There's a special treat for Porschephiles in the new October 2011 issue of CAR Magazine: we've nabbed the first ride in the new 991-spec Porsche 911 - alongside rally ace Walter Rohrl.
The new 911 is one of the highlights of 2012, and our European correspondent Georg Kacher spent two days riding shotgun with Rohrl around Alpine passes in the new 911 Carrera S.
Don't miss the eight-page feature in the October 2011 issue of CAR Magazine, on sale today. Click here for a free digital preview.
Riding in the new 991-spec Porsche 911 with Walter Rohrl
Kacher had to brace himself for some rapid cross-country driving, as the 64-year-old Audi and Porsche veteran proved his preferred seating position is right foot pinned to the floor. Although we take Rohrl's judgments with a pinch of Porsche-paid-for salt, his views on the 991 proved enlightening.
'It turns in like a swoosh,' Rohrl says as he tucks into his next Alpine switchback. 'And it sticks - no more understeer. Incredible. All that tugging and pulling is gone. This 911 no longer fights its driver. Instead, it follows the line like a ruler, and is so well balanced you would never believe the engine sits aft of the rear axle.'
What else can you tell about the new 911 Carrera S?
Our lime green 991 was the more powerful Carrera S. Its 3.8-litre flat six musters 400bhp (up from 385bhp) and 325lb ft. It's damn quick, and feels faster than the raw figures suggest (0-62mph is claimed in 4.3sec, top whack is 189mph).
But the new Porsche 991 is important for reasons other than tuned engines. This is an all-new product, not a mere reheat of the 996 like the 997 was. The wheelbase is 100mm longer, yet the overall length is only 56mm longer on account of the short overhangs. A mix of materials - half the body panels are aluminium - trims weight by 30-45kg, compared to the outgoing 997. It's a pretty serious bit of kit, and looks noticeably different despite its legacy design hang-ups.
Rohrl admits the new electro-mechancial power steering caused problems in development. 'Early on, we had problems on low-friction surfaces,' he tells CAR Magazine during our exclusive first ride. 'The phenomenon was called snap-over, and it only showed at the limit whern ultra-fast corrections were required. But engineering quickly fixed it.
'Although the new steering may face the odd acceptance problem among purists, it is in my view superior to a conventional rack because it can support the driver in critical situations, for example, by enhancing the self-centering motion or the directional stability on split-friction surfaces.'
And Kacher's verdict on the 991 from the passenger seat?
Kacher was confined to the passenger seat in this test with Rohrl. But he has now spent a lot of time in the 991, during both development drives in South Africa and now in Europe. He reports that the cabin is roomier and more comfortable, the build quality first rate and the ride pretty sorted considering the Carrera S runs on 20s.
What impressed Kacher most was the new 911's near total absence of understeer. Rohrl struggled to provoke the Carrera S into oversteer too - the engineers admit that sideways mode is no longer part of the car's character.
We'll know for sure when we drive the 991 later in 2011.
>> Don't miss the eight page story with Walter Rohrl in the new October issue of CAR Magazine