The 911 For The All-Season Sporting Playboy
After our many drives of the new 991-generation Porsche 911 Carrera over the past 18 months, we've felt at times that this more gran turismo-like 911 with its wider tracks and 3.9 inches of extra wheelbase would be particularly well suited to an all-wheel-drive setup. And so we went, over stunning and sunny autumn roads in Austria not far from the border with Slovenia where there was shockingly little traffic anywhere to be seen. It felt like the mountain roads had been set aside just for us and this latest 911 iteration, the Carrera 4S. Complain, we didn't.
With relatively little time to test the various Carrera 4 and 4S configurations when we arrived, we chose one from the bunch and stuck with it: a fairly loaded-to-the-max 394-horsepower 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet in Racing Yellow with a black soft top, blackened 20-inch Carrera S wheels and optional seven-speed PDK transmission. Base price with destination charge for a Carrera 4S cabrio will start at $118,480 when it arrives in the US near April 2013. As tested, however, ours ran to $160,665, or what you might legitimately call a trunk full of dough. If you want a C4 or C4S 911 for something approaching just a duffle bag of dough, the coupes arrive earlier, near the start of 2013 soon after the Detroit Auto Show, priced at $91,980 for the 345-hp Carrera 4 hardtop and the 4S version starting at $106,580.
Be it 4 or 4S, with the cabrio we're talking about a very rich person's 2+1 ragtop – two humans are not fitting back there, sorry. The money spent has become less and less the issue because such cars as these are all now priced in the stratosphere. Enough people worldwide can afford them to the point where Porsche has no worries selling them. And with the 911 lineup now accounting for around 20 percent of total Porsche sales – and a Carrera 4S cabriolet being just a small slice of that slice – there are even fewer things to worry about. Let's get on with it then. One added note: Racy yellow would be a tough choice if we were purchasing.
From the start of four-wheel drive being offered for the 911 in 1989, Carreras thus equipped have accounted for 41% of total purchases. This means that Porsche has probably got the dynamics of sports car all-wheel drive down pretty well. And they do. Thanks to additional traction and stability innovations since the middle of the '00s with the last generation 911 (i.e. 997 phases I and II), the larger footprint of this new 991 model and the 50+ pounds that were shed between the two gens, the latest 911 Carrera 4S cabriolet is a remarkably composed piece of driving.
We've at last experienced all of what this latest 911 chassis is capable on public roads.
If we've given the impression that the roads on this day were dry and warm, and that little use was therefore made of either the electro-mechanical four-wheel drive with Porsche Traction Management, the Getrag front differential, Porsche Stability Management, Porsche Active Suspension Management, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus with ZF fully variable locking rear differential, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control or standard 20-inch Pirelli P Zero tires, then we have erred mightily. There was coldness in the air all day and the moisture left by low-level fog, together with the wet fallen leaves, needed to be taken into account through many an inviting curve. Given this set of driving circumstances that were at once both utterly tantalizing and potentially dangerous, we at last experienced all of what this latest 911 chassis is capable on public roads.
With all of what we need performance-wise on board our 911 Carrera 4S cabrio – including the $2,950 sport exhaust, $1,850 Sport Chrono package and $8,250 carbon ceramic brake discs – we were playing with all the buttons to find what we liked. There's a clear demarcation between the Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus modes that one can poke on or off all day long. We preferred placid yet authoritative cruising in the unlit Normal mode while in town, then switching up to the Sport settings, with only a few little red lights lit, while out on long-legged two-lanes and driving with a modicum of gusto.
The endless possibilities of the Porsche options list seems to promote cross-model cannibalization.
Once the hairpins start and the pavement is smooth, it is all Sport Plus, folks, and no apologies are necessary. Should you opt for the $17,800 Carrera S Powerkit from the Exclusive catalogue, the most important end result of which is the 424 SAE-rated horsepower? It's actually a valid add-on that incorporates other individual options that would cost you more if taken one by one. So, yeah, sure, grab it. The price is already arguably silly, so why not get your Carrera 4S cabrio to cost even more than a $172,100 523-hp Type 997 II Turbo S cabrio? Or a $175,300 542-hp Panamera Turbo S? This is the persistent challenge of the endless possibilities presented by the Porsche options list; it seems to promote cross-model cannibalization.
