Porsche's eighth generation 911 is now smarter, cleverer and as intoxicating as ever. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Porsche's 911 reaches its eighth generation and in '992'-series form is bigger, faster, more luxurious and a tad more efficient. Just as you'd want. With coupe and cabriolet versions of this Carrera S, the 3.0-litre flat six gets more power and the PDK auto gets an extra ratio. But most importantly, it's still the most usable super sports car of its kind. Yet somehow also still the most exciting. Only Porsche knows how.
The Porsche 911 may have been around since 1963 but the pace of evolution in this model range has been so slow, even Darwin would struggle to notice it at times. The very first platform used in this car lasted all the way up to 1997, a millennia in automotive terms. Platform two that underpinned the '996' and '997' series models (to use Porsche's own internal chassis codes) lasted a further fifteen years before it was replaced in 2012 by the '991' model, which was then succeeded by this current '992'-series version in late-2018. Porsche knows that while people still love the 911's combination of pace, handling and genuine everyday usability, competition is tougher than ever. With tightening emissions regulations and rivals like the Mercedes-AMG GT boasting more power, continual changes have been needed in recent times, hence the introduction of the turbocharged 3.0-litre flat six in 2012 that's been given a shot more boost this time round. Add the latest tech too and Porsche hope to be back at the top of the class.
There's a 3.0-litre flat six plumbed-in out back - of course there is: this is a 911 after all. But in the Carrera S, it's now got 30PS more than it had before, putting out 450PS, which is enough in a 2WD model (if you've got the 'Sport Chrono Pack' fitted) to get you to 62mph in just 3.5s on the way to 191mph. So yes, it's as fast as you'd want. As usual, there's a Carrera 4S all-wheel drive variant, that version's figures being 3.4s and 190mph. Crucially, peak pulling power is developed low in the rev range from just 1,700rpm, which should make it easy to tap into performance which is accessed via PDK paddleshift auto gearbox now boasting 8 speeds. Those worried about losing the 911's distinctive noise at high revs are promised a lofty (for a turbo motor) 7,500rpm redline and the 'typical sonorous Porsche flat-six engine sound'. Handling is typically immersive and adaptive damping (or 'Porsche Active Suspension Management') is standard, as part of a suspension set-up that remains unchanged. There's plenty that's new though. The steering rack has a faster ratio. And there's a new 'Wet mode' driving setting that senses the splatter or rain water in the wheel arches and then dials in appropriate settings for the engine, gearbox and safety systems at the same time as alerting you.
If you weren't a 911 brand loyalist, you might not necessarily notice the changes that designate this eighth generation model but for admirers of this car, they'll be uber-significant. The 'narrow' body of the previous 911 Carrera 2 has been dropped so that these days, all 911s have the broader wheel arches and more aggressive stance that used to be reserved for the all-wheel drive 4S and the more powerful variants at the top of the range. Other than that, you'll notice the glittering all-LED headlights and the full-width LED light panel that runs across the entire width of the rear end. More significant is the extensive use of aluminium in the bodywork this rime round, which saves 12kgs but isn't enough to stop this car weighing in 55kgs heavier than the previous generation model. Grab one of the newly motorised door handles to gain access to the cabin and you'll find the usual disciplined high quality Porsche interior. The brand hasn't followed its rivals by switching to a fully-digital instrument cluster, but most of what's on offer in the binnacle uses this technology, though the rev counter still retains a classic analogue dial. The seats remain beautifully comfortable and supportive. Plus, as ever in a 911, the rear pews are suitable only for tiny children or designer shopping bags. And the boot space is split front and rear.
As ever, the 911 Carrera S range includes both coupe and convertible body shapes and two wheel drive and four wheel drive options. Prices start at just over £93,000 for the Carrera S coupe or around £103,000 for the Carrera S Cabriolet. Add around £5,500 to each of these figures if you want the Carrera 4S variants. Most buyers will want to pay extra for the usual 'Sport Chrono package which includes a steering wheel-mounted mode switch including a 'SPORT Response' button. This enables you to choose from five driving settings - 'Normal', 'Sport and 'Sport Plus', as well as an 'Individual' mode and the new 'Wet' mode which helps to support the driver in the wet. The 'SPORT Response' button sets both engine and transmission for the fastest possible unleashing of power for 20 seconds - ideal for quick overtakes. Standard is the latest 10.9-inch 'PCM' ('Porsche Communication Management') centre-dash touchscreen with the usual navigation and smartphone-mirroring functions. Plus of course there are leather-upholstered sports seats and a grippy multi-function sports steering wheel. Popular options include front axle lift, a sports exhaust and ceramic brakes. As you'd hope, Compared to its rivals, Porsche isn't big on camera-driven safety, including a multi-collision braking system and even a driver training course at the Porsche Experience Centre at the Silverstone racing circuit.
Porsche has done its best to make running costs affordable but you're still going to need very deep pockets to run one of these. As usual, we'll quote what we've been given - fuel figures conducted under strict WLTP-testing and CO2 readings based around the rather less stringent NEDC cycle. The 2WD Carrera S coupe manages up to 28.5mpg on the combined cycle and 205g/km of CO2. The 4WD Carrera 4S coupe manages up to 27.2mpg on the combined cycle and 206g/km of CO2. If you specify optional Adaptive Cruise Control, further efficiency gains can be made via a 'coasting mode' added into the PDK auto gearbox which seamlessly disconnects the engine from the transmission at a cruise. A major 911 buying incentive lies with this car's impressively high likely residual values. On the downside, because of the high up-front price of this car, it'll face the higher road tax rate of £450 for the first five years of ownership after the initially CO2-weighted payment that's rolled into the on-the-road price. Included as part of purchase is the usual three year warranty, though this one laudably doesn't come with any mileage limitations. This package can be extended by either one or two further years on request. 911 owners also get a three year breakdown recovery package, a three year paint warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion guarantee.
The 911. Whether you've a classic model or this eighth generation '992'-series variant, it's an automotive icon that's globally loved. Which is why though this version has been substantially re-designed, Porsche hasn't messed with the fundamental formula. In other words, if, like us, you've always loved this car, then you'll love this one. There are surely lots of reasons to. The Carrera's latest six cylinder twin turbo is efficient, yet sonorous and gloriously tractable. Plus the cabin's more up to date and the infotainment's been brought up to scratch. In addition, like its predecessor, this 911 is practical and easy to use - and remains satisfying to drive in a way that rivals can't quite match. In summary, what we have here is a worthy evolution of the world's longest running sports car dynasty. Porsche is banking on the fact that the excellence of this 911 will help to simplify the decision over whether to commit to the significant outlay involved in buying it. If over half a century of development has taught us anything, it's that you wouldn't bet against them succeeding in doing just that.