cen­tral, ana­logue rev counter be­ing flanked by two 7-inch TFT screens that can cre­ate the tra­di­tional ar­ray of di­als, while the cen­tre of the fa­cia is dom­i­nated by a 10.9-inch touch­screen. Many func­tions are del­e­gated to soft keys on this screen, though there are some hard-key du­pli­cates, for trac­tion con­trol and dampers, for in­stance. Old habits… Most switchgear is of the tog­gle va­ri­ety, and knurled fin­ishes are a re­cur­ring theme, the most prom­i­nent ex­am­ple be­ing the stubby gear se­lec­tor for the new eight-speed PDK ’box, which is no longer an ac­tive shifter – only the wheel pad­dles will over­ride the auto now. An over­hauled seven-speed man­ual gear­box will also be of­fered.

Also gone is the model-shaped key which fit­ted like a loose tooth in the ig­ni­tion slot. The 992 is key­less, though there’s a twist switch rather than a start/stop but­ton. Give it a turn and the flat-six starts and idles with a fa­mil­iar gut­tural note. Both 992s here have the op­tional sports ex­haust, de­noted by large oval tailpipes, but it’s good to know that the char­ac­ter most of us want in a 911 is avail­able de­spite the fit­ment of gaso­line par­tic­u­late fil­ters. These make a car cleaner but also re­duce power and rob the en­gine note of its high tones.

We aren’t al­lowed to drive on public roads, and while a track can tell you a lot, it won’t re­veal the sub­tleties and nu­ances of ride and re­fine­ment. So to get a feel for the 992 I make a cou­ple of tours of Hock­en­heim’s perime­ter roads. As ever, the seats are both com­fort­able and – as will be proved shortly – bril­liantly sup­port­ive, the view out good if sub­tly dif­fer­ent from the 991, the head­lamp-capped wing bulges less clearly defin­ing the 911’s front cor­ners.

One of the first things that strikes you is that Porsche’s en­gi­neers have nailed the steer­ing, which wasn’t the case with the early 991, the first 911 with elec­tri­cally power-as­sisted steer­ing. The steer­ing of this 992 is ini­tially light (as you’d ex­pect of a car fit­ted with op­tional Power Steer­ing Plus) but man­ages to be con­nected and re­spon­sive on cen­tre, and di­rect yet calm with reg­u­lar in­puts. De­mand more re­sponse and the car snaps to at­ten­tion, chang­ing tack briskly with no pause for slack to be taken up. The steer­ing ra­tio has in­creased over the 991’s by 11 per cent – or six per cent on cars such as this fit­ted with op­tional rear-steer – but it’s the feel­some con­nec­tion as much as the di­rect­ness that im­presses. The low-speed ride is well re­solved, too. You’re aware of bumps and im­per­fec­tions but it all re­mains quite smooth, and while there’s a lit­tle low-fre­quency bump-thump re­ported, it’s not in­tru­sive or dis­tract­ing. The ac­tive dampers have been com­pletely re­vised for the 992, of­fer­ing a more com­pli­ant soft­est set­ting and faster re­sponse to chang­ing in­puts, says Porsche.

Squeeze the throt­tle and the en­gine picks up keenly and very rapidly adds boost, a faint turbo whis­tle audi­ble. The 992 flat-six shares its ba­sic di­men­sions and peak out­put of 444bhp with the 991 GTS but is sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent, hav­ing new, big­ger tur­bos, more finely con­trol­lable piezo in­jec­tors, a new, asym­met­ric in­let valve strat­egy and more ef­fi­cient in­ter­cool­ing – and

those are just the head­line changes. It’s been many years since the 911 flat-six was some­thing to look at, but I think it’s a shame that when you pull the 992’s en­gine cover re­lease only the grille at the base of the rear screen pops open, re­veal­ing merely a panel with a cou­ple of ex­trac­tor fans and a clus­ter of fillers, like a Boxster.

