We, at BMWBLOG, don’t discriminate. We love German metal, in all its forms (well… umm… Audi? The R8 is nice.) and we can’t help but notice when a competitive marque launches a car worth spanking at your local racetrack.
That said, it was about time we sat down with Porsche to analyze the all-new “991” 911 Carrera – only the 7th generation 911 to launch since its first unveiling in 1963.
The 911 is a “don’t screw it up” car. It is a car that is so loved, so cherished by its myriad owners that I suspect 911 designers fear for their life prior to re-launch. Maybe they drive around in armored 911s? Trade secrets.
Because of the 997’s success in the market and on the racetrack, it was no small undertaking to improve upon the 911 substantively. This no doubt took a lot of time in “The Thinker” posture, over dimly lit sketch pads. Finally, the world was shown the latest iteration of the 911, and I was lucky enough to drive one a few months back.
My time was limited to the road, and honestly, without a track to get wild – I could barely scratch the surface of this car’s performance. It has untold levels of grip. You’ve got to be either insane, or Chris Harris (or both?) to get this car drifting on public roads. It has very, very quick reflexes – likely faster than yours – so to induce, catch, hold, and then unwind a slide requires some finesse. I’ll try my hand on the racetrack – but there only.
So, what of the new 911’s design? It builds upon the 997’s smooth, organic looks, adding in a few modern-industrial touches. I particularly like the rear three-quarter angle – the tail lamps are now razor sharp, and cut into the rear wing. Being both lower and wider, the stance is significantly more aggressive, and thanks to a stretch in wheel-base (and overall length, though not by as much) the 911 Carrera has also become more spacious and comfortable on the inside. But your grown friends will remain just as uncomfortable in the rear quarters – don’t even think of sitting a grown adult back there for even a short trip. Small children and/or pets should fit just fine.
The most major change to the 911’s dynamics comes thanks to a significant increase in the front track. The front wheels have been moved further apart by 2.0 inches and this has dramatically changed the cornering behavior of the 911 – and for the better. The car no longer ‘rolls onto its rear wheels’ while cornering – the wider front track has added front end grip, and thus significantly reduced understeer. The car is much more neutral than it’s ever been – and I could feel this even on my street drive.
The next most major and spiritually significant change comes compliments of electric-assist steering. Porsche say that the new system “filters unwanted noise from the steering while leaving all the feel that you need.” I strongly resent this approach and statement – I just flat-out disagree. But then, no one is heeding my opinions in any design shops, so take that with a grain of salt – but seriously, why lessen the definition? I’ll have an Opposite Lock out on this topic soon enough; why aim for less clarity, less feel and feedback, less detail? Porsches, most of all the 911s, are supposed to be pure, exotic cars, ready to raise goose-bumps at any moment. TV’s are going higher definition all the time – I want high def TVs… and steering.
That rant complete, it turns out that some of the world’s best drivers, racers, and auto journalists (and a few combinations thereof) are more than satisfied with the new 911′s steering. See here, and here for the verdict from two of the best in the business.
To the real purpose of the electric-assist steering’s introduction: fuel economy. By only running power steering assist when the car is cornering, there is significantly less parasitic energy loss from the steering system.
Next up is the new chassis which is nearly all-aluminum. It’s a brilliant chassis, both in the inherent shape it lends to its shell – one with exceptional aerodynamic qualities since the car’s inception – and in the lightness and rigidity it achieves. The new 911 tips the scales at 3,120 lbs, 88 lbs lighter than its predecessor despite growing by several inches and improving in the area of torsional rigidity. Anyone who frequents the track will tell you that nearly 100 lbs is easily felt from behind the wheel – thus the new 911 gains the best possible performance improvement any sports car could ever hope for: weight loss. Thanks to Jenny Craig, the new 911 is now more agile with quicker acceleration, shorter braking distances and higher lateral-G loading. It’s also more efficient thanks to the spring in its step.
