2017 Su­pertest

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Joe Wil­liams Pho­tog­ra­phy by Daniel Pullen

To­tal 911’s an­nual road trip in three brand new Ne­unelfers sees the Carrera, C4 GTS and Turbo S go head-to-head

To­tal 911’s an­nual pil­grim­age this time sees the mod­ern-day in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the 911 T, E and S do bat­tle in the Peak District – but which new Ne­unelfer rep­re­sents the best value for money?

It’s just gone 7am on a bright, au­tum­nal morn­ing as I roll out onto the pub­lic road, some re­tract­ing black gates and a bright-red ‘Porsche’ script atop a grey build­ing be­hind fill­ing the rear view mir­rors of my 991.2 Carrera. Be­fore long the cus­tom­ary vis­ual of Porsche Cen­tre Read­ing, the home of Porsche Cars Great Bri­tain, is well out of sight, a plethora of shining cars among its grandiose set­ting swapped for, well, a Bri­tish mo­tor­way. All is not lost, how­ever, for I feel like a large pro­por­tion of the show­room has ac­com­pa­nied me on my trip due north. Look­ing through the wind­screen of my GT sil­ver Carrera I’m treated to the glare of that red con­nect­ing strip of a tail light adorn­ing an iden­ti­cally hued C4 GTS, while in front of that, the su­per-wide hips of a Mi­ami blue Turbo S oc­cupy the hori­zon. It’s su­pertest time for To­tal 911 once again, which means your favourite Porsche magazine has cus­tody of the three ma­jes­tic Ne­unelfers in ques­tion for two days of full-on driv­ing as part of our jour­ney to the twisty roads among Bri­tain’s Peak District.

As our su­pertest is prone to show­ing, there are many ways to skin a cat, so to speak; such is the 911’s dex­ter­ity to of­fer dif­fer­ent driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences from what is es­sen­tially one car con­cept. This is some­thing Porsche’s iconic sports car has al­ways been renowned for: right from its early, pre-im­pact bumper days, those ‘T’, ‘E’ and ’S’ mod­els of­fered vastly dif­fer­ent flavours of the 911 phi­los­o­phy. This re­mains true today, for while these three 911s on test are all from the lat­est 991.2 gen­er­a­tion, the re­al­ity is they couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent, vary­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in terms of power out­put, chas­sis di­men­sions, spec and value.

The men­tion of those T, E and S mod­els is no ac­ci­dent, ei­ther. Rep­re­sent­ing the en­try-level, mid­dleof-the-road and top-spec in­car­na­tion of 911 from 19651973, it’s a model lineup To­tal 911 has sought to mimic closely here, choos­ing the Carrera, GTS and Turbo S as the mod­ern-day in­ter­pre­ta­tions of those orig­i­nal T, E and S cars. Why no GT 911s, you may ask? Well, we dis­carded them from the su­pertest lineup as, let’s face it, you can’t just walk into a Porsche Cen­tre and read­ily buy one like you can a Carrera or Turbo. So, that’s the scene jus­ti­fi­ably set. The mission of our 2017 su­pertest is to look at the en­tire breadth of the non-gt lineup in search of the model with the great­est 911 value for money.

Our 200-mile jour­ney north is largely un­event­ful, punc­tu­ated by a pro­longed lunch stop in which my­self, Edi­tor, Lee, and test driver ex­traor­di­naire, Alex, trade our ini­tial thoughts on the cars we’ve pi­loted. By mid-af­ter­noon we fi­nally leave the mo­tor­ways be­hind us, head­ing west past Sh­effield and into the hilly con­fines of the sprawl­ing Peak District Na­tional Park. Home to the south­ern reaches of the Pen­nines moun­tains, the Peaks is awash with breath­tak­ing views, his­tor­i­cal land­marks and, best of all, good driv­ing roads. With the lat­ter al­most ex­clu­sively in mind, our area of con­tention lays be­tween Glos­sop to the west, the splen­didly named Oughtib­ridge in the east and Holm­firth fur­ther north, the in­ter­link­ing roads form­ing our tri­lat­eral prov­ing ground col­lo­qui­ally dubbed the ‘Oop­northring’ by lo­cals. Named af­ter its like­ness for Ger­many’s Nord­schleife, the 55-mile loop of­fers a chal­leng­ing route chang­ing rather dra­mat­i­cally in al­ti­tude and road sur­face, with a few tasty cor­ners and off-cam­ber sec­tions thrown in for good mea­sure. This is the per­fect place to put our con­test­ing 911s to the test.