Out on track in the C4S a few things soon be­come ap­par­ent, the first be­ing that the 992 is very rapid. The sec­ond is that even in Nor­mal mode full-throt­tle up­shifts are as­ton­ish­ingly fast and ut­terly seam­less. Com­pared with the out­go­ing seven-speed PDK, first gear is shorter and top gear longer, help­ing both ac­cel­er­a­tion

Porsche’s en­gi­neers have nailed the steer­ing, which wasn’t the case with the early 991

and econ­omy. So although it weighs more than the old car, the 992 is ex­actly as quick off the mark as the 991 GTS, tak­ing 3.7sec to get to 100kmph in rear-drive PDK guise, or 3.6sec with four-wheel drive. You can lop an­other 0.2sec off those time if Sport Chrono is op­tioned, as it is on these cars. As well as a stop­watch, this pack adds the steer­ing wheel-mounted mode se­lec­tor but­ton/wheel and dy­namic en­gine mounts. It’s also worth not­ing that both these 992s have the PASM Sport chas­sis with the 10mm sus­pen­sion drop. So, they are welle­quipped, chas­sis-wise.

Around the lap, you sim­ply don’t think about the steer­ing weight and rate, mean­ing they’re pretty much spot-on, and you can rely on the brakes to de­liver, too. The rea­son is prob­a­bly not that they’re op­tional PCCBs and among the very best car­bon-ceram­ics I’ve tried, with per­fect feel and power, no slack and great pro­gres­sion, but be­cause of the new brake pedal. It’s made from steel, plas­tic and car­bon­fi­bre and is lighter but cru­cially stiffer and thus gives greater feel and al­lows finer mod­u­la­tion.

The lat­eral grip the 4S gen­er­ates is amaz­ing, even though the tem­per­a­ture is only now on the edge of what suits the sum­mer Pirelli P Ze­ros. I’ve been pil­ing into the near-180-de­gree Sachs Curve ever faster and the car feels so poised, so planted. There’s a tan­gi­ble in­crease in fo­cus and ur­gency as you head up the modes to Sport and Sport Plus, and with sta­bil­ity off, when you do fi­nally ex­ceed the limit the rear slips gen­tly wide un­der power. Hold your nerve and the throt­tle and the front will pull the car straight close to the cor­ner exit.

Tra­di­tional 911 traits only emerge when you’re right at the limit, the rear get­ting mo­bile as you brake and turn, for in­stance, and even then the 992 stays com­posed and ex­ploitable. The twoand four-wheel-drive ver­sions feel very sim­i­lar – I sus­pect it will be hard to tell them apart on the road. On track, the rear-drive Car­rera feels a lit­tle punchier (at 1515kg it’s about 50kg lighter) and if you find it hard to re­sist pro­vok­ing a bit of sec­ond- or third-gear over­steer then it’s the bet­ter car, be­ing eas­ier to bal­ance and hold on the throt­tle; as soon as you start mod­u­lat­ing the throt­tle in the 4S it sends drive to the front, snuff­ing out the slide.

As you’ll have gath­ered, the 992 isn’t so much a re­vised 991 as an all-new 911. There is much that is very good, not least the steer­ing, the PDK ’box, and the poise, bal­ance and grip of the new chas­sis. The per­for­mance isn’t too shabby, ei­ther. Less im­pres­sive stuff? The pop-out door han­dles seem an un­nec­es­sary com­pli­ca­tion, there’s a lot of black plas­tic below the bumper line at both ends, and the 3D let­ters spelling ‘Porsche’ on the rump look like a cost and weight sav­ing wait­ing to hap­pen. But these are mere de­tails. Yes, we still need to drive it ex­ten­sively on the road to be ab­so­lutely sure, but all the signs are that the 992 is both a bet­ter car and a bet­ter 911 than the 991. Evo­lu­tion, eh? John Barker (@evoJB)

Top: Cabin has been thor­oughly reworked, with fewer but­tons and a 10.9-inch in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen. Left: Steer­ing wheel dial – part of the op­tional Sport Chrono pack­age – al­lows quick switch­ing be­tween driver modes (above). Belowleft: Rev counter is still ana­logue, but the di­als ei­ther side are now dig­i­tal

Above: 992 sports dif­fer­ent-size wheels front and rear (20- and 21-inch); car­bon-ce­ramic brakes, a ` 5.8 lakh (ex­clud­ing In­dian taxes and du­ties) op­tion.Right: Rear end fea­tures a Tay­can-style light bar, and per­haps a bit too much black plas­tic

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