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The Top Gear car review:Porsche 911
For:Engine, handling, safety, usability
Against:They don't give them away. No manual at first
What is it?
The Porsche 911 has shown an amazing resilience to the fashions of more than five passing decades. Its look, its dynamics and its very purpose have been steadfast and yet adaptive. Now it’s time for the next step, but in the same direction.
A new 911 has happened eight times – only eight – since 1963. Sometimes those generational leaps are big (the 996 was upsized, water-cooled and really a wholly new car). Sometimes they’re more about the details. This, the 992, is a kinda medium-sized move from the 991.
The whole body is, to all intents and purposes, new. Before, the shell and skin was two-thirds steel. Now it’s only one-third, the rest being aluminium in sheet, extrusion and cast forms. On the outside every metal panel is changed. The body’s wider and shapelier but still in that blissfully subtle 911 manner.
The cutline of the bonnet and its contours hark back to the 1974 G-series. The calligraphy on the tail and the design of the fully analogue rev-counter both nod to the 901. The spirit of that car resides here, they want to imply.
And yes, it does reside here. The new 911, like any 911, is no diva. It’s just a car, that’s the appeal. So the 992 does all the car-like stuff: the boot, the kid-carrying back seats, the practical upright cabin, the glassy view out. Everything just… works. It has soothing daily manners; the ability to slip through traffic or to swallow motorways.
But it isn’t just a car, is it? Unless you’ve lived under a rock, you’ll be aware of the race-hardened patrimony the 911 embodies. And its actual dynamic characteristics live up to that. The song of its engine, the connectedness of its chassis, the balance and precision of its controls. A Porsche is animate in the way it connects with you.
This contradictory mastery of both the prosaic and the thrilling is always what made the 911 great. And so did its ability to evolve with the times. See an early one and this generation side by side, and the effects of progress are reflected in an almost comical hall-of-mirrors increase in girth. It’s how the world has moved.
Launched so far as the Carrera S and 4S, the new car is substantially wider than the 991. Which is a pity because compactness was part of what made a 911 handy, whether in the city or threading down a B-road. But you can see why it’s grown. More width means more grip, and space for wider and larger-diameter tyres – the rear rims are 21-inchers. The 911 now clings on like a supercar.
The interior is almost entirely new. It might contain a few visual recollections of cars past, but it is absolutely of the moment. The interfaces are all about reconfigurable screens, the equipment and driver-assist comprehensive.
For the S and 4S we now have 30 more horses than before, at 450bhp, and 0-62mph times vary according to equipment, but hover around the mid-threes.
The engine, a 3.0-litre turbo, is basically the same one that was made afresh for the arrival of turbos partway through the outgoing 991’s life. But it’s got higher compression, clever piezo injection and most significantly all-new induction and exhaust systems. Turbos and intercoolers are new and bigger, and all are positioned more advantageously for sharper response. The exhaust gets particulate filters too.
The PDK transmission is an entirely new eight-speeder. It’s quicker-shifting an’ all, but mostly it’s about saving fuel at speed. Both seventh and eighth are so long, the car actually gets to its circa-190mph at the top end of sixth.
In the chassis, we find similar principles as before but multiple worthwhile upgrades. They include higher-geared steering (with optional four-wheel steer as before), better brakes, and new standard-fit adaptive dampers with a wider range of operation than the 991.
For aero, there are active cooling flaps up front that, when open, also negate front lift. The rear spoiler now has three positions: down, a mid-range low-drag ‘eco’ position, and the full-speed full-up setting that keeps you earthbound as you approach the light-aircraft top speed. The spoiler is beautifully integrated when down, but when it rises it looks like the whole arse is falling off. Oops.