It’s wet. Seriously wet. And gloomy, and brooding, and dark. And the rain, it just won’t stop. Yeah, I get it, the monsoon is late, and it’s trying to make up for that; but this is just crazy. Someone up there has completely forgotten to turn the taps off. The rain’s been coming down for hour after hour after hour. A convertible Porsche 911? We should have brought a submarine!
Then finally, after coming down manically in waves for six straight hours, the rain slows. Yes, it’s still drizzling, and there’s still plenty of water on the road, but I can finally ‘drive’. And then the traffic thins and we get to the good stuff – wide, smooth roads that climb, dive, bend and twist; pure magic. Still this isn’t hi-ho-silver or tally-ho; I have to drive with plenty of restraint. The road today is as treacherous as a sheet of ice with patches of oil on it, and with varying levels of grip around every other corner, it’s tippy-toes all the way. Yes, 911s have improved a lot in recent years, and these modern ones don’t go around corners with the counterweight (engine) swinging wildly in the back, but this is still a 911 with a big, heavy engine slung out over the rear wheels, and the 420 horses still go to the rear wheels only.
Still, despite the current mismatch between car and road conditions, I quickly realise this new 911 is seriously, seriously accomplished too. To begin with, I’m going way faster than planned. It’s just so effortlessly quick once you get the engine into the mid-range, and the boost from the turbo gives it a nice lusty pull. The steering too is very direct and superbly weighted.
They said turbocharging the 911 wouldn’t be a good thing, but this car is just whacking the ball out of the stadium every single time. And I haven’t even picked up the pace yet. I’m just nudging it from apex to apex and using a dash of extra throttle, every time the rear end feels properly secure. Then finally I get to a straight that’s only mildly damp; time to let it rip – I click down a gear and go progressively flat on the throttle. The rear does a bit of a jig and the tyres take a nanosecond to hook up, but once the boost comes in, the new 911 just goes like a jet accelerating down a runway.
I’m expecting an even build-up of power, and sure enough there’s no sudden spike, but what really gets me giggling is just how effortlessly the car just pins me back in the seat and just holds me there, the PDK double clutch going flick, flick, flick through the gears. Wow, this mid-range is sheer dynamite. And it feels seriously quick even at higher speeds, with the 911 S getting flung forward on a long and continuous wave of torque. The power’s just 20hp or so up on the earlier car, and that’s unlikely to make this much of an impact, but there’s loads more torque here, and that’s what’s giving it all this pace. Acceleration times quoted by Porsche say this car takes 3.9 seconds to accelerate to 100 from rest, but this car feels even quicker, especially once it gets into its stride. And that ‘boost’ button on the steering is another feature that elevates the driving experience. The new 911 with twin turbos; I’m just loving it.
Yes, the rorty flat-six blare and the chainsaw snarl are reduced because of the turbos, and the crispness in the throttle at both, low and higher revs is missing too, but this car gains so much mid-range grunt, it now feels more junior supercar than grown-up sportscar. But is it really a surprise? Porsche has plenty of experience force-feeding 911s (40 years in fact), and hasn’t the ‘turbo’, the one with sledgehammer-like performance, always been the car to get in the range? Still, I miss the sharpness of the non-turbo motor, I miss having to work hard to get more from the engine, I miss the theatre, and the 8,000rpm, well... is 8,000 rpm. This pulls hard past 7,000rpm too, but it’s done its best by 6,500rpm and that’s a bit of a downer.
What’s taken a big step forward, however, is the steering. It now feels nice, meaty and direct; a far cry from the first electric units on the 911. As the roads open up, I begin to drive the new 911 S with more confidence. It’s still damp and it still feels greasy in bits, but the car is goading me into stepping up the pace, and I just can’t resist. Sport+ puts the car in the right mode and with the PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) selected, the car feels even ‘tighter’ and more nimble.
No four-wheel-drive system, so steering remains uncorrupted and pure.
As I start loading up the suspension, I get a bit of scrub and initial understeer from the lightly ‘weighted’ nose, and compared with other mid-engined cars, the manner in which it turns in isn’t as crisp. But the overall poise on this new car is so good, it feels extremely relaxed and in control. And the harder I go and the later I brake, the better balanced it feels, and the additional power helps neutralise the understeer. Accelerating out of corners, with even just a little slip at the rear is such a thrill.
Does the four-wheel steering on this car really help? And does the car feel a bit more ‘loose’ because it’s a convertible and it doesn’t have the stiffness of a hard-top? Yes, the rear-wheel steering should have made it both more agile and more stable. And the fact that the car is a drop-top, must have made a difference too, but don’t ask me where and how.
What does help, especially in our conditions, is that the ride’s bump absorption is just so much better. There’s no skipping and hopping over bad patches in this new car and there’s very little crashing through potholes either. This means you can add power with a bit more confidence, secure in the knowledge that our roads won’t try and rip the suspension off. The ride in fact is so good, the car actually feels comfortable to drive even on our city roads. When was the last time we experienced that? And Porsche has made this car even more practical in our conditions; you can now raise the nose by a good 40mm and even keep it up until 35kph.
While the new twin-turbo engine is the biggest change here, the car also has an altered suspension. It now sits marginally lower, the rear 305 tyre has been made approximately half an inch wider to handle the additional torque, and it also gets a few active aero bits like the spoiler that hides away and merges with the rear profile of the car when not in use. There are new vents at the rear to help expunge the greater heat of the twin-turbo motor, there’s a new lip spoiler and twin exhausts that are placed close together; the best way to identify this 991.2. And don’t you just love those mildly ‘domed’ headlights that remind you of Porsche Le Mans racers from the past.
Twin exhausts easiest way to recognise updated turbo car.
There are plenty of new bits inside the cabin as well. The frameless touchscreen is a cool addition and the infotainment system now comes with Apple CarPlay, and you can now scribble letters directly onto the screen. The most important upgrade, however, is the new steering from the 918, with the incredibly attractive chrome frame making it feel quite special. And there’s the new rotary dial used to select Sport mode that gives you extra responsiveness and full boost all the way to the redline (under normal circumstances, the boost tapers off ‘softly’ much earlier before the redline), and there’s now even a new rubberised mat to hold your phone in the elbow box. The cabin remains comfortable, classy and extremely well built, and the long front seat backs with their integrated headrests are as comfy as ever.
So, in a nutshell, isn’t the new 911 still one of the best sportscars in the world? And it’s a better car overall too, one that will appeal to a wider audience. The performance is more accessible and stronger, the handling is as crisp as ever and it remains surprisingly practical and useable on an everyday basis. Yes, the loss of the extremely characterful naturally aspirated motor is a big one, and that means some important bits of what were once considered part of the 911 experience are gone, probably forever, but the new 911 S gives you back so much more, and almost makes up for it. The new 911, however, isn’t cheap. The base car costs Rs 1.76 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi) and all the extras on this S will add about another Rs 20 lakh. So yes, you will get your thrills, but you will also have to pay for them. Still if I had to choose a sportscar I had to drive every day, this would be it.