The arrival of a new 911 is always a big news day, one that arrives in the company’s 70thyear bigger still. We get the low-down on the latest iteration of the iconic sports car. Join Drive-My in a celebration of Porsche’s 70th year; as we reveal the new 911 Carrera, drive the 919 Hybrid, and put all three current 911 GT models head-to-head. Porsche’s 992-generation 911 pushes the Carrera’s capabilities further than ever before – and also prepares the iconic model for its electrified future. The man responsible for it introduces Drive-My to ‘his’ new car. Words by Stuart Gallagher. Photography by John Wycherley.
PORSCHE AT 70 : NEW 911 992
There are a handful of cars that, no matter what newbie comes and goes fighting for the attention of genuine car enthusiasts (let’s call them Drive-My readers), still stop us in our tracks and make us look up from our smartphones. News of a new BMW M3 or mid-engined Ferrari, a Fiesta ST or Honda Civic Type R, or pretty much anything from Renault Sport and Lamborghini always causes genuine excitement. And then there’s the 911. Not the GT models that sell out before they set a time at the Ring, but the vanilla Carrera. The 911.
For the last 20 years August Achleitner has been instrumental in the Porsche 911’s life, part of the engineering team that managed its transformation to water-cooling and its evolution into the most prolific range of sports cars imaginable (there were over 20 iterations of 997-series 911s). Today he’s removed the covers from the fourth generation of water-cooled 911 and the ninth overall in the model’s 54-year history.
On paper and on the road, from 996 to 991, the 911’s evolutionary story is a clearly defined one. It has grown in width, height and length (the outgoing car saw the first change in 911 wheelbase for 14 years), and while its fiat-six engine may be similar in spirit, the current turbocharged units are barely recognisable to that first 3.4-litre water-cooled ‘six’, let alone the original’s 130bhp 2-litre air-cooled motor. There have been new gearboxes, drivetrains and suspension systems along the way, with Achleitner also taking the decision to swap the hydraulic steering for an electric set-up back in 2012, proof that he and his team aren’t afraid of playing with the 911’s ingredients in order to serve a more flavor some example than has gone before.
True, a number of diehard enthusiasts have found a few of these developments a little unpalatable, but with the 911 remaining one of the most sought-after performance cars on the planet, it’s hard to argue against the majority of the changes.
Life for the 992 started back in 2014, when August gathered his team to define what the new 911 should be. The answer? ‘Simple. It has to be better than the old one.’ This generation of 911 is as big a step forward from the car it replaces as the shift from 997 to 991 and, arguably, 993 to 996. It also marks a number of firsts in the water-cooled era.
Only a single body size will be offered this time, which means those hoping for a return to a narrow-bodied 911 will be disappointed, as all 992 derivatives will use the wider ‘S’ body. There are, as you would expect, sound engineering reasons behind this decision. By using the wider body, the front track could be widened by up to 45mm, and as Achleitner explains: ‘With the wider front track we are able to transmit more rolling force through the front axle, without having to stiffen the anti-roll bars: the stiffer the bars, the less traction you are able to generate. It also means you can generate more feedback and increase rear-axle stability.’ Other benefits, claims Achleitner, are more direct steering (by 10 per cent) and a better-looking car in terms of design: ‘If we had kept the smaller body with the wider track the proportions would have looked wrong,’
Sitting on a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, the new 911 is only a little longer overall thanks to shorter overhangs. It’s wider, but not by an amount that would have you breathing in anymore than in an outgoing 911 GTS, but it is certainly more muscular than before, with some sections of bodywork wearing the appearance of a T-shirt being stretched over a steroid-fuelled body. It’s at the rear where you notice it most, with a deep-set bumper and long engine cover pulled tightly over the turbocharged flat-six, and pumped-up arches wrapped around larger-than-ever forged alloy wheels.
Overall it looks unmistakably a 911, perhaps more so from the front than recent models due in part to a bonnet that features the distinctive inset design of old, plus LED matrix headlights that are far more pronounced.
This evolution mixed with a sprinkling of revolution continues under the 992’s skin, too. Initially only a Carrera S will be offered, using the more powerful version of the 3-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six from the outgoing GTS; the new WLTP emission tests mean we’ll have to wait until March 2019 for the entry-level Carrera. Outputs for the S increase from 414bhp with 369lb ft of torque to an outgoing GTS-matching 444bhp with 406lb ft. There are incremental changes and updates to the majority of the motor’s components, including a particulate filter, while an all-new exhaust system produces less back pressure, bringing vastly improved flow, and adds to the natural soundtrack, with less reliance on the sound-imposer system.
THE ANALOGUE CENTRAL REV COUNTER IS REMINISCENT OF A 901’S VELO ITEM’
Along with the lower-powered engine you’ll also have to wait for a manual gearbox in your 992, as it too won’t appear until Q1 of 2019. In the interim Porsche’s latest PDK auto will be the only transmission provided to drive the rear or all four wheels. But this is an all-new 911, so the PDK unit has also undergone a considerable amount of work, including the inclusion of an extra gear. The first six ratios are as short as the outgoing ’box’s, but seventh is no longer an overdrive, and the new eighth gear, while long-legged, isn’t as stretched as seventh previously was. The gearbox’s casing is shorter, a little higher and wider, but it still requires the same area ahead of the engine as the old unit. ‘You know what’s coming,’ says Achleitner with a wry smile. ‘During the car’s development we considered the possibility to integrate a hybrid system. We won’t offer it with this generation, but most likely in the next one. We’re not happy with the battery technology at the moment.’
