Porsche 911 2019 carrera s
review

2019 Porsche 911 review

First Australian drive

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There's no mistaking the latest Porsche 911 for anything other than the icon it is, but this 992 generation is on another level entirely.
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Despite the ever-growing demand for SUVs with a Porsche badge, the iconic German carmaker will now and forever be known for its halo model, the 911. Always has and always will, and it’s been that way since 1963.

It’s the top of the tree and the definitive car by which all other models in the Porsche stable are benchmarked. Indeed, it’s still the universal benchmark for sports cars in general, regardless of the badge.

Part of me didn’t want to like this latest eighth-generation Porsche 911 (Type 992), because when I first laid eyes on the 991 version in a carpark at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show, I was a quivering mess emotionally. Porsche had nailed it.

Here was a car that was so vastly superior to its 997 predecessor, both in engineering terms and styling, that it was hard to visualise any further generations beyond this car. And it wasn’t any one thing that stood out, though, I drooled over the wider body and perfect transition from old to new in terms of technology, performance and everyday drivability. Best of all, it still had one of the greatest sounding engines of all time in that naturally aspirated flat-six that gave you goose bumps at 7000rpm.

Then came the 991.2 and with it the treacherous (but necessary) move away from NA engines to smaller displacement powertrains boosted by twin turbochargers. That was almost too much to bear for someone like myself who had all-but-idolised the 991 (even bought one) until I drove one and was astonished by its complete lack of lag and overall performance – on and off the track.

Now we have the 992, and while I might have had a few reservations deep down, experience over the last decade or so has told me that when Porsche design and build a new 911 at Zuffenhausen in Germany, it’s going to be better than their last effort. That’s just the way it is with the 911. Failure is not an option, to use that well-worn quote attributed to Gene Kranz – flight director on Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle missions.

To the punter, the new 911 will probably look like any other 911 and that’s exactly what the development team had hoped for. They wanted the latest-generation car to have the latest technology without losing any of its critical heritage amassed over eight generations and 56 years.

Make no mistake, this is an all-new car with little if anything carried over from the previous 991 generation. And, as with any new 911, it simply must be a class-leading sports car regardless of its unique rear-engine layout. It’s the only one, everything else is either front, mid-mounted or electric drive.

The first thing the 992 hooks you with is its extra-wide body, once the domain of high-priced versions like the Carrera 4S and full-blown Turbo models in the Carrera line-up. But all that’s changed. Now you get those massive hips even when you buy a base Carrera. That’s a stroke of marketing genius right there and you can bet sales will reflect that.

Interesting fact about the new side panels on the 992 which includes those fat rear hips we all love so much. To press this stuff out requires a stamping force of 1200 tonnes, while the tool itself weighs 45 tonnes but get this - the tolerance is two-one-hundredths of a millimetre. It’s hard to fathom, and frankly, borders on an engineering obsession.

The body itself is 100 per cent new. Built differently to the old version using a lot more aluminium for both a lighter bodyshell than the 991 (even though the car itself is heavier) but five per cent more rigid. In fact, there’s 37 per cent less steel used in the 992, so even though it uses more alloys, it’s made the car a better platform for the suspension to do its work – one that allows you to get the most mechanical grip from the car.

Indeed, that mechanical grip has been a hallmark of the 911 for ever and a day, because that’s where this car gets all its speed from. And believe you me, it’s got a tonne of it. No matter what we threw at the new 992, either on crappy roads in regional South Oz or on track at The Bend race circuit, the car remained completely composed. That’s through mid-corner bumps at a decent clip on-road and mounting every kerb I could muster on track. And we weren’t hanging about.

It’s not all alloy either, because crash strength demands the use of some strategically placed hot steel (or Boron steel) through the A-pillar and roof, especially. Porsche has thrown every possible combination of holding metal together that you can think of, including MIG Welding, MAG Welding, TIG Welding, rivets, screws, glues and actual hemming, where the seams are actually folded back over and glued, again, for extra strength and rigidity.

