Porsche 911 Carrera

We drive the least expensive version of new 911 on UK roads for the first time

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The new 911 was always going to be a controversial model for Porsche, because it incorporates such a radical mechanical change to a tried-and-tested formula. The good news is that this car is quicker, sharper and easier to drive than its predecessor, despite not being quite as involving. And, as this least expensive model proves, the talents of the all-new car look set to run right the way through the range. So even if you can’t stretch to the exotic 911s, you won’t miss out.

Porsche currently offers the new 911 in two flavours: the 3.8-litre Carrera S and the less expensive 3.4-litre Carrera. They’re priced £10,000 apart, so do you really need the more expensive Carrera S version?
Obviously, the ‘basic’ car can’t match the straight-line performance of the S, but there are a few ways to narrow the gap. For instance, our Carrera is fitted with the Sport Chrono pack, which adds launch control  and the PDK dual-clutch box.
Together these cost £3,763, but they lower the 0-62mph time to 4.4 seconds, which is actually one-tenth of a second quicker than a manual-gearbox S.
And if you’re worried about missing out on the character of the 3.8-litre flat-six engine, you needn’t be concerned. As well as a thumping 345bhp, the 3.4-litre engine in the Carrera gives you smooth power delivery and one of the most varied, noisy and addictive exhaust notes on the road. But to get the most out of it, you’ll need the Sports exhaust – another costly extra at £1,772.
On a twisty road, there’s very little to separate the handling of the Carrera and Carrera S – they feel almost identical. Both provide a different experience from the previous 997-generation 911 thanks to a 100mm longer wheelbase, a wider front track, a 40kg weight reduction and, most importantly, new electro-mechanical power-steering.
This new steering isn’t as communicative as the old set-up, particularly at low speeds and with the wheels pointing straight ahead. But it’s still one of the most intuitive and rewarding electro-mechanical systems we’ve used. All the other changes have made the 911 more usable every day, as well as ensuring its performance is easier to exploit.
You still feel the mid-corner bumps that would have unsettled previous 911s, but the new 991 soaks them up with ease. It grips and holds its line so convincingly that you really need a race track to get anywhere near its limits.
Yet don’t think for a moment that the 911 is part-sports car, part-limousine. The stylish cabin, grown-up driving experience, roomier back seats and quality materials might give that impression, but the ride is very firm on rutted city streets and there’s a huge amount of tyre roar at motorway speeds, too.
The new 911 is a much more convincing all-round proposition than all of its predecessors and in the process it hasn’t lost any of its trademark sharpness – even if it could do with a bit more steering feedback.
The toughest question for prospective customers won’t be whether they buy a 911; it’ll be whether to go for the Carrera or the S. We’d choose the less expensive model tested here and spend £10k on performance-boosting options like torque vectoring, active suspension and the Sports exhaust.

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