One of the best aspects of the new 911’s performance and romance is its lofty 7,600 rpm reline. Whew, that makes me hot under the collar, being a knee-dragger who loves to rev. True, it’s not nearly as high as the current M3’s 8,400 rpm redline, but with the addition of turbos, the new M3’s redline is sure to drop below the 911s. As far as fun factor, this adds points for the 911, if not speed. The 911’s boxer-6 engine is largely the same as found in the previous 911, though some added tech and tweaks have helped the block to produce 400 hp at 7400 rpm (15 hp more than predecessor) and 325 lb-ft (15 lb-ft more than predecessor) at 5600 rpm.
All of the above culminates into a truly ballistic car. No really – this car is stupefyingly fast. Car & Driver recorded a 3.5 second 0-60 time and a quarter mile time of only 11.8 seconds. This, is super-car fast. Notably, these numbers dethrown the fastest non-turbo 911 made to date: the 997-based 911 GT3 RS 4.0.
Still not impressed? Consider this: the new 911 Carrera S, with street tires, completes a lap of the Nordschleife in 7:40 seconds. That’s 14 seconds (!) faster than the 997 Carrera S, and roughly on par with the 997 GT3 RS. Good golly. It’s time to call the bank. What kind of numbers will the new Turbo, GT3, GT3 RS, GT2, and GTS turn in? I fear most necks couldn’t handle it. Commence neck strengthening exercise in light of GT3 launch.
It’s worth mentioning that the sound of the new 911 is also glorious – and thanks to an exhaust valve that opens in the S model at higher RPM, the engine truly wails and sings. The purity and clarity of sound was duly noted, and enjoyed, during my drive.
Compliments of 245/35ZR-20 front, 295/30ZR-20 rear tires, the new 911 Carrera S also manages to hold a circle at 0.99 G – mighty impressive for any stock street car, particularly one that has a calm-natured duality in its driving experience.
To its duality: the new 911 is quieter from the cabin, roomier, and far more plush than the 997 it replaces. The Panamera comes to mind when inspecting the interior, and that’s not a bad thing. I particularly like how the center-console doubles as a terrific knee brace through left-hand corners.
The 911 has the best dual clutch transmission I’ve ever sampled – the best by a long shot both in actuation and completion. Porsche’s “PDK” was first developed on their race cars, and has only been improved from there.
For possibly the first time ever, I’m not so sure if I’d take the manual – albeit a world’s first 7-speed manual – on this 2 door sports car; the PDK is just so incredibly good and a rifle-action pleasure to use. If I was going to enter timed events with the 911, i.e. autocross and time attacks, I would go for the win with 10ths saving PDK tech – but if this is just a car to have to myself on passionate Sundays and winding roads, I’ll take the manual, thanks.
Clearly, I’m rather fond of the new 911. I don’t hide this fact. The truth is, many M3 owners also own 911s (and visa versa if the order mentioned matters to you…) and for good reason: they are both tremendous cars; both tremendously fun to drive – unique in their own way. Indeed, they are even driven quite differently on track thanks to their opposite engine layouts.
It remains to be seen what kind of performance the new M3 and M4 will turn out. I fully expect the new M cars to fly the flag with sub 4.0 second 0-60 mph times and near 1 G lateral acceleration, straight out of the box. To be sure, they will both be phenomenal cars – but how will they measure up to Porsche’s 911? Only time, and a back-to-back track test will tell.
To learn even more about Porsche’s new 911, we sat down with Alexander Schildt and David Burkhalter of Porsche North America. We divided the interview into two sections: the first focusing on the overall design changes to the new 911, the second focusing on the ideal 911 Carrera S track car – we went through which boxes you should tick should you wish to regularly put your 911 through its paces on the wide-open racetrack.
Enjoy these sound clips and our photo gallery of the new 911 Carrera shot live from the show floor in Detroit.
Audio by SHURE FP Wireless Mic
[Photos Credit: Shawn Molnar]