A brand new Porsche 911 launch is one of the few events that I’d tolerate 14 hours in an airplane for. Which is a good thing, because Porsche launched the latest version of its most famous car in Los Angeles, of all places. Not that anyone could blame them for choosing a sunny place where the temperature was a solid 24 degrees in late November.
In the car world, things don’t get much bigger than the introduction of a new 911. It’s been more than seven years since the 991 generation of the 911 saw the light of day, but now we can talk about its successor, Porsche model 992. As is customary, the first 911 of a new generation to be launched is a Carrera, but this time rather than a base and “S” model we get the Carrera S and 4S . The previous 991 generation was only the third all new platform in the 911’s history, so 992 is very much an evolution of 991. As such, the new car does not look radically different from the old model (queue the jokes) though there certainly are some areas where the differences are quite striking.
We’ve known for some time what 992 was going to look like, more or less, thanks to the fact that Porsche had lots of prototypes on roads around the world for extensive testing. As launch date got closer and closer, they became ever less camouflaged. Which is not a bad way to build suspense and keep people interested. Anyway, 992 is now here and I don’t think I need to put out any spoiler alerts before pointing out this early in the article that it’s both faster, more efficient and more expensive than the old one. It simply wouldn’t be a new 911 if it wasn’t all these things. The new car looks more muscular on the outside, but under the skin the engines have been reworked and it has a whole new interior. I repeat: a whole new interior.
And the interior is probably the part of the car where opinions will be the most divided. It is a visually striking and bold new design, but it is a significant departure from the previous shape and Porsche purists tend to be quite averse to big changes generally. Gone are most of the analog gauges, all have been replaced by high resolution screens except for the most important one — the rev counter. That one still sits dominantly in the middle and uses a nicely old fashioned needle to indicate the engine RPM. Somehow, seeing an analog RPM counter fly towards the red line is still a more emotional experience than when the same event plays out on an LCD screen. Call me a purist too, perhaps, but Porsche has gotten this part completely right in the new car. They’ve even given it a bit of a retro-modern look unique to the 911 for now.
The one thing that I’m not sure about myself is the gear selector. It’s now a small stubby unit, which merely serves to choose between reverse, neutral or drive. For park or manual mode you have to press some buttons right next to it. 99.9 percent of the time, I figure the new solution works just fine. But there are some extraordinary situations where only having the shift paddles on the steering wheel is a bit of a bummer. When I went drifting on a frozen lake in Sweden earlier this year, the PDK gear lever was used all the time for manual shifting because when your steering wheel is rotated you can’t keep track of which paddle is which and you’d have to bend your arm in weird ways to reach them anyway. Not exactly a common situation in real life, I know, but I still wish they hadn’t changed this little part.
But there are many, many good changes to report as well. The front and rear track are significantly wider than before, and the wheels are covered by beautifully sculpted wide arches which give the car a particularly muscular look. Perhaps because the 992 is so much wider already, Porsche has also decided to do away with the tradition of giving the 4S a wider rear end than the regular S. Both the 2WD and 4WD versions of the 911 now have exactly the same wide body, which I do appreciate as I would personally prefer the 2 wheel drive Carrera but always liked the wider backside of the 4S. There are also some new flush door handles, which sound like a mundane detail but they really look good and provide a cleaner shape. The exhaust pipes are also a much better looking solution than before, with both the regular and sports exhaust having tail pipes that exit in the same location. It will still be possible however to tell which type of exhaust is fitted as the sports exhaust gets two large pipes while the standard exhaust uses four smaller ones. Finally, the wheels sizes are now staggered, with a larger diameter of 21 inches at the rear while the fronts have remained 20 inches as before.