What all of this onboard tech has finally really and truly established in this more stretched 911, and especially in this all-wheel-drive setup, is spectacular everyday dynamics in a sports car with the engine mounted in the wrong place. If we like the fact that the 991 Carrera 2 and 2S no longer get too light and yippy in the front at high speeds and under highly entertaining duress through masses of curves, this satisfaction is even greater with this very quick-thinking Porsche Traction Management chassis.
It carries 110 pounds of extra weight versus the rear-wheel-drive Carrera S cabriolet.
The 110 pounds of extra weight versus the rear-wheel-drive Carrera S cabriolet (3,384 pounds for this C4S cabriolet with PDK, the latter weighing 44 pounds more than the seven-speed manual) are lumped predominantly onto the front half of the car. By the same token, the all-wheel-drive system not only makes it safe to drive year-round in any sort of inclement weather, but also effectively removes any handling issues that might have to do with said added weight.
Aside from the guts of the Carrera 4/Carrera 4S making such a satisfying completion of the 991 circle, that magic "4" also gives you the Turbo-look haunches before the new Turbo is even out on store shelves. While the bodywork is 1.7 inches wider at the widest part out back – and looking really good for it – the actual rear track of the Carrera 4 with standard 19-inch wheels and tires is 1.7 inches wider, while on the Carrera 4S with standard 20-inchers, the rear track is 1.4 inches wider due to wheel well limitations at that size.
Being the precision-obsessed science project it can sometimes be – whether with aficionados, private racers or the car's Weissach engineers – the 911 has received myriad chassis tweaks that differentiate these four-wheel drivers from the rear-wheel-drive models, and also the Carrera 4S from the Carrera 4 version. Suffice it to say that the front toe-in and camber are both set up more aggressively on the S models with the standard 20-inch set – Pirelli P Zero, 245/35 ZR20 91Y front and 305/30 ZR20 103Y rear. The other key change has to do with the larger diameter front and rear anti-roll bars on the S models, those on the rear of the Carrera 4S being larger diameter still than those on the Carrera 4. The end effect here versus the Carrera 2 or Carrera 2S is simply greater overall stability and responsiveness, and better hook-up whenever needed.
The 911 has received myriad chassis tweaks that differentiate these four-wheel drivers from rear-wheel-drive models.
And, maybe we're loopy a bit, but the new ZF electro-mechanical steering combined with these 4x4 chassis characteristics works more precisely than it does with the rear-wheel-drive 911s. It felt as tractable as it does on the new mid-engined Boxster or Cayman chassis.
Up until now, all Porsche sports cars seemed somewhat unconcerned with the voice they produced via the exhaust, becoming famous for a somewhat thinner rasp. When we drove the 991 Carrera 2 and Carrera 2S last year, we were introduced to the new sport exhaust. It was a clear improvement. Then came the 981 Boxster we drove earlier this year and the new sport exhaust went wild. Apparently the Porsche boffins are sick and tired of hearing these comments regarding their cars' exhaust tones. Coming now to this fully optioned C4S cabrio, the sport exhaust finds a near perfect happy medium especially when the direct-injected 3.8-liter flat-six engine spins between 4,000 and 6,500 rpm as the 325 pound-feet of torque hit shove mode.
We drove the only car in Porsche's test fleet for this event equipped with the seven-speed manual shifter and loved that situation for all the right reasons, even though seventh gear is positioned out to the right a bit too far to feel normal. The $4,080 PDK seven-speed with proper paddles (that are now standard with PDK) gets a foot up on this new manual, we must reluctantly admit. It is faster at everything – 4.0 seconds to 60 miles per hour with Sport Plus and PDK in the coupe 4/4S, 4.2 seconds thus in this cabriolet – and consumes less fuel. We could join the 40 percent of US customers wanting the manual if only because we love that interaction with our right hand and left foot. But to go quicker, smoother and with less effort on road or track, it's PDK.
