Porsche 911 Carrera S (2012) review

Published:21 November 2011

Porsche 911 Carrera S (2012) review
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

Either this is the moment you’ve been waiting for since the first 991-spec Porsche 911 prototypes were spotted testing on the road back in 2008, or you should look away now as we drive the first of many iterations of the new generation rear-engined icon.

And rear engined it still most obviously is: that silhouette is unmistakable. The sleeker rear lights are almost concept car-esque, but actually make the rear look rather narrow; the nose is wide though, and looks odd with the goatee black plastic chin spoiler. And even on the Carrera S the central intake is blanked off – Boxster and Cayman S models get triple intakes.

Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the new Porsche 911

So, highlights of the all-new 991-generation Porsche 911 please…

The 3.8-litre flat-six has gained 15bhp so the Carrera S now has 395bhp produced 900rpm higher, there’s an extra 15lb ft 1200rpm higher, and with the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox and the optional Sport Chrono Pack it’ll hit 62mph in 4.1 seconds. And thanks to the extensive use of aluminium the Carrera S (with PDK) is 45kg lighter than the old car.

It’s the car we’ve tested, but the £10k cheaper Carrera now has a 3.4 rather than a 3.6-litre engine. The power output is up (340bhp at 6500rpm is now 345bhp at 7400rpm; 288lb ft is unchanged but now produced at 5600rpm rather than 4400rpm) but emissions and fuel consumption have dropped so this is Porsche’s cleanest ever sports car: 34.5mpg and 194g/km with the PDK ‘box.

Common to both is a clever thermal management system, trick generator controller, a stop/start system, while the manual gearbox has seven speeds, and the PDK ‘box has a coasting function that decouples the engine and lets it idle if you’re off the throttle. It’s similar to the system on the Audi Q3, so you start to freewheel, so you brake, and the system instantly couples back up to provide engine braking. Defeats the point really.

What about inside the new Porsche 911?

Spacious. There’s an extra 100mm between the front and rear axles, and despite the roofline being 6mm lower, there’s a huge amount of space. Our test car was fitted with heated and ventilated electric seats, but you sit as low as you’d ever like, lanky lads no longer bash their knuckles on their knees when turning the wheel, and even Georg Kacher wouldn’t complain about the headroom despite the fitment of the optional sunroof. Okay, only (small) children still fit in the back, but it feels almost /too/ big up front.

Quality levels have taken a huge leap forward, but if you’re expecting a fresh interior then the sat-nav, the dials and a myriad of buttons will be familiar to 997 owners – this new 911 isn’t /all/ new. And if you’re a fan of the workmanlike, upright interior of every 911 ever, then the Cayenne and Panamera-inspired sloping centre console might not to be your taste. Oh, and I can’t stand the electric handbrake or electric steering column adjustment.

Leather, climate control, bi-xenon lights, a seven-inch sat-nav screen, MP3 and USB connectivity are standard on the Carrera, while the Carrera S gains inch bigger 20in wheels, adaptive dampers, and the Porsche Torque Vectoring system (it selectively brakes the inside rear wheel) with a limited slip differential.

So, the driving experience?

Let’s start with the steering, which is now electro-mechanical. The first turn of the (strangely big) wheel will scare you, so light is the steering – it’s there to aid low-speed manoeuvering but feels very odd when the 997 was instantly weighty and direct. It’s much, much better at speed, but some of that wonderful feel has been damped away. You’ll learn to live with it, but there are many other things you can learn to live with but don’t necessarily want to have in your life. If you’ve never driven a 997 you’ll think it’s wonderful; if you’ve been lucky enough to be behind the wheel of a GT3 then it’s instantly obvious that that delectable feel is missing.

Next the engine, and while the new car is a little faster in a straight line, most obvious is higher red line: for the first few hours I was shifting up in the sixes using the paddles, rather than letting the engine rev around to nearly 8000rpm. And the engine note is new too: the howl is more muted, more refined, but the noise is louder and fuller (helped by a Sound Symposer that pipes the engine noise into the cabin) and in a very un-Porsche way it pop and crackles on the overrun.

The PDK ‘box shifts with a little more of an emotive kick, the ride (at least with the adaptive dampers set to Normal) is supple, the Sport button strikes the best gearbox balance between Normal’s eco bias and Sport Plus’s track-focussed setting, the standard steel brakes are still brilliant, and there’s less understeer. The rear-engined layout means this latest 911 still bucks and weaves – even if it is more composed through corners – and you’ll forever be amazed by how early you can get on the power.

Verdict

It’s more refined, more comfortable, and more economical than ever before, but what really matters is that it still has that unique 911 feel and character. The outgoing Carrera GTS is more interactive and involving, but this new Porsche 911 isn’t far behind – while offering up a much broader range of talents to a bigger audience.

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Specs

Price when new: £0
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 3800cc 24v flat-six, 395bhp @ 7400rpm, 325lb ft @ 5600rpm
Transmission: 4.3sec 0-62mph, 188mph, 32.5mpg, 205g/km CO2
Performance: 1490kg/steel
Weight / material: Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4491/1808/1295mm

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  • Porsche 911 Carrera S (2012) review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera S (2012) review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera S (2012) review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera S (2012) review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera S (2012) review

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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