It’s fit­ting I should start my su­pertest notes aboard the 991.2 Carrera, for here at To­tal 911 we’ve pre­vi­ously said it’s all you’ll ever need from the cur­rent Ne­unelfer range. Un­like pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, we’ve re­marked how the en­try-level Carrera feels plenty fast enough, with a palat­able spec right out the box. Save for the added de­lights of op­tional rear-axle steer and a slightly low­ered chas­sis, we’ve found the 50hp-more-pow­er­ful S per­haps isn’t nec­es­sar­ily worth the step up, cer­tainly not for the £9,000 Porsche will de­mand for the priv­i­lege. The en­try-level 911 re­ally is ev­ery­thing you need – and so it should be, too, be­cause the hum­ble Carrera will now set you back £77,891 in the UK mar­ket, and that’s be­fore you’ve

even looked at the ex­ten­sive op­tions list. This is a pricey car in­deed, but such is its tac­til­ity as both a GT and gen­uine sports car that we’ve cer­tainly not been put off.

On the mo­tor­way drive north, the Carrera is a won­der­ful place to be. The ba­sic seats are com­fort­able, the chas­sis rides bril­liantly over lessthan-per­fect roads and noise lev­els are among the qui­etest we’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced in a 911 – you’ll only re­ally hear tyre noise. En­gage that long sev­enth gear and revs are kept to just above 2,000rpm at 70mph. Stay­ing out of Sports mode brings the coast func­tion, as well as auto stop/start into play, ex­tend­ing the car’s range be­tween fuel stops too. 35mpg there­fore isn’t un­com­mon on a mo­tor­way blast. Now, though, on the ser­pen­tine roads of the Peak District, the Carrera’s grand tour­ing con­tentions are well and truly parked, its sport­ing prow­ess now called upon if it is to keep pace with the faster GTS and Turbo S ahead of it.

Cer­tainly, on the road the 991.2 Carrera feels fast enough. 0-62mph is dis­patched of in just 4.2 sec­onds (us­ing Launch Con­trol with PDK), that twin-tur­bocharged 9A2 flat six pulling hard from just be­fore two grand. As we know, the 911 has al­ways cre­ated an event in reach­ing for high revs, the car most ap­peal­ing to the senses when the sec­ond half of the tachome­ter is be­ing ex­plored. Though peak torque in the 991.2 is de­liv­ered be­tween 1,700

and 5,000rpm, this is still im­pres­sively true from a sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence, those small tur­bocharg­ers not per­cep­tively run­ning out of puff and chok­ing the flat six of power. Do­ing this, to the course roar­ing sound emit­ted from the op­tional (and highly rec­om­mended) Sports exhaust, means hang­ing on for the red­line at some 7,400rpm is still a re­ward­ing prac­tice.

So im­pres­sive is the 991.2 Carrera that cor­ners are dis­patched of with an as­tute­ness rarely seen on an en­try-level 911. There’s now so much front-end grip avail­able that it’s rel­a­tively easy to keep the car bal­anced, this sen­sa­tion boosted by stan­dard PASMe­quipped sus­pen­sion dras­ti­cally elim­i­nat­ing body roll. The car is so well poised! It’s not overkill, ei­ther, for there is still plenty of fun to be had. The car is lithe and play­ful thanks to the ex­tra low-down kick pro­vided by the tur­bos. It’s spir­ited, and cer­tainly far more so than the 991.1 Carrera at lower speeds, feel­ing com­par­a­tively more ex­plo­sive in per­for­mance should you re­ally de­cide to keep your foot in.

Ex­pect­edly, the Turbo S ahead of me ab­so­lutely mon­sters the Snake Pass, yet I’m shocked by how much ground the C4 GTS is able to pull, too. We pull over to re­lay our thoughts on the cars and I ask the driver, Alex, how that GTS is so damned fast.

“Try it for your­self,” he says, chuck­ing me the keys. Fair enough.