The 4 or 4S setup on this Type 991 911 is indeed a better drive, and not just for all-season sports car use.
As we suspected, the 4 or 4S setup on this Type 991 911 is indeed a better drive, and not just for all-season sports car use. At these more civilian trim levels, it is the better driver every day no matter where you live. Now we await the new Turbo and GT3 versions of this 991. They all cost so much money these days, yes, but they're all proving to be just so damned good.
New Car Test Drive
Redesigned lineup fills out.
The launch of the seventh-generation Porsche 911 began with the 2012 model year and extends through the 2013 and 2014 model years as all the variants adopt the new platform and new body style. The new 991, as it is called internally, replaces the outgoing 997 (2007-2011). It's an interesting numbering system, but the new 991 is anything but a step backward. This seventh-generation Porsche 911 is a big leap forward from the previous generation with a totally new platform.
The 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera is available in coupe and Cabriolet forms. It comes in two states of tune, the 350-horsepower Carrera and the 400-horsepower Carrera S. The 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4, Carrera 4S, Carrera 4 Cabriolet, and Carrera 4S Cabriolet bring all-wheel drive into the equation. The 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S go on sale near the end of 2013, along with the track-ready 2014 Porsche 911 GT3. Mix and match all the combinations and it's a lot of models, each one a fantastic sports car. You can't buy a bad 911, though having to choose among them could be stressful.
The new 991 is longer, lower and wider than the 997 before it, but the familiar Porsche 911 profile remains. Also familiar is its rear-engine layout featuring a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine emitting a traditional Porsche wail. Traditional but tuned with the latest engineering and technology.
The Porsche 911 Carrera is powered a 3.4-liter flat-six punching out 350 horsepower and 287 pound-feet of torque, with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 4.4 seconds, according to Porsche. The Carrera S goes with a larger, 3.8-liter flat-six making 400 hp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque, with launch times to 60 mph of 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 189 mph. Both engines are available with a 7-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, which Porsche dubs PDK for Doppelkupplung. Any of the Carrera models would make fine daily transportation.
Cabriolets feature an automatic soft top that can be raised or lowered in just 13 seconds and at speeds of up to 31 mph. Every Carrera variant is available as a Cabriolet.
We've driven the 911 Carrera S, the model we expect most Porsche 911 buyers to choose. One of the notable differences between this new 991 generation and the outgoing 997 is the steering; Porsche switched from a hydraulic system to electric steering, a move that created a stir among enthusiasts. Nearly all luxury automakers have made that change nowadays, citing lightness and better efficiency. And while some experts call the new steering numb, we found, unlike many of the new electric power steering systems on other cars, the electro-hydraulic system on the Porsche 911 continues to keep you in touch more than enough to let you know precisely what the car is doing.
Another improvement over the previous generation is the addition of the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) active roll stabilization system. Porsche claims its PDCC technology enhances cornering performance by keeping the tires in their optimal position at all times while minimizing body roll.
The Porsche 911 is surprisingly conservative when it comes to fuel economy. A lighter curb weight compared to the previous generation, combined with technologies such as auto stop/start, helps the 2013 Porsche Carrera achieve an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission and 19/28 mpg with the PDK. The all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S Cabriolet is the least fuel-friendly of the bunch, but still reasonable for the class, at 18/26 mpg city/highway with the manual and 19/26 mpg with the PDK.
This latest Porsche 911 is a markedly refined machine. The interior has the lavish appointments you'd expect in a high-line sedan, with such niceties as the new 18-way power driver's seat. That'll keep you firmly in place during the hardest cornering, but it's also comfortable enough to be an everyday driver. Although its base price is relatively reasonable, the options add up fast, and it's not uncommon to see 911s with astronomical stickers.
They say there is no substitute, but competition for the Porsche 911 includes sports cars that can handle track days and the daily commute including the Aston Martin V8 Vantage or Mercedes-Benz SL Class. Purer is the Lotus Evora, in both naturally aspirated and supercharged variants.
The 2013 Porsche 911 is available in Carrera and Carrera S versions. Each comes in coupe and Cabriolet versions, which feature a power-folding soft top, with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive.