You might also be surprised to learn in every new 992 there’s a mind-blowing 188 metres of adhesive in the car to hold the bodies together. The problem (at least for the repairer) is the glue is stronger than the parent material.

And just like when the 991 replaced the 997 it put on a few kilos and grew in overall size, the same applies to the 992. It’s longer (20mm) wider (44mm) and slightly higher (4mm) than its predecessor – an unavoidable consequence of our demand for safer more technologically advanced cars.

The good news is there’s more headroom along with a completely new look cabin and feel about it that should see more taller folks behind the wheel of the latest 911. The extra length is almost all in the extended front lip that also helps with aerodynamics and low-speed crash safety.

To the untrained eye it won’t be obvious, but designers of the 992 have paid homage to earlier generation cars. Take the bonnet, the lines mirror the second-generation G-Series while the headlight style is from the 993, but only partially on account of this car’s aerodynamic requirements.

Moreover, the 992 gets the latest in LED lighting tech and a choice of three different versions of that. Either way, it’s a nice touch all the same and one of the many reasons the 911 always seems to retain its iconic shape.

It’s a similar story inside. Take a look at the dash and then go back and look at images of early 911s from the '60s and '70s you can see the designers have taken the horizontal lines from those cars and again tried to incorporate those into the new car. The result is a real purity inside the 992 despite incorporating the latest in infotainment and technology and the most luxurious fit-out ever in a 911.

About the only odd man out here is the 'Braun' shaver head that’s doubles as the shifter, replacing proper shift lever on 991-gen cars.

But certain elements are not to be messed regardless of technology. The analogue tachometer in the centre and directly ahead of the driver is sacrosanct and will likely remain so but the other four binnacles are made up of two seven-inch digital displays either side, which are configurable.

Straight up, I prefer the look of the 991 instrument display, though, there’s more information at the driver’s disposal in the new car which is bound to please the latest-generation Porsche 911 owner, who’s likely to be a technophile expecting no less in his or her new 911.

The dash itself is a nice wide layout incorporating a new 10.9-inch touchscreen which is nicely integrated into the whole design unlike the stuck-on tablets that adorn so many other makes these days.

Porsche engineers have also gone to great lengths to make sure you not only look and feel the history of the 911, but also hear that iconic flat-six howling that for so long has been a trademark of every-generation of Porsche 911 since the year dot, despite switching to forced induction via twin turbochargers.

Turbos tend to kill off engine noise, so in order to reproduce a similar sound, engineers employed clever exhaust systems armed with multiple flaps that can open and close partially, purely to get the right acoustics out of the back of the car. And while it’s definitely not as a feral-a-sound as that produced by the 991, it’s still a soul-stirring noise from the 992, and one that could never be confused with anything else but a Porsche 911.

And, while it might use the same 3.0-litre displacement as the 991.2 update, this is effectively an entirely new engine in so many ways. Power has been bumped 22kW to 331kW while torque swells 30Nm to 530Nm. About the only things carried over are the crankcase, rods and pistons, but they’ve been tweaked, too.

All of the cylinder heads, cam drives and the inlet manifold systems are brand new, as is the turbo system which is now symmetrical. It’s as if the engineers have looked at each and every system they’ve ever used and cheery picked all the best bits without the need to reinvent the wheel.

The new car has excellent low to mid-range drivability because it employs a new cam and valve-opening system. But Porsche is quick to concede that it first used the system 10 years ago in the 3.6-litre V6 engine – and it worked really well, which is why they’ve employed it on the latest generation car.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to detect any turbo lag with the new engine, but then again, what’s new? It was the same for the 991.2, only throttle control might be even better thanks to a new piezo electric injector system.

Same goes for the PDK transmission. The 992 gets a new eight-speed unit which replaces the seven-speed version in the 991-gen car. The concept and the gear layout inside the housing is actually from the Panamera, though using a different housing and different casing with new throttle bodies and new shift maps to suit the 911’s sharper performance.

Not only is it stupendously quick out of the box, it’s also noticeably more refined in terms of throttle control and shifting. The new PDK transmission tightens up the early gear ratios but also lengthens the overdrive gears up top.