The new Carrera S and 4S come with 450 horsepower from the familiar 3 litre turbocharged flat six, which could fool you into thinking that Porsche has simply taken the engine from the last 991 GTS and put it in the 992 S. Of course, it’s not that simple. There is a new fuel injection system but also the layout of the turbochargers and charge cooling system has been altered significantly. The two turbochargers, one on each side of the engine, now spin in opposite directions and the intercooler has been moved to just below the grille on top of the engine. For the gearbox, there is a new 8-speed PDK but the familiar 7-speed manual transmission will also be available in the future. Not that this matters much for the Russian market, where you are more likely to be hit by lightning than see a modern Porsche sports car with a manual gearbox. Which is of course understandable given how utterly brilliant the PDK transmission is.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to be patient to find out how the 992 drives out on the road, but Porsche’s claimed performance figures are staggering enough to keep us occupied for a while. The 0 to 100 km/h sprint for the new rear wheel drive Carrera S with PDK and the Sport Chrono option is a mere 3.5 seconds, with the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S doing it a tenth quicker still for a total of only 3.4. This makes the 992 generation a full 4 tenths of a second faster to 100 kilometres per hour than 991, even beating the old GTS by 2 tenths. That might not sound like a lot of time to you, but when the total time is less than four seconds an improvement of a few tenths is a considerable chunk of time gained. The new car is said to beat the old by five seconds around the Nurburgring as well, which is not an insignificant difference either considering how fast the previous car went around the Green Hell.
Right after the 992’s world premiere at the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles, I had the chance to sit down for a short interview with Thomas Krickelberg, 911 product line director. Much of what I learned from him about the new 992 has already been covered in this article, but there were still some interesting answers which I’d like to share.
Jan Coomans: The new 911 has a unique “wet” driving mode, how does it work and am I right that it is for improving safety on wet roads rather than going faster on a wet racetrack?
Thomas Krickelberg: That’s exactly right. The system works via some ultrasonic acoustic sensors inside the wheel well, and with their signal the car can determine how much water is on the road. If it detects a certain level of water, the car will give you a warning and suggest that you select the wet driving mode. This will recalibrate the traction and stability control systems and it also makes the throttle response and gearshifts smoother to avoid upsetting the car.
The 911’s PDK gearbox now has has 8 speeds rather than 7, does this mean the new one has shorter gear ratios or the new gear added to the high end?
7th and 8th gear are overdrive gears to reduce fuel consumption, the top speed is still reached in 6th gear, but the new car does have changed gear ratios for the lower gears too.
A quick look online through some Porsche web forums suggests that the one feature of the 992 which people are doubtful about is the new gear shifter. What was the reason for changing it so drastically?
Yes, we had a lot of discussions about this. In the end, it is a reduction in functionality to clear some space because a large gear lever could get in the way when you try to operate the new large touch screen. It is also a nod to the Porsche 918 which had a similar kind of gear selector.
You already mentioned that it was quite a difficult job to add the new particulate filters to the exhaust system, will you be fitting these to all cars or only to those being sold in places where the law mandates them?
We will only fit them to cars for the EU and Chinese markets, the rest of the world will get cars without these filters. But there is no difference in performance.
For those wondering about the specifics of the new 911 is coming to Russia, I also spoke to Dr. Thomas Staertzel, managing director of Porsche Russland, who had this to say:
Dr. Thomas Staertzel: The online car configurator is already open, so people can look at all the options and prices will start at 7.8 million Rubles. The first new 911s will be delivered to us at the end of March, so we are looking at the very first customer deliveries happening in the start of April. Then of course in May, we will have our usual Porsche festival where we will have plenty of the new cars available for people to come and test!
Jan Coomans: Thank you very much, Dr. Staertzel.
As I said at the beginning, there was never any doubt that the new 911 would improve on the previous model in every conceivable metric. The 911 is and will remain the quintessential Porsche, a legend which continuously evolves to be more capable, more efficient and easier to live with but never loses track of its core philosophy. That having been said, it is understandable that some 911 enthusiasts will continue to lament the 911 becoming ever more of a grand tourer and less raw as a sports car. 992 is very much continuing the prevailing trend of adding technology, comfort and safety at the expense of increasing weight and size. But does that mean that it won’t make us giggle like schoolgirls the first time we get to spool up its turbos and point it into a corner with some vigour? I doubt that very much. The truth is that there is no other car that drives like a 911, and each time the crown is passed onto a new generation you can’t help but feel like celebrating the magnificence of progress. So that’s what I am going to do right now, before my jet lag wears off. Cheers.