Porsche’s worldwide sales were up by just three percent in the first half of 2016 but the 911 is doing better than that, deliveries rising by 10 percent. That’s thanks to the release of a model which has had so many changes in mid-life that it even gains a new project code: 991.2, as opposed to 991 for the series which first appeared in late 2011.
Why did Porsche go to the trouble of developing a whole range of new turbocharged engines for the 911, especially when the previous ones were so competitive? Emissions and CAFE regulations are the answer to that, which is also why we’ll see the first plug-in hybrid 911 as part of the next generation range.
Due towards the end of 2018, the 992 will feature the existing car’s range of turbocharged H6 engines, though there should be some small gains in power and torque as well as slightly improved CO2 numbers. There will also be a plug-in hybrid powertrain for the Carrera 4. This variant’s front axle would be driven by an electric motor. That’s pretty much all that’s known about the next 911 at this stage though of course it will retain the rear-mounted position for its engines and be manufactured at the company’s Zuffenhausen plant.
This was the first Porsche I had driven with a seven-speed manual gearbox and it remains the world’s only car to have such a transmission. It does take a little bit of time to stop gazing down as you intend to slot the lever into the highest ratio, just to be doubly sure you’re not going to blow the drivetrain apart by selecting R. Porsche has sensibly made that hard to do and soon enough, the sixth to seventh change becomes natural.
Part of the package of revisions to the whole range is moving the controls for the Sport and Sport Plus functions onto the steering wheel. Previously, each was its own button on the centre console but now these are on a small wheel which you turn to select whichever is wanted.
In Plus, stop-start is cancelled, the engine is blipped on downchanges, and the chassis takes on settings which might be too hard core for some – the ride becomes much firmer, for instance. I didn’t find it too hard and in fact preferred to drive the car in this mode most of the time. If you disagree, then you’ll prefer Sport. This gives you the blip and deactivates stop-start but doesn’t firm up the dampers.
Due to the new 3.0-litre biturbo flat six, this has now become my favourite 911. And that wasn’t what I had expected, such was my admiration for the old 3.4- and 3.8-litre engines. They had the most wonderful bassy burble which become an angry bark as the revs rose but the 3.0-litre is an entirely different animal. From around the 4,000rpm mark in Sport Plus it howls, emitting the most addictive rasp. This continues all the way to the 7,400rpm limit. I am yet to drive the latest Turbo or Turbo S but the 3.0 sounds loads better than the old Turbo.
So engine apart, what are the other changes which make up 991.2? Porsche has given all these cars new headlights, door handles, rear lights, a fresh steering wheel and as mentioned, some of those plastic buttons on the panel behind the gear lever have gone, but the awful blanks remain. Also still in this position are the controls for the electric roof and the flip-up/down wind deflector. Alternatively, the top can be dropped via the key fob but it cannot be closed that way.
Great things which haven’t been mucked about with include the cupholders which still extend on sprung arms from behind a fold-down panel above the glovebox, logically placed coat hooks on the insides of the front seats, beautifully soft-trimmed fold out pockets in the doors, and the usual faultless build quality inside and out.
Anything that’s not to love? Unless you know a way to keep the car spotlessly clean all the time, you’ll always get dirt and/or moisture on the palm of your hand as you press gently on the aluminium panel to secure the boot. Surely if the supplier can design a pop-open function on the key then it can add an electric close?
This is also not the vehicle to bring home if you want to impress young kids. There might be ISOFIX mounting points but they’re fooling no-one: there is hardly any room in the back. Plus, the hard plastic backs of the seats will soon be badly scratched from small sized shoes. Best buy a Cayenne if you need a Porsche for the family.
Shall I mention my usual gripe with so many Porsches? When many B segment mass brand cars now have standard auto-fold mirrors, why does a car which costs GBP94,698 (US$124,746 or EUR112,335) not have them? The manual seats which you also get I could live with, as they’re so much quicker to adjust and mean you don’t have the added weight of electric motors.
In as-tested form, the Carrera 2 S Cabriolet was priced at GBP103,592. That was due to various options such as Bose surround sound (GBP963), Sport Chrono package (GBP1,125), park assist with reversing camera (GBP689), seat heating (GBP320) and LED headlights (GBP1,764). Would you like your key to be colour matched to the car’s exterior with a couple of little bits of plastic? Certainly. That will be another GBP248. And so on.
