Gone is the rasp of the naturally aspirated engine of old, but the new turbo era has its benefits too...
The 991.2 Porsche 911 Carrera S is what happens when car companies have to adhere to toughening emission regulations, but end up creating something that is inherently better than its predecessor regardless.
The Porsche 911 is the original and arguably still best sports car on the market today. It finds a near-mythical balance between being practical as an everyday-use vehicle, while providing performance levels that some of its rivals could only hope for.
This is the reason that every time Porsche even thinks about changing something about the 911, fanatics go a little crazy.
Porsche enthusiasts the world over have vented their anger about the loss of the naturally-aspirated 3.8-litre six in the back of the Carrera S, now replaced by the all-new 3.0-litre turbocharged unit with more power and torque. But, we’ve been here before: water-cooled, air-cooled, naturally-aspirated, turbocharged, it’s called progress, so get used to it. And when it goes all-electric, and it will in due course, don’t come complaining about ‘those amazing turbo engines’.
Having spent two solid weeks with the 911 Carrera S, it’s important to mention that any complaints about the transition from natural aspiration to turbo are entirely unfounded. What is worth moaning about, however, is the exhaust note - which has become somewhat muted and far less, well, 911-like.
It’s not that it doesn’t sound good, it’s just that it doesn’t sound like a 911 used to. If you’d never heard a 911 before and found yourself test-driving the new Carrera S, you’d be pleasantly surprised by its acoustic soundtrack – especially the crackles from the exhaust in Sport mode (Sport+ no longer crackles), but it’s when you have it back-to-back with a 991 series one or even a 997 Carrera S that the difference becomes obvious.
Our test car was also equipped with the optional $5890 sports exhaust system, which takes the quad-pipes of the standard S and replaces them with two in the middle. It helps to better extract the engine’s character, but we’re a fan of the quad-pipe look.
Exhaust note aside though, the twin Borg Warner turbocharged 3.0-litre six (309kW and 500Nm) helps motivate the 911 from 0-100km/h in just 3.9 seconds with launch control and sport chrono ($4,790) – which is so insanely easy to engage that it makes you wonder why other companies don’t just copy Porsche’s methodology.
We do love the updated and optional ($5950) dual-clutch seven-speed PDK gearbox (now using a dual-mass flywheel with a centrifugal pendulum and overrun cut-off as well as virtual gears), considering every gearshift feels like clockwork and never once does the gearbox jerk or stutter even at low speeds. It makes us wonder why sister brands Audi or Volkswagen can’t borrow a few Porsche engineers. We could make a case for the manual, but if you intend to daily your Porsche, go for the PDK.
Although the actual capacity of the 911 Carrera and Carrera S engine is now the same at 3.0 litres, the actual hardware changes are rather substantial between the two with different turbos, exhaust systems and other bits that are too intricate to worry about.
The easiest way to tell the series two apart from the old is the exhaust vents of the intercoolers sitting low and far to the sides of the rear bumper. The headlights are also modified (four LED daytime running lights), as are the taillights (three-dimensional like the Macan with a wider brake light). Even so, it’s a 911, so it retains its unmistakable shape.
On the road, the 911 Carrera S is one the easiest sports cars to drive fast, up to a point. With the engine in the wro… right place, the balance and physics of it are a little different to a standard front-engined sports car. You have to respect the rear end and be constantly aware that if it wants to go, it will go - and take you with it.
Of course, with all the nanny aids on, it’s about as vicious as a two-week-old kitten, but its in Sport+ where you want to spend the majority of your time going fast.
Around the twisty roads of Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious on the outskirts of Brisbane, we tested the 911’s cornering limits and can safely report they are well and truly outside the realms of everyday drivers. It’s the sort of car you can and should take to a racetrack, but it’s almost as fun around some back-to-back hairpin corners and windy roads, well within legal speeds.
For everyday driving, though, just leave everything in standard settings and turn on the exhaust for the additional crackles (at least when you’ve gone past the neighbour’s house). In this setting the 911 is so bloody compliant in how it rides and absorbs the bumpy stuff that even on the 20-inch Carrera classic wheels ($2,710), it shames some purpose-built city cars for comfort.
The strangest thing about the 911 compared to it rivals like the Audi R8, Aston Martin Vantage or the Lamborghini Huracan, is the seating position. Which feels somewhere between being in command of an SUV, given how good the visibility is, but also buried deep inside a racecar at the same time, given how it snugs around and holds you in place even at full pace. It’s very easy to get comfortable in and go fast from the get go, something that can’t be said of its rivals.
What we appreciated the most about the 911 experience was its everyday practicality. We fit two ISOFIX child seats in the rear and used our Carrera S as a family car with our two boys on numerous outings, just so yours truly could explain to the missus why everyone needs to own a 911 once in their life. She agreed (watch this space). In saying that, while installing the ISOFIX seats was as simple as a 'click', getting them out was another story.
Ignoring the happy kids in the back for the moment, there are some new and notable features of the 991.2’s interior that, for this tester at least, would be enough to force a signature. First, the new sports steering wheel (375mm in diameter) is a delight to hold and, second, the PCM 4.0 infotainment system comes with Apple CarPlay, making it so damn useful in everyday life that it becomes frustrating having to resort back to other systems – including Porsche’s own.
Our test car was wearing an additional $43k worth of options (detailed below), some of which really should be standard, but you’ll still definitely need to tick a few if you intend to buy the 911 you actually want.
Overall, it’s hard to fault the 991.2 Porsche 911 Carrera S for what it is, which is a brilliant everyday supercar. It’s better than the car it replaces in almost every sense, except for one thing: the exhaust note. So perhaps our only real criticism is one born entirely out of emotion, rather than logic.
2016 Porsche 911 Carrera S - $252,800 (plus on-road costs)
+ $43,200 of options = $295,820
- Full natural leather interior – $11720
- PDK – $5950
- Sports exhaust system - $5890
- Electric glass slide and tilt sun roof - $4990
- Sport chrono - $4790
- Adaptive cruise - $4690
- 20-inch Carrera Classic wheels - $2710
- SportDesign exterior mirrors - $1290
- Light design package - $990