Porsche 911 Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Thursday 1st December
Car Review

Porsche 911 review

£148,960 - £170,410
910
Published: 16 Nov 2021
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

There’s power everywhere. This engine doesn’t explode from off-boost idleness to afterburner force. Neither does it need to graze the redline before vouchsafing its finest. It just pulls, wherever the needle starts from. OK, there’s a little lag in the sub-3,000rpm zone, enough to remind you why the nat-asp predecessors were so addictive. But even so, it's a definite improvement on the outgoing turbocharged car.

Because the delivery’s never really absent, it disguises the strength of its presence. But it really is quick. Not ridiculously or terrifyingly supercar-quick, but nevertheless properly fast. The Carrera is slightly short-changed in a world where an M3 has 500bhp and costs not far off as much as a 911, but use the lower gears wisely and it’ll shove you out of corners, overtake regally, and haul in a straight line like the horizon itself is on the move. It’s deceptive in a way the faster ones aren’t because their deliveries are a little more vicious and obvious.

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How’s the sound of that flat-six?

There’s a little missing these days and you have to get the options right. The GTS (with less soundproofing and a noisier zorst) is pretty compelling, but the entry one is relatively softly spoken. The 7,500rpm top-end is nicely far-fetched for a turbo, and by then that old flat-six howl is wrapping you like a tempest. Lift off in the mid-ranges and the turbos sigh; let it over-run down through the upper fives and you get that characteristic hollow reverb.

A 911’s engine is, of course, about far more than propulsion. Its rear-mounted position affects pretty well every other aspect of the driving picture. But less so than ever here. Driving the early generations of 911 sometimes felt like shooting the rapids with a big dog jumping around the tail of the canoe. In the 991, the dog moved forwards, and if you had the active engine mounts he sat quietly down. Now he’s pretty much sedated.

The engine hasn’t moved forward again, but the position of the mounts has, which improves their control over the engine’s oscillations in the shell. It pacifies the ride and steering, gives them a purity more like a mid-engined car’s. There are exponents of the old-school 911 that tell you managing that mass was part of the game. Maybe so, but it could feel like jeopardy, and no-one wants that on a cold, wet night. The 991 – and more so 992 – have swapped that for reassurance and precision.

I bet there’s a host of tech to keep it pointing the right way.

A veritable seven-nation army of technology lines up alongside you at every bend. Namely adaptive damping ('PASM'; standard), electronically controlled diff (standard), adaptive anti-roll ('PDCC'; optional), rear-wheel steering (optional) and adaptive engine mounts (come with the Sport Chrono pack).

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But it feels natural. The front tyres find colossal purchase, and the car pivots about its middle, flat and secure and agile, deep into the bend. The steering's faster than it was, but not twitchy-quick, and sometimes if the corner is tight the rear axle's steering just brings it more eagerly around the arc. All the while the sensations flow and tingle.

The steering is telling you a little about the grip – nearly always in surfeit – and more about the changing weight over the tyres as you ride dips and crests. The well-loaded rear tyres can accept power ridiculously early in a bend, of course, but if you have the traction control in Sport they'll also glide gracefully outward. And then the steering weight magically guides you towards opposite-lock. That's always been a 911 thing, and again its vestige remains.

Two wheel drive or four?

The 4WD Carrera 4, with the same spec of major options, does have slightly heavier, more masked steering. Slightly. It also has more traction in the wet, but the standard Carrera's stability controls are so magical (and there's 'wet mode' now, too) that it's hard to see you'll need it. The 4 will still act rear-drive and do a powerslide BTW. But the RWD car's all-round capabilities overshadow the need for the 4. If you want security on a wet winter's night, you might well be better served by spending £2k on the optional matrix LED headlights rather than £5k on the four-wheel drive. 

And you can probably dodge the optional carbon ceramic brakes too. For road driving, the pedal's a bit eager at the top of its travel and there's little wrong with the stopping on Porsche iron brakes. But of course the iron ones would add unsprung weight and put some jiggle into the ride.

As it is, the ride is taut but not sharp, controlled over big stuff and, in the standard mode, remarkably placid in its secondary vibrations. This is all very comfortable for a sports car. At a cruise, the engine goes quiet, the big tyres are more hushed than you'd expect, and all is stable. Wind rustle is a bit of an issue though.

Which version would you have?

The 992 to have is the cheaper 911 Carrera. No, not the S. And no, TG hasn’t taken leave of its senses. Less is more here, and not simply because the ‘non-S’ is £10,000 cheaper and looks identical inside and out (bar slightly smaller wheels which actually look less overwrought.

No, our logic here comes from the fact the Carrera uses almost exactly the same 3.0-litre flat-six engine as the S. Sure, Porsche is at pains to point out changes in turbo size and boost pressure, but really, the 62bhp/59lb ft deficit is down to an ECU tweak. You can spec the same sports exhaust. And as it’s a meagre half a second slower from 0-62mph, there’s just that bit longer to savour the engine’s finest noises as it zips past 7,000rpm.

Drive everywhere like a firework, but missed out on a GT3 and can’t stretch to a Turbo? Have the GTS. It may sacrifice a bit of bandwidth, but it sticks to the sporting brief very nicely.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Porsche 911 S 2dr PDK
  • 0-622.8s
  • CO2257.0g/km
  • BHP650
  • MPG
  • Price£170,410

the cheapest

Porsche 911 2dr PDK
  • 0-622.9s
  • CO2257.0g/km
  • BHP580
  • MPG
  • Price£148,960

the greenest

Porsche 911 S 2dr PDK
  • 0-622.8s
  • CO2257.0g/km
  • BHP650
  • MPG
  • Price£170,410
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