Let’s forget the cost for a moment and instead dwell on that glorious engine. In the Carrera 2 S it produces 500Nm from its 2,981cc with power of 309kW (420PS) developed at 6,500rpm. The official number for Urban consumption is 23.0mpg (12.3l/100km) and Combined is 32.1mpg (8.8) with a very respectable CO2 average of 202g/km. Given the performance, these numbers are superb. Weight is a big factor here, at just 1,585kg DIN.
So how fast is it? Not blindingly so – that’s reserved for the new Turbo S Coupé which sprints to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds. Its top speed of 330 km/h is twelve km/h higher than before. The Carrera 2 S isn’t that much slower: v-max is 306 km/h, or 190 mph. Zero to 62mph takes a claimed 4.5 seconds.
The current 991.2 range was revealed to the public at the 2015 Frankfurt IAA, cars becoming available from last December. The first four variants were as follows:
- 272kW (370hp) Carrera & Cabriolet – torque is 450Nm
- 309kW (420hp) Carrera S & Carrera S Cabriolet – torque is 500Nm
Six all-wheel drive variants powered by the same engines followed at November 2015’s LA auto show:
- 911 Carrera 4
- 911 Carrera 4S
- 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet
- 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
- 911 Targa 4
- 911 Targa 4S
The above six cars became available in Germany during January. Later the same month, the facelifted 911 Turbo and Turbo S coupes and cabrios were revealed at the Detroit auto show. These variants also gained 15kW (20hp). This means the biturbo 3.8-litre H6 in the 911 Turbo produces 397kW (540hp). This was achieved by modified inlet ports in the cylinder head, new injection nozzles and higher fuel pressure. The 911 Turbo S now develops 427kW (580hp) thanks to new turbochargers with larger compressors. Porsche is still the only manufacturer to utilise turbochargers with variable turbine geometry in petrol engines.
The 911 Turbo and Turbo S engines now also have what is known as a dynamic boost function to further improve engine response in dynamic operation. It maintains the charge pressure during load changes – i.e. when the accelerator pedal is released briefly. This is achieved by just interrupting fuel injection, whereas the throttle valve remains open. As a result, the engine is said to react with practically no delay to another press of the accelerator pedal. The effects of this function are claimed to be more pronounced in the Sport and Sport Plus modes than in Normal.
Porsche then revealed a limited edition of 991 cars at March 2016’s Geneva motor show. This is the 911 R, which is powered by a 368kW/500hp 4.0-litre engine. With an overall weight of 1,370 kg, the R undercuts the GT3 RS by 50 kg. The bonnet and front wheel arches are made of carbonfibre and the roof is magnesium, while the rear windscreen and rear side windows are lightweight plastic. Additional weight-saving factors are the reduced sound insulation in the interior and the omission of a rear bench seat. A/C and an audio system are available as options.
The only variants from the 991 range which are yet to be replaced are the GTS cars. These might appear at the Paris show in September. After that, expect Porsche to keep on cleverly tweaking the 911 in 2017 and 2018, while at the same time continuing to work on the next series.
For me the Carrera 2 S is probably enough 911, such is the size of the smile it will deliver on a deserted country road. Seeing that big tacho marked to 8,000rpm directly ahead of you makes it hard to resist unleashing the power. At night or dusk, roof off, the sense of occasion is magnified.
Unlike so many other supercars or super saloons, there is no heads-up display for Navi or speed so nothing gets in the way of those curved front wings and the road ahead. At 4,000rpm the crimson needle is pointing perfectly north and its top can be obscured by the blue of the high beam warning light. Hold the car in third and keep accelerating and the engine’s scream really begins, rev to 7,000+ and then into fourth, fifth and maybe sixth but you won’t get to seventh unless you have a long clear run on an autobahn. Speeds are indicated in 25mph increments, all the way to 200mph. Oddly, there are no metric markings.
What is often forgotten about the 911 is one of the most important things about it: not just the low weight but the car’s size. It measures just 4,499mm from end to end and it’s also not so low or wide that many potential buyers will be put off. You can also drive it in traffic with not an moment of fuss. Is it worth the money? That’s not for me to say but given how sales are doing, it seems those who can afford it would say a very firm yes.