Slid­ing into the car for the first time, its cabin feels vastly dif­fer­ent to that of the en­try-level Carrera. Alcantara lines the smaller GT wheel, the ma­te­rial also used to trim the seat cen­tres, glove box, cen­tre arm rest, door in­serts and even the PDK lever, as stan­dard GTS spec­i­fi­ca­tion. Off­set by car­bon ac­cents, there’s a real rac­ing feel to the cock­pit, ac­cen­tu­ated by a Sport Chrono clock mounted in the cen­tre of the dash­board. With­out doubt, this is al­ready a more ex­cit­ing place to sit, and I’ve not even turned the key in the ig­ni­tion yet.

Con­tin­u­ing our clock­wise as­sault of the Oop­northring, we leave Glos­sop and head north to­wards the steep rise of Holme Moss. At­tack­ing the sweep­ing cor­ners at the be­gin­ning of the climb, I no­tice there’s lit­tle change in the GTS’S sound­track com­pared to the Carrera, yet just about ev­ery­thing else is a step up. First off, you can re­ally feel that ad­di­tional 80hp and 100Nm torque, for the GTS is dev­il­ishly fast off the block. Its peak power band is al­most iden­ti­cal to the 370hp Carrera (max torque kicks in just af­ter 2,000rpm now), yet the punch it de­liv­ers is much harder, the GTS fir­ing out of cor­ners and up the road with an ab­so­lutely dev­as­tat­ing turn of pace.

Then there’s the grip, which is sen­sa­tional. The 44-mm-wider body caters not only for one-inch­wider wheels, af­ford­ing a greater con­tact patch at all four cor­ners, but a wider track de­liv­ers even greater com­po­sure to the car through turns. As a re­sult, at the point where the lim­its of ad­he­sion can be felt in the Carrera, this GTS re­mains com­fort­able, its own bound­aries found at re­mark­ably greater speeds. Be­ing a four-wheel-drive car, the nose of the C4 GTS is less prone to wan­der than the rear-drive Carrera, though to the credit of the lat­ter this sen­sa­tion is un­per­ceiv­able at the pace you’ll be able to achieve on pub­lic roads. Sim­i­larly though, the all-wheel-drive car’s ten­dency to un­der­steer isn’t felt ei­ther.

“De­spite ini­tial wor­ries, tur­bocharg­ing has not been to the detri­ment of the 991 driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence”

Where the C4 does flex its mus­cles on the road is in ad­he­sion at its front end, which is man­aged bril­liantly by the Porsche Ac­tive Trac­tion Man­age­ment sys­tem. Its grip into cor­ners is phe­nom­e­nal, it’s sharper at its nose through a turn, while trac­tion af­forded to the front axle out of cor­ners al­lows for the 911 to cover sim­ply breath­tak­ing amounts of ground, quickly. Though it is 85kg heav­ier than the Carrera, this weight penalty here is im­ma­te­rial: the GTS sim­ply bull­doses its un­der­study on test.

Cru­cial to the GTS’S turn of pace is its PDK gear­box. Op­tional even in GTS spec over the 7-speed man­ual, Porsche’s dual-clutch trans­mis­sion is fit for a race car. Su­per re­spon­sive even in ‘nor­mal’ mode, utilise Sport Plus and each gear change is sharp­ened sub­stan­tially. It’s a far su­pe­rior gear­box to the 7-speed man­ual from a tech­ni­cal point of view, though even in re­al­ity we think the clunky na­ture of the man­ual’s shifts de­tracts from its own ex­pe­ri­ence in terms of driver feel. PDK trans­mis­sion is the one to have.

All too soon we reach our overnight stay just past Holme Moss and, as we park the cars, I con­sider how im­pressed I am by the GTS. In truth, I’m sur­prised by how quickly it’s made that Carrera seem so hon­est.

It’s a topic we soon find our­selves dis­cussing over din­ner. Lee ques­tions whether the GTS is worth £22,000 over a 991.2 Carrera, though the re­al­ity is af­ter op­tions the gap be­tween the two cars is less than that, con­sid­er­ing the GTS comes with such a good spec out the box.