The numbers only tell part of the story; 331kW at 6500rpm, 530Nm at 1700-5000rpm, 0-100km/h in 3.5 seconds (3.4sec for the 4S) with a top speed of 308km/h. That’s against 3.9 seconds for the 991.2 – both with PDK.

There were times on track when I was flat chat out of the tricky triple-apex right hander at The Bend, while subconsciously, I was trying to compute how a road car could be doing this and making it feel all so easy given it was my first visit to the circuit. Oh, and did I mention that was leaving the PDK in Sport Plus and auto shifting.

But, it was mid-way down the main straight where the speedo was showing 235km/h on its way to an indicated 250km/h before I thought it best to hit the brakes – even though I felt I could have gone a tad deeper. That’s the sort of feedback this car provides during a first-time drive. Astonishing stuff, it really is. But it’s more than that. Even at far lower speeds on public roads there’s a new-found maturity to the latest 911. It’s just an easier car for anyone to hop in and drive to a level they might not have thought possible. If that makes any sense.

High-speed stability is simply excellent – it’s a combination of the slippery body and active aero through vanes mounted deep into the front bumper which open and shut (better downforce) depending on drive modes and temperatures.

You’re pretty much aware of the benefits the first time you round the last right-hander coming onto the long straight at The Bend Motorsports Park - and that’s with the speedo gauge needle nudging 250km/h. I know, because I looked, and the front end didn’t feel like it moved – even a millimetre.

The 992 has also effectively been future-proofed by providing space in the new transmission for a level of hybridisation to be fitted in line with any updates when they arrive, but without the need for any major redesign of the car, which is one of the reasons why the body has grown slightly larger.

It’s also heavier than it’s ever been despite the lighter body – 1515kg for the Carrera S and 1565 for the Carrera 4S with PDK transmission versus 1460kg and 1510kg for the 991.2 versions. Not surprising, given the level of new systems on-board the new-gen 911.

It’s not like Porsche is making any excuses, either, because it comes down to things like the new eight-speed gearbox - that alone adds 20 kilos. But there’s also bigger brakes and a larger wheel and tyre package using 21-inch wheels down back and 20 inches up front. It all adds up.

That’s said, every detail of the new 911 has been examined and improved even down to the way the flat-six engine has been mounted. Previously, the mounts were placed in the centre which meant they needed to be quite hard due the mechanical advantage.

Those rear engine mounts have now moved forward in the car (168mm for those who care) and are coming off the cylinder head covers, meaning they’re mounted wide on the engine and further forward to reduce the level of mechanical advantage.

The results are simply astonishing, especially on track. It’s the combination of the new engine mounts, updated dampers and a reworked PASM. Hitting some of the more aggressive kerbs and you naturally grit your teeth ready for a nasty reaction, but it never arrives and you go harder with every lap. I’m loving this 911 and trying to work out how I can flip my 991 and end up in a 992.

That’s also why there’s a new level of ride comfort achieved that simply defies belief as far as 911s go. Potholes and broken roads (sharp edges included) are simply ironed out with no effect on the chassis, even when you wind things up. The car remains planted no matter what you do, even mid-corner on roads that resembled a proving ground.

But here’s the thing, on one hand it’s softer for the daily commute, but on the other, it’s stiffer for serious trackwork. You’ve really have to experience this breadth of ability from the driver’s seat to believe it.

My own 991 now feels like a billycart in comparison and for those newfound improvements we can thank the Porsche 718 because that’s how the engines are mounted in those cars.

There’s also a new braking system, don’t ask me why, because the 991 Carrera S has what I would describe to anyone as bulletproof stopping power – on and off the track – but Porsche will tell you it’s even better on the 992, and at this point we’d find it hard to dispute without more time in the car.

Standard on the new car are 350mm rotors front and rear, or you can choose a 410mm ceramic system if you really must, but to give you an idea of the improvements made to brake cooling and materials; this car will stop from 300km/h 12 metres shorter than the previous generation which was already a gun car under brakes. That’s also a metre at 100km/h – it’s a seriously big improvement.

