DRIVEN: 'It's a glorious machine!' - The new Porsche 911 in SA is a quintessential sports car
In 1963, Porsche unveiled the first generation 911. It was to become the most timeless machine in its stable. Now, in its eighth generation, the 992 model continues the legacy.
There'll be no history lesson of the previous generations here. If you're a purist, you know all there is about the origins of one of the most iconic cars in automotive history. If you're new to the brand, all you need to know is that the 911 is the benchmark in sports car engineering, and that the new 992 model is the latest evolution of Porsche's legendary car.
I want to tell you about the new 911 Carrera S; the one I had set out to drive on Monday morning while most of the sleepy denizens within the Mother City of Cape Town turned over for a second snooze.
Walking over from the Waterfront to the recently-opened Porsche Studio, four brand new Porsche 911 (992) vehicles awaited the drivers for the day.
Three of the Cape's best passes, all within the Boland area, were on the menu - namely Helshoogte in Stellenbosch, through to Franschhoek Pass, and then ending off with Du Toit's Kloof just outside Paarl. My driving partner, Calvin Fisher, and I decided on who would drive first, and I opted to drive the Franschhoek section.
Oh boy, what an experience!
What's under the hood?
There's a new generation of flat-six turbocharged, more powerful than ever before, delivering 331kW and 530Nm from the 3.0-litre mated to the newly-developed eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
It has a claimed top speed of 308km/h in the Carrera S and 306km/h for the Carrera 4S all-wheel-drive version. It jolts from zero to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds (rear-wheel-drive), and the 4S in just 3.6 seconds.
Both cars are 0.4 seconds faster than the previous model, with an increased advantage by a further 0.2 seconds with the optional SportChrono Package.
What's it like to drive?
I slid into the passenger seat. When Fisher turned the ignition, the 911 burbled to life with an awakening roar. It's seldom you get to drive a new sports while even the sparrows are still snug and sleeping. Travelling against traffic, meant the flyover N1 highway heading out of town was empty and as quiet as a mouse. Fisher stuck his right foot into the corner and G-forces threw us into our respective seats.
Like a thief in the night, the 911 picks up speed lightning fast. It sticks to the road like its bonded to the asphalt and is capable of traversing bends and corners akin to John Wick weaving his way through a mob of assassins. It's just a glorious machine.
And then it was my turn. The car is much easier to drive, given its modern tech, yet still remains true to its purist roots. And, although the new 992 model is faster, more powerful, and more digital than ever before, it doesn't detract from what is a ridiculously sporty machine, almost one with the road. It's no wonder the automaker calls it the pulsing heart of Porsche.
The new 911 sits even lower on the ground - that could just be because the actual seats are now 5mm lower and the seat cushions are thinner too. It sticks to the road and, especially in slithering S-bends and corners, like a blood-sucking leech to a swamp dweller. Gear changes are ridiculously slick, thanks to its reputed eight-speed dual-clutch (PDK system), and throw in the SportChrono package and you're in heaven. Hit the button on the steering wheel and the car transforms into beast mode.
There are new, larger turbochargers, with a symmetrical layout and electrically-controlled wastegate valves, Porsche reckons. There's also a completely redesigned charge air cooling system, and for the first time, piezo injectors combine to attain engine improvements in all relevant areas: responsiveness, power, torque characteristic, endurance, revving ability.
And man, does it sound majestic. Whether you're accelerating, or blipping down the cogs with the paddleshifts, it produces an addictive, sonorous tune.
What else is new?
The car is wider, and a lot more muscular in its design and stance. And, it has the most beautiful rear I have ever seen on a car. It has a wider wing span, and thick, voluptuous arches filled up by 21" wheels in the back and 20"s in the front. You could stare at it all day.
The rear-wheel-drive models now match the bodywork width of the existing all-wheel models.
The rear axle is 44mm larger, while the front end is about 45mm wider. This helps revive a traditional feature of earlier 911 generations - a forward-extended bonnet with a distinctive recess in front of the windscreen.
This makes the car longer than before.
The interior is distinctively Porsche, with straight lines and recessed instruments defining the dashboard. The automaker says 911 models from the 1970s provided the inspiration here as well, with the new dashboard spanning the entire width between two horizontal wing levels, just as it did in the original 911.
Two thin, frameless freeform displays delivers all relevant information the driver might need.
Porsche says the newly-developed LED headlights illustrate how technology has advanced in the 911. The headlights are almost seamlessly integrated into the wings, taking the typically-911 round and upright form. The handles in the doors are now flushed, electrical pop-out ones which emphasises the tapered and smooth side contour. The exterior mirrors have also been redesigned, and are now optimised to minimise wind noise.
There's also the world first Wet Mode which detects water on the road, and preconditions the control systems accordingly. It warns the driver, who can then set the car up to focus on safety by simply pushing a button or using the mode switch on the steering wheel (Sport Chrono Package).
The warning and brake assist system, also fitted as standard, detects the risk of collisions with vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists, and initiates a warning or emergency braking if necessary. Night Vision Assist with a thermal imaging camera is optionally available for the 911 for the first time. Adaptive cruise control, available on request, comprises automatic distance control with a stop-and-go function and reversible occupant protection.
What makes the new 911 more digital?
Three exclusive digital services were unveiled with the new 911 in Los Angeles in November 2018: the Porsche Road Trip app for long-distance journeys, the Porsche 360+ personal assistant, and the web-based Porsche Impact emissions calculator to neutralise your individual carbon footprint.