Porsche 991: our comprehensive guide to the new 911

Published: 12 October 2011

Porsche president and chief CEO Matthias Muller couldn’t be accused of lacking confidence when he introduces CAR to the new 991-generation Porsche 911 at the Porsche Museum, Stuttgart. ‘Technologically and visually the car is a masterpiece,’ he says. ‘I don’t think I am promising too much here. I already know this car, I know it at detail level; the engineers took a basically perfect car and improved it again. The new 911 is the best 911 of all times.’

We've spoken to the engineering, designing and marketing chiefs and pored over the new 991-spec 911 to bring you everything we know. Here is our detailed guide. And don't forget we've already ridden in the new 911 alongside rally legend Walter Rohrl. Read all about in the October 2011 issue of CAR Magazine.

1. Engines in the new Porsche 991

In line with tradition, the 911 launces in two variants: Carrera and Carrera S. The big news is the Carrera engine, which actually shrinks from 3.6 to 3.4 litres, thanks to a 4mm reduction in piston stroke. Power rises from the old car’s 340bhp at 6500rpm to 345bhp from 7400rpm, while torque remains unchanged at 288lb ft, but at a higher 5600rpm, not the previous 4400rpm.

With a manual gearbox, fuel consumption improves from 27mpg to 31mpg and C02 emissions fall from 242g/km to 212g/km, reducing the cost of 12 months’ tax from £445 to £260 in the UK. Opt for the dual-clutch PDK transmission and fuel consumption falls from 34mpg to 29mpg, and C02 from 230g/km to 194g/km, with a similar tax saving.

The new Carrera S sticks with a 3.8-litre engine, power rising from 380bhp at 6500rpm to 395bhp at 7400rpm, torque from 310lb ft at 4400rpm to 325lb ft at 5600rpm.

Go for the manual gearbox and you’ll get 30mpg and 224g/km (improving on 27mpg and 250g/km); the PDK yields 32mpg and 205/km (compared with the old car’s 28mpg and 240g/km), both variants saving approximately £200 on the cost of a tax disc.

We ask executive vice president of R&D Wolfgang Hatz if, like some rivals, Porsche had considered further downsizing the Carrera engines and adding turbochargers. ‘At the moment, we still believe there is a market for naturally aspirated cars,’ he explains. ‘Maybe in the future there is scope for more downsizing with turbos, but it’s not coming soon and we are very good [in terms of mpg and emissions] compared with rivals. And I like naturally aspirated – it’s fun to drive!’

IN A NUTSHELL More power, lower running costs – and the Carrera engine is smaller too.

2. Equipment, prices of the new Porsche 991-era 911

The Carrera will cost £71,449 in the UK, the Carrera S £81,242. Standard on both models are leather seats, auto climate control, bi-xenon headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, MP3 compatibility, and Porsche Stability Management.

As well as a larger, more powerful engine, the Carrera S also adds 20-inch alloys, Porsche Active Suspension Management and Porsche Torque Vectoring with either a mechanical locking differential (manual gearbox) or an electronically actuated locking diff (PDK). Ceramic brakes and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control – de-coupling the anti-roll bars when the car isn’t cornering – are optional on both models.

IN A NUTSHELL Carrera S carries £10k premium – but it’s packed with equipment.

>> Click 'Next' for more of our deep-dive profile of the new 991-spec Porsche 911

3. Porsche 911's seven-speed manual gearbox

The 991-era 911 showcases the first seven-speed manual gearbox in a production car. Despite being a manual, it actually shares much with the PDK transmission and comes down the same production line. Even the ratios are largely the same, save for a taller third and slightly shorter seventh cog. Did these commonalities result in any compromises? Not really, says R&D boss Wolfgang Hatz. He tells us that the distance between the engine and the axle is the same as for the previous 911, despite the changed gearbox that lies between them, and that the weight of the two units is identical. ‘Perhaps,’ he says, ‘we could maybe have it lighter if we’d made a “pure” manual seven-speed.’ Did the team ever consider not offering a manual gearbox at all? ‘No,’ he says firmly. Both the manual and PDK come with a stop/start system to automatically shut off the engine at traffic lights.

IN A NUTSHELL The world’s first seven-speed manual in a production car.

