As Winston Churchill once said: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”. When it comes to sports cars, the Porsche 911 is the benchmark for success. It has always changed to meet the requirements of the time, and as such has continued to remain at the very forefront of its game.
The 2016 Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S series two or, 991 (model designation) 911.2 as it’s referred to technically, has taken a rather different road from the car it replaces.
Gone are the 3.4- and 3.8-litre naturally aspirated engines (Carrera and Carrera S) in favour of a more emission-friendly 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat six (309kW and 500Nm in Carrera S form) with improved performance and better fuel efficiency (7.7L/100km with PDK). Full specification details here.
On the face of it, more power and torque with lower fuel usage is always a good thing, but at what cost does one do away with the fortunes of the past and embrace the future? To find out, we flew all the way to the west coast of Africa destined for the small island of Tenerife (Canary Islands) to drive the new Porsche 911 Carrera S.
From the outside, the updated 911 Carrera S isn’t all that distinguishable to the average punter from the car it replaces, though the front and rear bumpers are entirely new, as are the door handles and the air intakes and outlets for the turbochargers at the back.
There are subtle changes to the headlights (four LED daytime running lights) as well the tail-lights (three-dimensional like the Macan with a wider brake light), but ultimately the easiest way to tell the new car apart is the exhaust vents of the intercoolers sitting low and far to the sides of the rear bumper. It’s similar, but different enough.
Turn it on and the engine and exhaust note immediately tell you this is not the old naturally aspirated Carrera S. Gone is that raw growl, the one that screamed at 7500rpm with the most delightful note out of a six-cylinder in existence.
In its place is a far more subdued note, one that sounds more technical, mixed in with the whistle of two turbochargers. It still screams – but not in the same tone - and if you option the sports exhaust package (which takes away the quad-pipes for two larger centre-mounted exhausts), it gets a little more edgy.
Not to waste too much time dwelling on it, it’s fair to say it’s not as mean or aggressive sounding as before, but it’s also better than you’re probably thinking. You can hear it for yourself here.
Perhaps our main trepidation with the new exhaust note is that it doesn’t do a fair enough job of indicating just how insanely fast the new car is. In coupe form and with the Sport Chrono package optioned ($4790), the new Carrera S can go from 0-100km/h in just 3.9 seconds (PDK). That’s quicker than a 997 Porsche 911 Turbo and 0.2 seconds quicker than the car it replaces.
Climbing up the unbelievably twisty, scenic and ever-changing roads of Tenerife towards the Volcano El Teide, we regularly found ourselves looking down at the speedo, seeing it approach 200km/h when it really ‘felt’ more like 90km/h.
Such is the chassis balance and exemplary performance of the Carrera S and its updated dual-clutch PDK transmission (now using a dual mass flywheel with a centrifugal pendulum and overrun cut-off as well as virtual gears) in how it accelerates, that a real sensation of gaining speed seems all but lost.
There’s not much let up in the torque delivery either, with the two small Borg Warner turbochargers having to deal with just 1.5 litres of capacity each, allowing for quick spooling and pressure build up.
The Carrera and Carrera S engines share a lot in common - even if they do have different turbos, exhaust systems and other hardware changes (as well as software) - and they both have a pseudo anti-lag system whereby if you’re in Sport or Sport+ mode (which is now selected using a Ferrari-like drive switch on the steering wheel) and lift off the accelerator, the engine management system will keep the turbos spooling for a few seconds after, in case you jump back on the gas, helping substantially reduce turbo lag.
Porsche has even introduced what every boy trapped in a man’s body will love, a Sport Response Button on the steering wheel which, when pushed, will prime the engine and gearbox for maximum acceleration for 20 seconds (which just like a racing game, begins counting down as soon as you press it). It seems like a bit of a gimmick, but an addictive one we couldn’t help consistently using.
Given the relatively large 3.0-litre capacity, we found the Carrera S’s initial torque delivery at low speeds before the turbo power kicks very reasonable and seldom inducing ‘turbo-anxiety’.
