First Drive: Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe

The King is dead; long live the King

Sound the bells and close the gates: the normally-aspirated Porsche 911 Carrera is dead. Emissions laws have killed it, and we should rightly mourn its passing. Down your tools and don your black armbands.

Never again will a buyer drive off the forecourt in their brand new Carrera or Carrera S to the backdrop of that crisp, clear and oh-so-emotive flat-six howl sans turbo. These are, on the face of it, dark days. But fear not, because having just unwillingly returned the keys to the new all-turbocharged Carrera, things aren’t looking so bad after all.

Not that Porsche is predictable or anything, but from the 991.2 model’s launch there are Carrera and Carrera S versions in Coupé and slightly wibbly Convertible body styles. The big news is the downsized turbocharged engine, now a mere 3.0 litres – down from 3.8 in the old Carrera S. Bi-turbocharging boosts power to 370PS in the Carrera and 420PS in the S, but the main benefactor is torque.

Between 1,700rpm and 5,000rpm, the Carrera now shoves 450Nm of it down through its rear tyres. The S, with a few tweaks to its ECU and turbochargers, squeezes out 500Nm. That’s what’s known as A Lot.

The key that was just removed from my grasp was for a 370PS Carrera, with – shock, horror – a manual gearbox. It’s all-new for this model with a new type of two-disc clutch that maintains a lightweight shift action despite all that extra torque coursing through it. Without it the clutch would be truck-heavy.

There are longer gear ratios from third onwards, too, for fuel efficiency’s sake. Second gear still reaches past 70mph and the new cogs don’t impact on the driving experience, which comes amazingly close to that of its illustrious predecessor in all the ways you’d think it wouldn’t.

Let’s start with the noise. Porsche has waved its magic wand over the soundproofing in the 991.2 and inside the cabin it’s no noisier than an afternoon with a sleeping labrador. But on the outside the twin exhausts are sending signals to the next town and beyond. With the Sports Exhaust on, it sounds brilliant. Keep those windows wound down, then.

Next there’s throttle response. Turbocharging inevitably robs some of its immediacy, but before boost kicks in you’ve still got three litres of Porsche engineering slung out behind you, giving you responses fast enough that you’ll never, ever complain. After 3,000rpm the turbos are spinning like little demons and a kick in the kidneys is only an ankle-flex away.

The new unit revs to 7,500rpm, too, and sounds great in the process. That high-pitched wail is still there, just with softer edges. No, it’s not quite as hair-raising as the old one, but if you buy one of these you probably won’t miss it.

For outright speed it’s better to shift at 6,500rpm, hitting peak power but using the huge midrange torque to cement your disconcertingly rapid progress through the gears. A bugbear in left-hand drive manual cars is irritatingly offset pedals, and the quarter or so of UK buyers go prefer to shift gear themselves will hope for better alignment.

The base Carrera isn’t available with rear-wheel steering, but it does just fine without it. The steering feedback has been improved versus the early 991, for starters. Turn-in is quick and accurate, and it changes direction like a lamb on its first sunny day out. The stability is impressive – it’s perhaps a little too stable for some but that’s been the case with 911s for a long time.

On corner exits the rear-mounted engine pushes the fat rear tyres into the ground for epic traction. It’s probably the best-equipped sports car for the new turbo era for that reason alone. All that torque simply flows to the road in one neat, linear explosion that ends with a hard stamp on the brake pedal. The standard steel brakes are more than up to the job for fast road use, although from the smell after I got out of the car they might have been close to their limits.

A welcome new feature is the relocated driving mode switch. It’s now a rotary dial on the steering wheel, and believe me, it should have been like this from the start. Flicking between Comfort, Sport and Sport+ (the latter two of which feel broadly identical) can be done much faster and easier. In the sportier settings the car will even rev-match the down-shifts for you. Which is nice.

Driving the new 911 along a great road is, as the automotive world breathes a sigh of relief, just as rich an experience as it always has been. It’s a car that can technically do everything better than before, at the cost of a small measure of subjective aural charm. It’s not likely to dampen sales. Cease the bells and open the gates: the King may be dead, but long live the King.

Model Tested: Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe Manual
Price: £76,412
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo petrol
Top speed: 183 mph
0-62 mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 370 PS (365 bhp)
Torque: 450 Nm (332 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 34.0 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 190 g/km
VED Band: J / £490 per year
Car insurance group: N/A
Kerb weight: 1,430 kg
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Sam Baines

Sam is an automotive writer with experience of virtually every make, model and specification of car in the UK. If it's got wheels, Sam's got it covered.

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