Another step along the road to perfection for the latest Porsche
The shape still looks the same but beneath the skin the 911 continues to evolve. Frederic Manby tried one at Silverstone.
MARK Burkinshaw moved quickly but gently, giving the steering wheel of the Carrera S a minor adjustment to bring a major change to the balance of this latest Porsche I was trying to drive quickly round Silverstone race circuit.
Mark, mid 40s, originally from Sheffield (he may have taught you to pass your driving test there) is one of the expert instructors at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone.
The day was wet. I did notice I was catching the two cars in front, so must have been doing something right – or they were doing something wrong. No matter.
This is another new 911 which looks pretty much like the last one in a process of evolution which takes the legendary rear-engined car a step nearer perfection. It is bigger but lighter and has better handling and neater body control at high speeds, well, at very high speeds. Love the badge, too, a heraldic shield, none of your prancing nags.
I am prepared to accept that it handles better at speed. In the hands of Porsche’s Timo Kluck it is 14 seconds quicker round the Nurburgring than the last Carrera S, in 7m 40 sec. The dynamic chassis control system, fitted for the first time in a 911, contributed four or five seconds saved. This is an optional extra and reduces body roll and keeps the wheels in better contact with the road.
A wet track, even with the expert instructor, was no place to sense the differences. However, it is noisier inside because a resonator pipe has been fitted to bring a throatier noise in to the cabin – after comment by existing 911 customers that they wanted more roar for their bucks.
The 911 began in 1963 with the model called the 901. The 2012 version is the fourth all-new model (defined by having a new wheelbase) and the seventh generation. Throughout, it has retained a flat-six engine mounted over and driving the rear wheels, under a distinctive two-door coupe body with a front luggage boot.
This time, the 911 uses aluminium for just under half the body mass, with a 13 per cent weight saving on the bodyshell and a 25 per cent gain in torsional stiffness. The car is some two inches (56mm) longer, with shorter overhangs to achieve a 100mm gain in the wheelbase. It is minimally lower and the same width, but the front is not as pinched in, pushing the wheels out for better stability.
The cooling of the engine, gearbox and brakes is
Fitted with Porsche’s latest PDK twin clutch automatic gearbox it achieves an official 34.4mpg.
improved, meaning a front radiator for the automatic gearbox is no longer needed. A larger rear wing generates downforce for the first time in the standard Carrera model. The wing adjusts to the airflow created by the sunroof, usefully a third bigger, which now slides back over the roof – thus not impinging on interior headroom.
The Carrera’s new 3.4 litre engine achieves the same torque but delivers five more horse power than the old 3.6, with gains in miles per gallon and reductions in CO2. The manual gearbox is the world’s first seven speeder. When fitted with Porsche’s latest PDK twin clutch automatic gearbox it achieves an official 34.4mpg and with 194g/km of CO2 is the first Porsche to dip under the 200g mark. It runs on 19 inch wheels.
The Carrera S engine remains at 3.8 litres but has an additional 15hp to reach 394bhp and a similar gain in torque. It also has better mpg and CO2 figures, with the PDK gearbox rated at 32.5mpg and the CO2 figure down 35g/km to 205g/km – better than the previous 3.6 Carrera. It has 20-inch wheels.
Acceleration is marginally quicker on both models, with a manual Carrera reaching 62mph in 4.8 seconds and 179mph. Fitted with the PDK gearbox the 0-62mph time is 4.6 seconds and with the rapid start Sport Chrono pack 4.4 seconds. The comparative figures for the Carrera S are 4.5, 4.3 and 4.1 seconds and a max of 188mph.
The purchase price rises to £71,449 for the Carrera with manual gears (a £4,179 increase) and to £81,242 for the Carrera S (up £5,070). Porsche mitigates these by claiming big reductions in running costs (supposing you achieve the mpg gains), navigation and 2-zone climate control and so on. It says the added kit on each model is worth some £2,700 at retail.
The improved PDK gearbox is smoother setting off, and now has a coasting function. It is £2,387 and will be ordered by 75 per cent of Carrera S buyers. The Sport Chrono pack, which includes dynamic engine mounts to stop the engine moving when being hammered round a race track, is £1,376. Some 85 per cent of Carrera S buyers are expected to take this option. A telephone module will be taken by nine out of 10 owners and costs an extra £558.
The cabin now looks better, with hints of the Panamera, and is more ergonomic in parts. The central tunnel rises towards the dashboard, lifting the gearshift lever nearer the steering wheel for handier fast action. The steering column now has electric power for inward and tilt adjustment. You still start it by turning a key – what would ownership be without that embossed heraldic key?
The seven-speed manual gearbox has decent shifting. Seventh gear gives 70mph at 2,000rpm, so is not all that lazy and pulls well at lower speeds.
The new Carrera models are on sale now, joined by the cabriolet on March 3. The Carrera 4, GTS and Turbo models of the outgoing series remain on sale this year and are expected to be replaced in 18 to 24 months.
Verdict: More super duper than before.
More: 08457 911 911.
ALL NEW: Porsche Carrera S 911 – the engine remains at 3.8 litres but has an extra 15hp to reach 394bhp. The new car is bigger and lighter.