Moreover, the steering is sharper. There’s optional rear-wheel steering if you want it and based on the performance of 991s I’ve driven with that system – I’ll take it. That’s because even without rear-steer, the steering ratio has gone from a 16:1 to a 15:1 in the straight ahead position for more direct steering feel and behaviour, but importantly, it never feels too twitchy.

And as with the 991, Porsche offers both two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive with the 992. We tested both the Carrera S and Carrera 4S on and off the track and frankly, I’d lean towards the 4S for the extra drive you get out of a corner – more noticeable on track, but either way I like that reassurance, especially in the wet.

On second thought, the Carrera S is lighter and there’s a nice, though tidy, rear-end wiggle on exit if you like that kind of thing. If you’re in the market, make sure to drive them both.

With all the new tech on board there’s also one of the coolest smart phone apps we’ve seen in a while – called Porsche Track Precision App – basically, your own private track coach, seriously. It allows your phone to track your laps via GPS, but with a steering wheel overlay and all the other performance data in order for you to compare the laps and where you might improve.

The torque split in the four-wheel drive version comes from a multi-plate clutch in the front diff that now has its own cooling system and is electronically operated rather than electro-hydraulic. The advantage comes from quicker and sharper response rates.

Oh, and with your rear-steer 911 you’ll also get lithium-ion batteries because of the higher voltage demand of those cars, whereas the two-wheel drive cars get lead acid batteries. That said, you can also option a lithium-ion battery if you’re keen to save another kilo or two.

Apart from the usual driving modes; Normal Sport and Sport Plus (if you’ve ticked Sport Chrono) there’s a new setting dubbed Wet Mode that effectively uses acoustic sensors inside the front wheel arches which work at different frequencies and are able to detect wet road conditions.

When the amount of water on the road hits the threshold level for long enough (that’s around 300-500 metres) a warning will pop up in the instrument cluster suggesting the driver switch to Wet mode via the multifunction dial on the steering wheel for those with Sport Chrono, or a dedicated switch on the centre console for those without.

We tested this on a sopping wet skidpan while performing full throttle figure-eight manoeuvres and although there’s some throttle retardation – it’s less than you might expect and there’s no slipping or sliding whatsoever. In fact, you get the impression that this would be mandatory on freeways in the rain but still fun to drive.

The system itself changes the way the power is delivered, changes the way the throttle pedal works and changes the suspension dampening. It even affects the way the brakes are applied to suit that kind of driving environment. And, if you’ve got active stabiliser bars, it softens them right off to the point of slight understeer – much safer than oversteer tendencies, at least in the wet.

The thing is, the system won’t force you to adopt Wet Mode leaving you free to ignore it if you choose. You’ll still have the benefit of all the other safety systems working away in the background. For example, there’s stability management; if you’ve got two wheels with low grip and two wheels with high grip and you brake, the system will even give you pulses on the steering suggesting which way to turning the steering wheel.

Fully adaptive (radar based) cruise control is available, but if you don’t have it, the 992 is equipped with a camera-based system with several levels of warning of an impending collision. Firstly, there’s an acoustic warning, but if you ignore that you’ll receive a jolt via the brake pedal. If you ignore all of those prompts, the car will then start to intervene. If you don’t brake enough, it will ramp up the brake pressure or it will automatically brake the car.

And for those prospective Porsche customers not yet familiar with radar cruise control, it has some great features well worth the cost in my opinion. If you’re in traffic which comes to a complete stop, the car will come to a complete stop. And if the traffic moves forward within a 15-second timeframe, the car will simply drive forward automatically.

Take it from me, a more-than-happy 991 Carrera S owner, the 992 is on another planet. It’s infinitely more capable – on-and-off the track, vastly more comfortable and gets all the latest infotainment and active safety kit.

For me, the jury is still out on whether to go for the Carrera S or Carrera 4S – either one will mean it's like Christmas every time you’re in it, but the pricing might decide for you: Carrera S $265,000 plus on-roads, Carrera 4S $281,100.

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