With much driv­ing still to be done, we’re up and out early the next morn­ing – way be­fore our B&B can serve break­fast. It’s still a lit­tle dark out­side, though the mon­u­men­tally wide hips of the Mi­ami blue

Turbo S are still recog­nis­able in the lim­ited day­light. It’s my turn to spend some good time with this top-spec 911, and im­me­di­ately its vis­ual dif­fer­ences are ap­par­ent, even from the driver’s seat. Ahead of me, that cen­trally mounted tachome­ter doesn’t boast the same rev count as its Carrera sib­lings, while out each side-view mir­ror, the car’s 1,880mm-wide rump is punc­tu­ated by a gap­ing air in­take to keep those in­ter­cool­ers happy. Though at first there’s noth­ing to look at to­wards the end of the car, the Turbo’s fixed wing ex­tends sky­wards in Sport Plus, even­tu­ally com­ing into view from the in­ter­nal mir­ror.

Un­like the two Car­reras on test, the Turbo S (and lesser Turbo) still make use of a tweaked ver­sion of Porsche’s 9A1 flat six, used for ev­ery 991.1-gen­er­a­tion car. Its per­for­mance fig­ures are as mighty as its ap­pear­ance sug­gests, boast­ing 580hp and a mon­u­men­tal 750Nm peak torque. Some 300Nm more than the en­try-level Carrera and 200Nm more than the GTS, in a sprint the Turbo S is sim­ply un­ri­valled. Plant your right foot to the floor and the Turbo S launches it­self for­wards with such fe­roc­ity it’s scarcely be­liev­able for a road car. Un­like the two Car­reras, a spir­ited squirt of the gas pedal in the Turbo S sees the car lean back­wards as weight is trans­ferred to its rear. It’s here where PTM again shows its ex­cel­lence in send­ing power to­wards the front of the 911, while mit­i­gat­ing trac­tion at the back. That whoosh of ac­cel­er­a­tion, felt in the pit of my stom­ach, quickly be­comes ad­dic­tive – this thing is so bloody fast! Too fast, in fact, for I shortly find that ev­ery burst of ac­cel­er­a­tion is suc­ceeded by ner­vous glances in my mir­rors to check no­body has seen my an­tics.

Speed isn’t the only trick up the sleeve of this bona fide su­per­car from Stuttgart. The Turbo S de­mol­ishes cor­ners with the pace and pre­ci­sion of noth­ing else I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced in a road car. Sure, the silly speeds this 991 is read­ily ca­pa­ble of re­veals the car isn’t as sharp at its nose as other 911s, how­ever it still seems like I can en­ter a cor­ner at any speed I like and, no mat­ter how fast, the car just sticks to the as­phalt be­fore blast­ing out the other side. PDCC works won­ders here; stan­dard on the Turbo S, this ac­tive anti-roll bar sys­tem keeps the chas­sis won­der­fully bal­anced, even un­der heavy loads. There is a caveat in that the lack of per­cep­tive roll re­duces feed­back to the driver, a sen­sa­tion I find strange at first, though our Edi­tor is a clear cham­pion of it.

Of course, the Turbo S is a heavy beast, tip­ping the scales at 1,600kg, yet the hon­est truth is its per­for­mance is so sav­age, you won’t care. PDK, com­pul­sory on the Turbo S, is key to this, its in­fin­itely clever map­ping do­ing a fine job of

keep­ing the car in its peak torque band. I pon­der for a mo­ment what the drive would be like with a man­ual shifter, though an­other squeeze of the ac­cel­er­a­tor soon leads to the con­clu­sion there sim­ply wouldn’t be time to take your hands off the wheel for a cog swap. Be­sides, if it’s a de­gree of driver in­volve­ment you’re af­ter, you can find it with PDK just fine – en­gage man­ual mode to change gear us­ing the steer­ing wheel-mounted pad­dles (their own lim­ited travel and glo­ri­ous weight­ing adding to the sys­tem’s pre­ci­sion) and get your left peg into ac­tion for brak­ing du­ties. With those out­stand­ing Porsche Ce­ramic Com­pos­ite Brakes scrub­bing speed from the Turbo S with even a mi­nor tap of the stop pedal, I guar­an­tee you’ll find your own limit be­fore that of the car’s.

