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Porsche 911 Carrera S facelift review, test drive

21st Jun 2016 12:14 pm

Joining the list of controversial changes to the ‘basic’ 911 Carrera over the years is a move to a downsized turbocharged motor. Is the iconic sportscar better or worse for it?

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  • Make : Porsche
  • Model : 911

What is it?

Water cooling, electric power steering, direct fuel injection, rear-wheel steering – these are but some of the things that have gotten the Porsche 911’s die-hard fans frothing at the mouth with rage over the years. The introduction of each of these new technologies has no doubt improved the car in some way or the other, but because they deviate from the ‘classic 911’ formula, the purists tend to go up in arms. Well, the pitchforks are undoubtedly being sharpened again, because Porsche has implemented one of the biggest changes to the 911 yet – downsizing. Fitting a smaller, turbocharged engine for better fuel economy and lower emissions is met with criticism in most everyday cars, so imagine what it’s like when it happens to one of the world’s most beloved sportscar. As we’ve seen already, the new Porsche 718 Boxster with its turbocharged flat four didn’t quite get the downsizing formula right. So what of its big brother?

Let’s just quickly run through the other minor changes made to arrive at this facelifted, ‘991.2’ Porsche 911. There are sharper looking front bumpers, optional full-LED headlamps and new, three-dimensional tail-lamp clusters, with Porsche’s new ‘four-dot’ light signature given lots of prominence. There’s a new engine cover too to help vent that new motor better, and the rear tyres have grown one inch wider for better grip. On the inside, not much has changed at all, so you still get the classic, upright, driver-focussed 911 dashboard with the five big dials staring straight at you. You can now option the sports steering wheel from the 918 Spyder supercar, as well as the new drive mode selector that sits on the steering boss itself. Finally, there’s Porsche’s new touchscreen infotainment system that’s a huge step-up from the old unit and easily one of the better systems on the market today.

What’s it like to drive?

Few engines have had as much to prove as this new 2,981cc, twin-turbocharged flat six does. In the Carrera it’s tuned to produce 370hp and 450Nm, but in the more potent Carrera S, it makes 420hp and 500Nm! These are, of course, far more significant numbers than what you’d get from the now defunct 3.4- and 3.8-litre naturally aspirated flat sixes, especially the torque figures, as is the case with most turbocharged cars. Even the performance claims – 0-100kph in 4.2sec and 3.9sec respectively are better than before. But all of this means nothing. No, in a 911, it’s all about the way the car sounds, responds, feels and makes you feel.

And I’m happy to report that it feels good. Fire it up and it sounds like a proper Porsche boxer six should (especially with the optional sport exhaust fitted), set off gently and it doesn’t feel laboured or strained. It feels naturally aspirated, and that’s the best compliment you can pay a turbocharged car. On the road, it’s comfy changing pace as we weave in and out of Abu Dhabi’s traffic, the quick and smooth seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox coping well with the random changes in throttle input. It’s very civilised and very comfortable, as the 911 has always been, but of course, we didn’t expect that to change.

The true test comes at the Yas Marina F1 circuit, where we get to really open the new 911 up, and here too, the news is good. The new engine is an absolute gem – it just loves to rev, it sounds almost as good as any of the naturally aspirated motors that went before it, and its power delivery is linear and wide spread. I even sample the new Sport Performance button on the main straight – it’s not an overboost function, but rather it locks the engine at high revs to give only the highest performance for 20 seconds. And the best part of this new engine – it feels like it has a lot more to give, so here’s looking forward to more potent turbocharged 911s.

As ever, the 911 is a super-competent handler with loads of grip available. Yes, you could be a hooligan with it and slide it around corners on a race circuit, but it’s so sharp and well balanced, it actually encourages you to concentrate on getting a better lap time. Lament the electric steering all you want, it’s probably the best one in existence with the sharpness, weight and feedback it gives you. And even in this two-wheel-drive version, the grip is so immense, it’ll make your eyeballs hurt. Then there’s the other controversial bit of tech – optional rear-wheel steering, which until now was only available on the Turbo and GT3 models. It steers the back wheels ever so slightly when you turn the wheel, to tighten the turning circle and let the 911 corner sharper. It feels like witchcraft, but boy does it work! It goes into corners faster, stays more composed through them and comes out the other side with less drama too. One could argue that track-driving enthusiasts will prefer the more natural feel of the standard setup, but for the average driver, this will only help corner faster.

Should I buy one?

The launch of this new 911 Carrera S is right around the corner, and the best part is that the price could be quite aggressive. Because the engine now falls below the 3,000cc mark, the car has to be homologated in India, and as a result of both these things, it now also falls into a lower tax bracket. The result is, we expect the new Carrera to cost around Rs 1.4 crore and the Carrera S around Rs 1.6 crore (ex-showroom), before options. The 911 does lack the drama and flash value of some other sportscars, but then its appeal has always been in the way it drives, and for fans of the brand and the vehicle itself, there can be no substitute. What we can verify, however, is that turbocharging and downsizing has not spoilt the Carrera formula at all, and if anything, it’s only enhanced it. This new 911 is a winner.

Porsche  911
Porsche 911

Rs 2.09 crore * on road price (New Delhi)

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