4. New Porsche 991's PDK transmission

The seven-speed PDK returns for duty in the 911, but this time there’s a twist: a ‘sailing’ mechanism. Brake gently or back-off the throttle lightly and the engine de-couples from the transmission, reducing fuel usage. Make harder inputs and the mechanical connection remains in check, ensuring a keen driver gets the suitable amount of engine braking. It is, promises Hatz, incredibly subtle. ‘When you are cruising at 90mph the engine noise is very low anyway, so you don’t hear or feel it,’ he says.

The controversial rocker paddles (pull either paddle to change down a gear, push either paddle to change up) return to the 911’s steering wheel and, once again, you can opt for a more conventional set-up (left paddle for down, right for up). However, there is a catch: the conventional paddles can’t be paired with a multi-function steering wheel. ‘We’re working on it,’ says Hatz.

IN A NUTSHELL Engine and PDK transmission decouple to save fuel.

5. The chassis of the new 991

‘This car is 100% new with a completely new platform,’ says Wolfgang Hatz. ‘It’s a big investment.’ Perhaps the biggest change to the new 911 is the extra 100mm that’s gone into the wheelbase, shorter overhangs ensuring the overall length has grown only by 56mm. Elsewhere, the 911 is no wider, but it gets an entirely new rear axle and a wider front track (48mm for the Carrera, 52mm for the S). The aim is to improve comfort and stability, but purists will surely worry that the longer wheelbase will impact on the famous 911 agility.

‘People say a shorter wheelbase is more reactive, but that’s not the case here. Turn this car in and it goes…’ says Hatz, shooting both his hands off down an imaginary road. ‘In the old car you were always… [moves hands up and down on an imaginary wheel] but here at 150mph you can take your hands off the wheel.’

There are new toys too: Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control largely eliminates roll without impacting on comfort because hydraulic actuators de-couple the anti-roll bars when the car isn’t cornering. ‘Roll?’ asks Hatz, ‘You don’t feel it anymore.’ Meanwhile, Porsche Torque Vectoring combines with a limited slip differential but is more predictive than the traditional reactive diff – sensing slip is about to happen in a corner, it subtly brakes the inside rear wheel. The familiar Porsche Active Suspension Management adaptive dampers are also tweaked. Says Hatz: ‘There’s a much broader spectrum from comfort to super sporty.’

IN A NUTSHELL Wheelbase longer by 100mm, but there’s no loss of agility, promises Porsche.

>> Click 'Next' for the design story of the new 991-spec Porsche 911

6. Why the new Porsche 911 (2012) has gone for electric power steering

The Porsche 911 is famed for its steering feel, so it’s a big deal to hear that the hydraulic power assistance is no longer driven from a belt on the engine, but from an electronic pump, all in the name of saving fuel. But Hatz is confident it will live up to purists’ expectations. ‘I would put this system on a GT3 or a race car,’ he tells us.’

IN A NUTSHELL Electrically assisted steering rack saves fuel.

7. The design of the new Porsche 991

Porsche design boss Michael Mauer is responsible for the look of the new 911. ‘The 911 is one of the icons, maybe the icon,’ he says. ‘Hardly any other maker has developed a car over 50 years and developed it so cautiously. There’s the tension of history: we needed to respect what has happened over the last 50 years while bringing new ideas for the future. You can feel the burden on the designers’ shoulders. I felt this. We tried to look back to when special things happened during the 911’s life: 993 to 996 and 997, these were big leaps. This was part of our inspiration.

‘The roundish headlamp is part of the 911 DNA, not Porsche DNA. I can see that the 996 headlamp was very hi-tech back then to integrate everything, but no-one liked them. We sat down and decided we wanted round headlights but that the rear wasn’t part of the brand identity. For me, it’s the rear of the car where we have made most progress.’

The 991-generation is all new with a mix of aluminium – which accounts for almost half of the body-in-white, including doors, bonnet, boot, wings and roof – and high-strength steel. Roughly 50% of the weight is accounted for by aluminium, 50% by steel.

Porsche claims the larger body and extra equipment should have made the 911 around 50kg heavier than its predecessor; instead it’s 30-45kg lighter, depending on spec at 1380-1415kg compared with 1415-1455kg.

IN A NUTSHELL Lighter, all-new bodyshell gets fusion of aluminium and steel.

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