A further change to the PDK set-up is that, where the previous system was all mechanical, from the paddles/gear-shifter down to the cables and rods in the casing, now the shifts are electronically actuated. ‘The shifts are as quick as those in the GT3,’ promises Achleitner. Also, the shorter gear-shifter doesn’t allow for manual changes, instead you need to use the paddles behind the steering wheel.
Backto the subject of an electrified 911 and Achleitner doesn’t switch from his ever-accommodating demeanour. ‘If you had asked me 18 months ago I would have said, “No! I can’t imagine a time when the 911 wouldn’t have a combustion engine.” But since then I have driven the Taycan several times and this car works so well, is so much fun. It feels so much like a sports car that I’ve changed my mind. Even I could imagine a 911 with an electric powertrain. How long before we see an electric 911? I don’t know, maybe 15 years from now.’ This future-proofing for a forthcoming hybrid model is why the 992 is heavier than the car it replaces, a consequence of providing battery and motor storage space and fixing point.
Big strides have also been made in the chassis department, in particular the dampers, with adaptive PASM units (standard on the S, optional on the Carrera) now featuring fully-variable adjustment. Where previously Porsche’s engineers could only program a different setting for when the damper was either fully extended or compressed, now the damping ratio adjusts throughout the full extension and compression, delivering more comfort without sacrificing the car’s performance. The PASM set-up, as in the past, lowers the chassis by 10mm, with a further Sport chassis option lowering the car by 20mm overall, this latter arrangement being Achleitner’s favoured one. ‘I’d have a manual, rear-wheel-drive Carrera S,’ says the man who also recently took delivery of a PDK-equipped GT3 for track work.
For the first time the Carrera and S models will also be fitted with larger-diameter rear wheels than those at the front. On the Carrera this means a 19-inch front and 20-inch rear tyre, for the S a 20-inch front and 21-inch rear, the latter requiring a much larger wheelarch housing than on any previous Carrera model. The larger wheel and tyre combination also increases the tyre’s footprint, not only in width but length too: ‘This has allowed us to put more force across the rear axle, increasing grip and stability,’ explains Achleitner.
Within those enlarged arches is a noise sensor that detects a decibel change when the road is wet. The driver is then notified of the change in conditions and can take the decision to engage the car’s new ‘wet’ mode, which adjusts the torque distribution to all four corners on the four-wheel-drive models, optimises the stability control and braking systems and softens the throttle response.
There’s more revolution inside the 992. New instruments feature an analogue central rev counter with a design reminiscent of a 901’s Velo item, flanked either side by TFT displays that complete the traditional five-dial layout. The dial immediately to the left of the tacho is the speedo, while the dial to the right shows driver settings and infotainment displays. The pair of outer dials, which are slightly obscured by the larger-diameter steering wheel, show the ‘non-essentials data’ such as the clock, fuel level and engine temperature. ‘You only need to glance at this occasionally on a journey,’ explains Achleitner.
The rising transmission tunnel is inspired by the 918’s, and houses controls for the air conditioning and stereo volume. The remaining switchgear is above, on the leading edge of the dash beneath the infotainment screen, and comprises delightful metal rocker switches rather than plain old push buttons. The entire dash has a flat surface to its base, reintroducing some character to what has, in the past, been best described as a plain and functional interior. Two seat styles will be offered from launch – the standard semi-electric seat and an 18-way adjustable unit. You’ll have to wait until the new GT3 (still naturally aspirated) arrives before you can order a bucket seat.
Achleitner has given the 992 the technical arsenal needed to take on a sector that feels like it is travelling as quickly as the cars themselves. Aston Martin (Vantage), BMW (M850i G15), McLaren (540C), Audi (R8) and Lexus (LC500) are just a few of the marques looking to take a bite of the 911’s pie. Some of their rivals are more GT focused, which is why the 992 is claimed to be more refined, quieter and even more suitable for longer journeys (suppressing the noise from those 21-inch rear tyres must be quite the challenge). Others are pure sports coupes, with a remit to slice and dice with the 911 across any given topography and around any circuit. Others blend the two, looking to serve a portion of the duality that the 911 has maintained over the last half century. When we drive the 992 in the new year we’ll get a taste of just how close Porsche and Achleitner have got to perfecting the freshest 911 recipe.
Left: ‘S’ body across the board allows for wider tracks, which aid handling, feedback, stability and steering, as well as influencing the car’s proportions. Top: new model’s LED matrix headlights more pronounced than before.
‘OUTPUTS INCREASE TO AN OUTGOING GTS-MATCHING 444BHP AND 406LB FT’
Left: flat-bottomed dash adds character to cabin. Above: Carrera gets 19in front, 20in rear wheels, the S 20in front 21in rear.