We get an exclusive passenger ride in the all-new Porsche 911, ahead of its launch in December
The new 911 is the most thorough reinvention of Porsche’s classic sports car ever. It benefits from significant structural, dimensional, technological and dynamic changes – and the result, from the passenger’s seat, is great news for fans of the iconic car.
Porsche will let us behind the wheel of the new 991 generation 911 next month, but whet our appetites with a passenger ride around its undulating Weissach test track in Germany. And a Porsche development driver gave us a tantalising glimpse of the car’s incredible performance.
Firstly, let’s put Porsche fans out of their misery. The tech-laden new 911 loses none of its personality. It feels composed, agile and brutally quick with masses of grip.
Our driver explained that the big step forward in ability is down to the 991’s new electronic assistance features, plus its lighter and stiffer body (44 per cent of which is now constructed from aluminium).
Key changes over the old 997 include a 100mm longer wheelbase, wider front track, larger wheels, 20mm lower roofline and a 40kg weight reduction. In terms of technology, the car features a new seven-speed manual gearbox, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) for the Carrera S we rode in and Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), with a locking rear differential.
Car group tests
From the passenger seat it all looked so easy: the wheel never squirmed in our driver’s hands, despite the obscene speed and constant direction changes at the Weissach track. The 911’s lack of understeer and minimal tyre squeal are a sign that, unless seriously provoked, each wheel is being taken to the limit of its grip by the electronics, and not beyond.
Through the turns the 991 stayed sublimely neutral, with any hint of body roll eliminated by the PDCC roll stabilisation. But if you’ve got the talent and desire, beautifully controllable and predictable oversteer is available on demand.
We asked our driver about the new electro-mechanical power-steering system. It’s a controversial addition, as some purists fear it may rob the 911 of its character, but he insisted the system took nothing away from the steering feel. And he assured us that fellow Porsche development driver and rallying legend Walter Röhrl concurred.
On the track, the 991 feels even faster than Porsche’s official figures suggest. The entry-level Carrera – with 350bhp from its all-new smaller-displacement 3.4-litre engine – sprints from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds with the dual-clutch PDK automatic gearbox, while the 400bhp 3.8-litre Carrera S manages 4.3 seconds with PDK fitted.
Both times can be reduced by specifying the optional Sport Chrono Pack, which adds launch control. We were told the Carrera S, with all the options ticked, can lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife in seven minutes 40 seconds – that’s 14 seconds quicker than before.
You sit low in the 991, and with the interior inspired by the Panamera, there’s a huge step up in luxury, while refinement at low speeds is improved, too. But on full throttle, it sounds as throaty as ever. Porsche has a dedicated Emotions department focusing on amplifying induction and engine acoustics into the cabin.
There’s nothing artificial about the noise – it’s a pure, unadulterated boxer flat-six sound complete with vibrations through the seat of your trousers. It can be turned down at the touch of a button, too, should you need some quiet time.
Although there’s no substitute for getting behind the wheel, our time in the passenger seat around Weissach showed that the new 991 generation raises the 911 bar again on every level. It’s faster, safer, lighter and better handling than ever before – and in Carrera form with the PDK gearbox, it even returns fuel economy of 34.4mpg. And as for the emotion? It’s still there in spades.