On the go, we did at times feel the Porsche finding itself in the wrong gear (even in Sport+) and taking that extra few milliseconds to adjust. This is easily fixed in full manual mode whereby the PDK gearbox is flawless and implausibly quick.
The biggest difference from the old car is that you don’t really need to rev it all the way to redline to get the most out of it. You’d be faster shifting up earlier to get the benefit of the turbochargers in the optimum rev range (full torque from 1500-5000rpm). That instinctively changes the character of the Carrera S.
Around the twisty stuff the Porsche 911 is as infallible as ever. There’s enormous grip at the front and the car bites in early and doesn’t let go. It’s very neutral in its handling characteristics, making it very easy to drive fast with minimal effort. The fully electric steering system is communicative and sharp without feeling unnatural. The car can exhibit understeer but only at the limit, and even then only when done so willingly.
We certainly pushed it to the edge (literally) climbing up the volcanic roads and not once did it complain for grip or argue about the high corner entry or exit speeds. The brakes (350mm x 34mm at the front, 330mm x 28mm at the back, with ceramics available as an option) also endured an entire day of mountain-climbing torture without any sign of fade.
The new Carrera S sits 10mm lower than before and the Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management (PASM) is now standard across the range. Porsche has modified the dampers and springs with better rebound across more surfaces.
To say that the 911 Carrera S rides well would be an enormous understatement. Despite its massive tyres (305/30/R20 rear and 245/35/R20 front) our test car absorbed the harshest of bumps without even the smallest shock through the cabin, all the while, never showing a hint of body roll or dynamic compromise.
We crossed dozens of poorly surfaced roads at speed and even when presented with a major bump mid-corner the 911 stood its ground and continued on the chosen path. It’s hard to fault, without doubt the benchmark in ride and dynamic management in its segment.
For the first time on a Carrera S you can now option rear-axle steering (previously only on GT3 and 911 Turbo), which allows the rear wheels to further aid in getting you the right angle in hairpins (or tight car parks). Our test cars all had the system, and it was useful, but it’s not a necessity and it’s only available when packaged with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC).
On the inside there’s still the over abundance of buttons (but reduced with the drive selector switch now on the steering wheel) that Porsche insists on. There are far too many options to adequately describe the 911’s 2+2 interior, except as comfortable and classy, as it can be heavily customised. New features of the 991.2’s interior include the 375mm-diameter sports steering wheel and Porsche’s new infotainment system, PCM 4.0.
Redesigned from the ground up with today’s smartphones in mind, the new infotainment system is far more intuitive in how it scrolls through menus and in many ways behaves like your iPhone in how you interact with it. It also has proximity sensors so new options are brought up as your hand approaches the screen, helping save screen real estate when not needed.
The main highlight for us was the addition of Apple CarPlay, which allows iPhone users to simply plug their phone in (it can also work over WiFi, which is built into the 911) and have it basically mirrored on the car’s screen. It worked a treat and showcased the quickest CarPlay system we’ve used to date.
The back seats will take a forward facing ISOFIX child seat without problem and also accommodate averaged size adults for short trips when necessary, making it slightly more practical than some of its strictly-two seater competitors.
The 2016 Porsche Carrera S in coupe form starts at $252,800 for the manual (+$5950 for PDK), which is a price rise of $8000, but gains PASM, PCM 4.0 with Apple CarPlay and a new steering wheel as standard features, in addition to the vast mechanical changes. It’s not cheap, but that’s nothing new. Click to see full pricing and specification of the new Carrera and Carrera S.
The new Porsche 911 Carrera S is better in every sense than the car it replaces. With more power and torque, faster acceleration, lower fuel consumption, better chassis and suspension management and an even better gearbox than before.
The only real criticism we can think of is one born entirely out of emotion rather than logic, and that’s the exhaust note. Other than that, it’s as close to perfection as you’ll find.