The Porsche 911 Carrera coupe ($84,300), Carrera Cabriolet ($96,200), the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 ($91,030), and the Carrera 4 Cabriolet ($102,930) feature a 3.4-liter flat-six engine that makes 350 hp and 287 lb.-ft. of torque and a choice of a 7-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch (PDK) transmission. Standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, partial leather sport seats with four-way power adjustments and manual fore/aft adjustment, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, split-folding rear seats, faux suede headliner, the Porsche Communications Management (PCM) interface with a 7-inch touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a nine-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite radio, USB port and auxiliary audio jack; heated side mirrors, automatic bi-xenon headlights and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Carrera S ($98,900), Carrera S Cabriolet ($110,800), and Carrera 4S Cabriolet ($117,530) models use a 3.8-liter flat-six that makes 400 hp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. Standard equipment includes everything found on Carrera models plus larger brakes and an adjustable sport suspension, known as the Porsche Active Suspension Management System (PASM) with a lower ride height and selectable driving modes. Standard wheels are 20-inch alloys.
There are options and packages galore, a plethora of upholstery options, seat styles, interior trims, seat belt colors, exterior colors and painted brake calipers. Performance options include variable power steering, a torque-vectoring differential (PTV), ceramic composite brakes, and a sport exhaust system.
The 2013 Porsche 911 Turbo ($137,500) and Turbo S ($160,700) are the outgoing 997 version and come standard with all-wheel drive. Both are powered by a turbocharged 3.8-liter flat 6. The Turbo is good for 500 hp and 480 lb.-ft. of torque and comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission; PDK is optional. The Turbo S cranks out a door-blowing 530 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque and comes standard with PDK. Turbos feature a full leather interior, full-power front seats, auto-dimming interior and driver-side mirrors and a 13-speaker Bose surround-sound system, as well as unique exterior styling and more aggressive suspension tuning. The Turbo S adds adaptive sport seats carbon-ceramic brakes and unique interior color schemes. The new 2014 Turbos on the new 991 platform are expected to arrive late in 2013.
The seventh-generation model looks like a Porsche 911 but there are many changes from pre-2012 models. Compared to the previous generation, the 991 rides on a wheelbase that's stretched four inches, and an the overall length that's increased by two. That tells you right there that overhangs are tighter. The roof is lower and the track is wider. And the wheels are larger in diameter.
The 911's headlamps have a bit more of a three-dimensional look, in keeping with a body that is more sculpted than before. The sheet metal has a more precise and taught feel, with a cabin that has moved ever so slightly forward. The overall appearance is one that is more dynamic, refined yet aggressive.
Most models, even the base 911 Carrera, have an active wing that pops up to add downforce in high-speed turns. It's part of a handling package that can include the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) active roll stabilization system.
The newest 911 may be bigger, but it's shed a surprising amount of weight thanks to the increased use of aluminum and other lightweight materials. Curb weight totals 3,113 pounds with the PDK (double-clutch) gearbox, about 100 pounds less than the old model. That's no mean feat considering all the other new technologies stuffed inside.
Sports cars have traditionally put their emphasis on what's under the hood, not in the cabin, but recent generations of the Porsche 911 have focused more attention on the interior, and this latest generation is no exception. It delivers a level of refinement you'd expect from a luxury sedan in a similar price range.
Comfortable 14-way power sports seats are enveloping, and able to keep you in place even during the harshest cornering maneuvers. And unlike some, you can climb in and out with relative ease. Although the 911 employs a classic 2+2 configuration, the back seats are best suited to small children and light packages.
The overall appearance of the interior is one of Teutonic efficiency. The detailing is handsome and elegant but avoids the sort of gold-chain bling you expect from Ferrari and Lamborghini. Ergonomics are improved in this generation, with well-placed controls and easy-to-read gauges, a larger LCD navigation screen and a center console inspired by the four-door Panamera that places key vehicle functions within easy reach. Fortunately, though, the one found in the 911 is smaller and less overloaded with toggles and switches.