To sum­marise, the 991.2 Turbo S is com­pletely and ut­terly in­domitable – and therein lies its prob­lem. Its own lim­its are so far be­yond that of what you can rea­son­ably ac­com­plish on the road that it’s very hard to draw sat­is­fac­tion from its drive with­out risk­ing your li­cence. It’s very much a re­ver­sal of the Carrera’s sit­u­a­tion: the Turbo S is all you could ever want, not nec­es­sar­ily need. At more than dou­ble the cost of the en­try-level car, I’d much rather have the plea­sure of over-driv­ing a car than sit­ting in a flash up­sell, un­able to get near its lim­its. The Turbo S has sim­ply be­come too good to re­ally en­joy on the road.

We com­plete an­other loop of the Oop­northring, swap­ping cars more fre­quently now to hone our opin­ions of each model, be­fore head­ing south to­wards Win­nats Pass. We ar­rive near lunchtime, though heavy throngs of tourist buses on the road mean we don’t hang around too long. Still, it’s nice to en­joy the sounds of our throaty flat sixes echo­ing off the canyon’s lime­stone walls, the pop­ping and cack­ling of our Sport exhaust sys­tems (most vo­cal in Sport mode and not Sport Plus) fill­ing the air be­tween the cav­ern. Not long af­ter, we all pull over for a lunch break, gath­er­ing around the Turbo S’s rear wing, which acts as an im­promptu ta­ble for our food and drink. It’s time to draw our con­clu­sions.

Though it is by far the most ca­pa­ble car present, we wanted to es­tab­lish the best value for money 991 on our su­pertest, and here the Turbo S falls short.

It’s a uni­form agree­ment among the To­tal 911 team: at nigh-on dou­ble the price of a 991.2 Carrera, the un­end­ing list of giz­mos on this tech­no­log­i­cal tour de force are ren­dered point­less if the driver is un­able to re­ally tap into its ca­pa­bil­i­ties on the pub­lic road.

That leaves us with the two Car­reras, and though the en­try-level 911 is now an in­cred­i­bly well-sorted ma­chine right out the box (we re­ally are so im­pressed by it), the greater fo­cus of the C4 GTS makes it worth the rel­a­tively small pre­mium over the base car. Fast and in­cred­i­bly ag­ile – while still dis­play­ing the driv­ing traits of a proper Ne­unelfer – it is the GTS that’s un­doubt­edly the sweet spot of the non-gt 911 range. So much so, in fact, that I at­tempt to put my money where my mouth is, putting a call into my lo­cal Porsche Cen­tre dur­ing the drive back south to be­gin pro­ceed­ings over a build slot.

As you may know, with the wait for such slots in mind, there’s not long left to se­cure a car in the cur­rent range be­fore the switch to 992. The 991.2 has split opin­ions since its in­cep­tion two years ago, though the re­al­ity is it has born a truly fan­tas­tic spread of 911s for us to choose from. De­spite ini­tial wor­ries, tur­bocharg­ing has not been to the detri­ment of the 991 driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, even if throt­tle re­sponse gen­er­ally isn’t as good as the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated cars, and updates to the PCM sys­tem are wel­come in a world where such tech­nol­ogy moves fast. All are great mod­ern 911s, but, out­side of the GT cars, in our opin­ion the GTS is the best of the lot.

“The GTS is the sweet spot of the cur­rent 911 range”

ABO VE Su­per-wide Turbo S mon­sters prac­ti­cally any road, but it’s a po­ten­tial li­cence loser if you’re not care­ful

RIGHT Swathes of leather and car­bon present the finest 911 in­te­rior you can hope to sit in. Turbo S’s exhaust isn’t as loud as its Carrera coun­ter­parts

LEFT AND BE­LOW Wide­body GTS looks sen­sa­tional, though op­tional PCCBS aren’t nec­es­sary. Re­vised front PU looks more sporty than Carrera

ABO VE Joe, Alex and Lee com­pare ini­tial notes on their trio of 991.2s af­ter ar­riv­ing in the Peak District

LEFT En­try-level Carrera of­fers a lux­u­ri­ous cabin. NON-GT wheel feels quite large to hold, and while the pres­ence of a 7-speed man­ual is wel­comed, its throw is far from fluid

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