Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Porsche 992: is this the best car of 2019 so far?

Damien Reid says it is – but purists may scoff at some changes

In a motoring world that’s racing towards electrification and hybridisation, we thankfully still have the Porsche 911.

It has been the staple high-performance sports car that, visually at least, has barely changed in more than half a century. But all that could change with this just-released, eighth-generation model.

The new 911, code-named 992, carries a bit more beef, which we discovered first-hand during our 500-kilometre drive on the Autobahn from the factory in Zuffenhausen, a small industrial and mostly Porsche-owned suburb of Stuttgart, to Porsche’s Leipzig test track.

Look through the gallery above to see more of this car.

If you’ve never driven a 911, then it is gobsmackingly good, with precise steering, agility you find from a car half its size and poise that allowed us to cruise north of 280km/h in the Cabriolet with the roof down. Said roof features magnesium-layered fabric and can be opened and closed at up to 50km/h. With the powered wind-blocker behind your head, conversation was easy at high speed.

If you are familiar with driving the 911, then you notice changes that have smoothed over some of the rawness of previous generations to make it more compliant for the average driver instead of only the enthusiast. From behind the wheel, it has dulled its earlier charms just slightly in order to make it more usable as an everyday car. But you are also aware it is carrying an extra 50 kilograms in its hips, something we’ll address later.

'A more usable interior'

That aside, though, the 992 is still every inch a genuine 911 and one of the best sports cars Dh474,600 can buy, not to mention one of the most practical. At the car’s initial reveal at the Los Angeles Motorshow last December, Porsche’s vice president in charge of sports cars at the time, August Achleitner, said the 911 would never move to a mid-engined layout because of its impractical configuration for road use. “We never considered a mid-engined road car because one of the biggest advantages of the 911 is the extra interior space over our rivals,” he said. “We have a more usable interior as well as excellent traction from the engine’s weight being placed directly above the rear wheels.”

Having now sampled it, I can only agree. With overnight bags for two in the front boot and still an empty rear seat, we set off for the Autobahn. Without the traction benefits of all-wheel drive, or the added weight that system carries, the engine over the rear wheels ensured all of its 445bhp went to the road smoothly.

The 992 Carrera S has 30bhp more than the previous model and hauled through to 282km/h without white knuckles gripping a twitching steering wheel or wind gusts buffeting the car. It was as comfortable there as it was at 90km/h.

Impressive new technology

Much of this has to do with a mass of new technology squeezed under its haunches, such as the rear-axle steering and active anti-roll bars that come at an extra cost – as does the Sports Chrono package identified by black exhaust tips and carbon ceramic brakes that were fitted to the cars that were used for our track session in Leipzig.

Everyone deserves to drive a Porsche 911 at least once and they better get in quick as the extra 50kg placed on this car is there to support a future hybrid addition

Aside from being the factory where Porsche’s Macan and Cayenne SUVs are made, Leipzig also has one of the best test tracks in the world, which includes a wet-handling course, off-road tracks and a 3.7km race track that features famous corners from other tracks around the world. One lap includes the Karussell from the Nurburgring, Loews Hairpin at Monaco, the Bus Stop from Spa-Francorchamps, Monza’s Parabolica and the frightening Corkscrew from Laguna Seca in California – to name a few.

While the Autobahn gave us the opportunity to unsuccessfully challenge its 308km/h top speed in the Cabriolet, this location allowed us to verify its 0-100kmh time of 3.7 seconds and 3.5 seconds with the Sports Chrono package in the Coupe.

It was here where we really noticed the extra grip in the front end from the wider track. It pointed like a go-kart and simply wouldn’t let go. I found that selecting the softer suspension mode allowed the tail to move around a bit so that on lift-off of the throttle, the weight change through fast corners set it up beautifully for the exit. Its balance and poise on the limit were absolutely superb, no doubt aided by a lot of electronic suspension gadgetry going on behind the scenes, as well as its clever rear-wheel steering.

A car for everybody

Everyone deserves to drive a Porsche 911 at least once and they better get in quick as the extra 50kg placed on this car is there to support a future hybrid addition, when the 911 will go electric to suit various international markets.

This is part of the reason why the wide-body shape is now standard on all 992s, as the extra room around the rear guards is there for cooling both the revised 3.0-litre flat-six turbocharged engine mounted to an eight-speed PDK transmission, as well as for the reported eventual electrical assistance.

Previously, the wide-body 911 signified the turbo models, but they are now all 45mm wider front and rear, matching the previous 991.2 GT3, and house massive 20 and 21-inch wheels front to rear as standard. To help offset its heftier 1,605kgs – although it feels substantially lighter on the road – the team applied more aluminium to its construction, including most of the outer shell aside from the front and rear sections.

The 992 edition features some relatively major design tweaks when compared to the classic 911. Courtesy Porsche
The 992 edition features some relatively major design tweaks when compared to the classic 911. Courtesy Porsche

Visually speaking, while you can never mistake a 911 for something else with its distinctive profile, the 992 features some relatively major design tweaks, most notably at the rear. All models include a variable-position rear spoiler as standard, as well as a full-width, seamless light strip topped by two vertical high-mount stoplights designed to mimic those used on its GT race cars. Gone are the familiar chunky door handles, replaced by electric pop-out units for better aerodynamics, while the nose has a larger under-bumper, matte-black air intake.

The overall inspiration for the longer and wider shape comes from the original 930 turbo from the mid-1970s, which is carried through to an all-new interior. Sitting inside brought back memories of earlier Porsches with a more horizontal dash similar in style to the one it originally used, with less emphasis on the centre console that the more recent models strayed towards.

The retro look also extends to a new instrument fascia, which continues the tradition of having the rev counter mounted in the centre, but is now surrounded by two, thin, frameless LCD displays that supply information to the driver. Meanwhile, a larger, 10.9-inch centre screen is available for the passengers.

This eighth generation of the 911 will possibly be the best car to be released in 2019: it is that good. From everyday usability to focused track performance, space efficiency, quality and comfort, it has it all.

But I cannot help but think it has become so good and so easy to drive quickly that the 911 has become softer as it tries to be all things to all people to chase more sales. The purist in me would like it to remain a difficult car to drive. But, then again, as everyone deserves to drive a 911 at least once, it must be a car for every person to drive.

Updated: July 18, 2019 03:39 PM

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