The five-circle gauge instrument cluster is well laid out. One of these is a multi-function display that offers up a range of programmable information, including the most immediate navigation instructions or an active g-force meter that instantly shows how hard you're accelerating, braking or turning. At one point, during a run down the test track it nudged an astounding 1.3 g.
The Porsche 911 Carrera models offer a choice of 7-speed manual gearbox or 7-speed PDK (short for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe), a dual-clutch automatic. While the manual gearbox is clearly going to be near and dear to the hearts of those of us who feel there must be three pedals on the floor of a true sports car, we wouldn't be surprised to see the PDK start to raise doubts among those even slightly less committed.
The double-clutch PDK is just a wee bit faster than a well-shifted manual. Some say it's just as much fun to operate when using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which pair especially well with the optional sport wheel. The PDK also gets slightly better gas mileage than its manual counterpart.
The 911 has always been quick, even in base form. And with the Carrera S now rivaling the acceleration of the old GT3, it'll sink you even deeper into the sport driver's seat when you use Launch Control. Available only with the PDK, Launch Control is designed to minimize wheel spin and maximize torque for the fastest off-the-line acceleration. Press the button, hold down the brake, press the throttle to the floor, wait until it tells you to go, and release the brake. When we did this, we noticed the way our peripheral vision seemed to vanish as our eyes focused on the barrier at the end of a temporary track Porsche set up for testing at California's Santa Maria Airport. We hit 112 mph before slamming on the oversized brakes, which quickly brought us to a halt well before the looming barrier. Then we zigged and zagged through a serpentine course that included decreasing radius corners and a tight slalom stretch, an autocross-type circuit.
Straight-line performance is impressive, but what's really wonderful is how the Carrera S effortlessly maneuvers through demanding corners. The new 911 posted a 7:40 lap time around the challenging Nurburgring Nordscliefe, an old, classic circuit now used as a benchmark by luxury performance carmakers. That's a whopping 16 seconds faster than the outgoing, sixth-generation Porsche 911.
At the same time, we were impressed with how quiet and smooth the Porsche 911 is on regular roads.
Some drivers feel the electric-assisted steering offers less feel and is numb compared with the old hydraulic system, but we think that may be overstating the case. Yes, it's smoother and less likely to transmit the raw sensation of hitting every twig and pebble on the road. But unlike all too many of the new electric power steering systems that makers are fast migrating to, the electro-hydraulic system on the 2013 Porsche 911 continues to keep you in touch more than enough to let you know precisely what the car is doing. One does have to get used to what the car is telling you, however, especially due to the much more limited amount of body roll allowed by the Dynamic Chassis Control system. But, again, there's still enough that it only took a few minutes, and a couple hard turns, to feel confident, comfortable and in touch with what the new 911 was doing. That's also what's impressive about this car: how quickly the driver becomes comfortable and confident at speed.
This latest-generation Porsche 911 does everything better than the pre-2012 models. You might find something faster for the price, but it's difficult to find anything that comes close to the pure driving pleasure of this classic sportscar.
Paul Eisenstein filed this report after his test drive of the 911 Carrera S in Southern California. With Laura Burstein reporting from Los Angeles and Mitch McCullough reporting from New York.
Porsche 911 Carrera coupe ($84,300), Carrera 4 coupe ($91,030), Carrera cabriolet ($96,200); Carrera S coupe ($98,900); Carrera 4 cabriolet ($102,930); Carrera 4S coupe ($105,630); Carrera S cabriolet ($110,800); Carrera 4S Cabriolet ($117,530); Turbo ($137,500); Turbo S ($160,700).
Options As Tested
PDK transmission ($4,080); upgraded black leather interior ($3,690); Sports exhaust ($2,950); self-dimming mirrors ($420); seat heaters ($690); Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control ($3,160); Porsche crest wheel caps ($185); Park Assist, front and rear ($990); Sport Chrono Package ($2,370); power sunroof ($1,490); power steering plus ($270); Bose Audio Package with satellite and HD radio ($2,120); electric folding side mirrors ($320).
Porsche 911 Carrera S ($98,900).
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