Carrera S, Porsche's best selling sports car is all-new and better than ever
How do you tell this new Porsche from the old one? By far the easiest way is to get a good look at the rear. Unlike the tight and compact back of the earlier 997, the 911 is wider and fuller looking. The most obvious detail is the word ‘Porsche', spelt out in large chrome letters across the back — a throwback to the original 911 from the early 1960s. This new 911 also has a significantly more raked front windscreen, the headlights have been moved out to give it a wider-looking nose, and the longer wheelbase and wider front track give it a more planted stance. Otherwise, it has all the iconic 911 design cues.
Ingress is almost as comfortable as a luxury saloon, the typically Porsche cabin feels better built than many other luxury cars, and the driver's seat seems to have exactly the right blend of support and cushioning. This is a car you can use every day and not feel any worse for wear. The 911 is a sportscar but it doesn't trade comfort for any of the performance.
The insides are all 911 too, the five horizontally aligned dials, again done in time-honoured fashion, look simply fantastic and the numbers on the dials themselves are exciting enough to elevate your heart rate. The slightly overoptimistic speedo reads a bullet-train-matching 330kph, the tachometer is redlined close to 8000rpm, and the split dial on the left gives you both oil temperature and pressure.
What's new on the inside however is the Panamera-like raised central tunnel. This new arrangement has also allowed Porsche to get rid of the fiddly small buttons that earlier infested the tightly packed central console and there's a larger screen in the central console too.
The ‘993' may have been the last air-cooled 911, but this new car sounds air-cooled too, especially at start up. You hear that ‘chitty-chitty-chitty' at idle and blip the throttle you get that faint whistling sound, so familiar on Porsches of old. However, spin the direct-injection flat-six motor harder and the exhaust note tightens up into something between a rasp and a snarl. And the faster you spin it, the harder-edged it gets.
On some of the quieter roads on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi we are driving with the windows down and sport exhaust button on, the new Carrera S sounds truly divine. This new aluminium chassis feels as tight as a drum, at least 40-50 per cent stiffer than you expect, and performance from the 3.8-litre motor, even in the midrange, is seriously urgent.
A big surprise is the all-new electric steering system. Far from playing spoilsport, this new steering system is so accurate you can drive this car precisely and quickly, with almost no conscious effort.
The new 911 also drives much better in normal or street mode. While the earlier motor had quite a gutless bottom end and a PDK 'box that was reluctant to downshift, this one feels far more energetic and willing. There's considerably more muscle at regular driving speeds, the gearbox is infinitely sweeter and, on this longer wheelbase, the ride quality seems better too. Despite the 20-inch rims on this car, there's more suppleness in the suspension, probably due to the active dampers and anti-roll bars, the active engine mounts cradle the engine with soft hands and the 911 now only thumps through poorly paved sections rather than crashing through them.
The familiar 3.8 flat six may make only 15bhp more but, coupled with the lighter body and the improved gearbox, performance has taken a massive leap forward. It feels brutally quick, even when you are using only 80 per cent of the potential of the motor, the performance gets stronger the harder you rev the snarling flat six, and visiting the last 1000rpm of the powerband, especially in one of the higher gears, is thoroughly grin- inducing. But to explore the performance envelope of this car fully, you need a track.
Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit proves to be just the right testing ground. It takes only a couple of hard laps to prove that there are times when you do miss the extra feel and feedback of the hydraulic steering. However, the new steering works so well in every other area, you soon overlook this little blemish. Placing the car exactly where you want with millimetre precision, even with the tyres howling in protest, is just a flick of a wrist away.
There is precious little understeer, active torque vectoring between the driven rear wheels provides further stability under power and this allows the 911 to slingshot itself out of slow, medium and fast bends like it's been shot from a cannon.
Pinning the throttle to the floor and giving the 911 its head, especially towards the top end of the powerband, also makes it feel brutally quick. In fact, performance in some parts of the powerband isn't all that far removed from the earlier-generation 911 Turbo; this car does after all have 270bhp per tonne to the Turbo's 309.
What's also nice about the new car's handling is that it allows you to use that weight in the rear to your advantage. You can feel the heavy rear come around in tighter corners on the track but, far from being intimidating, the new 911 encourages you to flick the steering wheel gently and help the car change direction. And that just ups the fun factor massively.
Porsche has designed the new 911 keeping current emission norms in mind and it is quite a bit cleaner and greener but the fun-to-drive factor seeps through every single nut and bolt. And its appeal is truly global.
With a little care and smaller rims, this is a car you could use everyday even on our roads. That this is one of the best sports cars in the world, there is no doubt.
The question is how many Indian sports car buyers will have the good sense to snap up the new Carrera S, which even at an ex-showroom price of Rs 1.13 crore is surprisingly good value.
It's rare to find a car that blends everyday usability and supercar performance into one package.
Keywords: Porsche Carrera