Porsche 911 Carrera 992 Coupe – long-term review
Farewell to our 992-gen Porsche 911 Carrera
Would the sports car market be more competitive if the Porsche 911 didn’t exist? There’s a question to ponder. One with an easy answer I reckon. This is the pike in the fishpond: it’s driven everything else away. Rivals run scared of it “No”, they protest, “this isn’t a rival to the 911, our audience is completely different, look we’re more expensive/cheaper/front-engined/British/have no back seats”. Anything, in other words, to introduce some distance between themselves and the world’s most successful sports car.
Secretly they all want a slice of the action. So they edge as close to it as they dare. They’ve all been there. And then backed away. Mercedes has discontinued the very-front-engined-in-no-way-a-911 AMG GT, Audi used to do a V8 R8, now it’s V10 only, Aston nudged the Vantage price higher, Jaguar made sure the F-Type’s was lower. BMW has never built an M rival (no-one counts the M8. Or the i8. Shame, because the latter they should), Corvette has largely dodged Europe and kept the price down, Maserati has never done anything that could be remotely construed as an opponent and even Ferrari and McLaren, when they step down the price brackets, never step too far.
What is it that the 911 gets so right? Irritatingly for everyone else: just about everything. I don’t particularly think it matters what model you have. Oh, of course it does on social media or the forums, but 911 ownership is – 90 per cent of the time – about the broad brush strokes. The fact you can use it every day, in comfort, with space and a good hifi, with no compromise and do miles efficiently, easily and simply while enjoying every single interaction with the car and getting this deep, deep satisfaction from it.
Its everydayness is its superpower. It’s the thing almost everyone else misses. The thing that for Porsche has probably been toughest to develop over the past almost 60 years and well over a million cars (this, roughly, is 911 chassis 1,151,001). Mechanically it’s been bombproof, I can’t think of a single build quality quibble, it’s never shirked work or failed to impress. I worked out the other day it’s carried bikes 23 times. Also skis, golf clubs, guitars, holiday luggage, full supermarket shops, people, assorted teenagers with sports gear. You know the drill. It’s been the length and breadth of the country, been a camera rig, done nights out, day trips, race meets, everything.
I’ve got a mate with a 996 C4S. The other evening we went out for a potter. I drove his, he drove mine, we chatted and took pictures, his wasn’t as rowdy as I expected, mine wasn’t as distant as he expected. Speed is more easily accumulated and less eventful now, but there wasn’t the tactility gulf we both kind of expected. Both were cars worth driving on a sunny evening. And the next morning both went commuting.
I get asked two questions. The answer to the first is 27.7mpg (with the addendum of a best of 36.4mpg over a tank for a 520-mile range). The trip computer has over-read by only 2.1 per cent. I’ve measured that since I ran an F-Type nine years ago and it was 12 per cent out. On the very rare occasions the Jag’s computer could be tempted to read 27.7mpg, the actual truth would have been 24.4. Still, 60 litres of super was costing £87 last September, while the last tankful I put in before TXC went back was £105, so I’m very glad the Porsche has not only been more economical than the Jag, but also the last two hot hatches I’ve run.
One of them, the 415bhp Merc-AMG A45 S, had more power though. 385bhp. That’s the answer to the other question, and it illicits a sneery ‘pfff’ from most people. Porsche breeds healthy horsepower. During testing this twin turbo 3.0 flat six hit 60mph in 3.6secs and 100 in 8.4. Almost identical to the times we got from a Jaguar F-Type SVR. Which has 567bhp. And more weight, more drag, more powertrain losses etc etc.
In light of the above, less is clearly more. And if you’re intending to drive and use your 911 a lot I really, truly, genuinely believe that when it comes to model choice, too. I live near Porsche’s UK HQ, so did a swap one weekend and came away with a GTS. This is the car most of us (including me) cite as the ultimate ‘normal’ 911. All the fancy bits, for a little more tactility, speed and purity. That’s not untrue. But the ride was firmer, noise levels higher, it scraped on that dip in the Sainsbury’s car park that mine bobs silently through, it had decals, was dark inside and my wife found it too hectic. ‘Our’ car she loved so much that for a couple of weeks we weren’t doing the house extension. I never got round to telling her the GTS also cost a designer kitchen more.
I’ve written before about the options fitted to this car. KISS as the old acronym goes. Work out how you’re going to use the car and never lose sight of that when you’re on the configurator. The standard headlights and hifi are superb. In my weak moments I quite wanted keyless, but that was literally it. All the other stuff: Sport Chrono, sports exhaust, adaptive cruise, bigger wheels, the endless decals and carbon and trim. I missed none of it. Maybe this says more about me than the car. OK, if natural aspiration was still an option then… maybe. And possibly Gentian Blue instead of Aventurine Green. But only if it went well with the Atacama Beige Heritage Design interior. That corduroy upholstery has possibly been the single greatest thing about the car. And easily the most commented on and widely loved.
I’ve had eight months and 10,000 miles to build up niggles. Here they are: The seat tilt toggles work at the wrong angle. The end. Oh, the centre bin lid is a bit awkward to open too. And the central cupholder interferes with your elbow. Porsche figured that out and made it removable. You can switch it for a useful key/wallet bin that also copes with a flat white just fine. Wouldn’t want to go for a grande latte, but that’s never been my thing.
I’ve driven countless 911s over the years, but this is the first I haven’t had to give back after a week. The first that, for a while, I got to call mine. On every drive, no matter how short, there were small things to appreciate and savour. The whole car, not just the dynamics, is shot through with this sense of honed, endlessly tested and developed, rigour. It’s the most incredibly complete, richly rewarding and versatile sports car.
I had a habit. Each evening I’d reverse onto the drive so when I came out the next morning, I’d be greeted by the lovely rear haunch, I’d stand still and listen as the locks thunked open, then drop down into that wonderful seat, hold the perfect steering wheel and listen as the engine growled into life. It was a basic routine, yet I never tired of it. I’ve never run a car that’s fitted me better or I got more consistent enjoyment out of. It slotted into my life – the driving I have to do and the driving I love to do – better than any car I’ve ever had. Yes it’s dominant in its class and something inside me wants to buck against its success, but it has entirely won me over. The sports car market would be infinitely poorer if the Porsche 911 didn’t exist at all.