Porsche continues to impress with the 911 and its latest 991 is no exception. It offers towering performance, engaging handling and a comfortable cabin, writes Ameya Dandekar

What comes to mind when one mentions Porsche? For most buyers in the country, it would be the big Cayenne SUV, considering it’s the best-selling car from the manufacturer here. However, those who are familiar with the carmaker and what they stand for, it would be Porsche’s iconic sportscars that would spring to mind. And which sportscar other than the legendary 911 would do justice as the manufacturer’s representative? This iconic rear-engined automobile turns 50 this year, and though the basic formula has remained the same, the 911 has constantly evolved, adapting to a game that has changed over the decades and still managing to compete with the very best. This latest model — codenamed 991 — may be the sixth generation of 911 worldwide, but it’s only the second generation to go on sale here in India.

Although the new 911 may look very similar to 911s of old, but the 991 is almost all new. No less than 90 per cent of its mechanical ingredients are either all new or significantly improved. It has new dimensions, a new electromechanical power steering system and a construction richer in aluminium than ever before.

It retains the classic rear-engine layout of every 911 since the original from way back in 1963, albeit with modifications to the engine mounting points, which have been optimised for improved weight distribution. As with the previous 911 (997), the front-end structure, complete with its MacPherson strut suspension, is more or less shared with the smaller Boxster and, at the rear, this 911 gets reworked multi-link suspension.

The 911 continues with a predominantly steel structure and a body constructed from a combination of steel, aluminium and plastic composites. A series of weight-optimisation measures has pared the kerb weight by around 45kg, bringing the new base 911 Carrera down to around 1380kg.

This being the all-wheel-drive version, the rear track is wider, and it weighs in at a heavier 1465kg thanks to the extra set of axles. Speaking of which, the 4S is predominantly rear-wheel drive until provoked. Once the system detects the need for more traction, it’ll shuffle power (you can see it working on a display in the instrument cluster) to the front axles until it is satisfied that things are under control.

The external styling elements that help differentiate between the 4S and the two-wheel drive version is the light strip that connects the tail-lights, a sportier front bumper and a more curvaceous haunches.

New-generation car, new-generation interior. The latest 911 adopts Porsche’s new cabin design theme that made its debut in the Panamera. However, given that it’s a sportscar, the 911’s cabin layout is more driver-focussed than the Panamera and the Cayenne, with a narrower centre console and less of a button overload. The ancillary buttons are positioned neatly behind the gearlever rather than to its side, an arrangement allowed by the adoption of an electrically operated parking brake and a novel new location for the cupholders on the passenger side of the dashboard.

The fit and finish and perceived quality of materials are hard to fault. The 911’s cabin ambience now passes muster not just among anything else in its class, it can easily rival what you would see in a proper German luxury saloon. Our test car came with loads of kit, but disappointingly, most of the stuff, like the Sports Chrono pack, powered sports seats, electric steering adjustment, navigation, Bose sound system, Bluetooth, auto dimming and folding mirrors, and the sunroof, are optional extras. Porsche even charges you to remove the Carrera badge from the engine cover! The 911’s low roof necessitates some amount of bending on ingress, but once past the wide-opening pillarless doors, what you find is a very cosy cabin. There is decent space for front occupants, and the thin A pillars allow for a fantastic view out the front. The nicely crafted seats are snug and well-bolstered, and keep you in place even when you drive hard. While the Carrera 4S can seat four, it is best to use it as two-seater. Accessing the back seat is not the most elegant of procedures, and once you get in, the seat is cramped and the knees-up seating position is not very comfy. The front boot, at 125 litres, is quite generous for a sportscar and there’s an additional 260 litres of storage area behind the rear seats.

The Carrera 4S is powered by a 3.8-litre, direct-injection six-cylinder motor. Producing 395bhp, this naturally aspirated motor sends its power to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (there is the option of a seven-speed manual too). This potent engine delivers brilliant performance from anywhere in its powerband and the four-wheel-drive system is quick to channel power optimally to the wheels.

This motor’s mid-range and top end are nothing short of explosive too. Tap the throttle and the 4S vaults off the blocks; thrust is immediate and very strong, power delivery is linear, and even short bursts of acceleration are addictive. Configure the onboard computer and set the gearbox, dampers and engine to Sport Plus mode, and things get even more insane. Performance is now in proper supercar territory, and the car changes the way it responds to throttle inputs.

The seven-speed, twin-clutch gearbox is lightning quick with its shifts and, as ever, you can use it in manual mode, where the gears shift up only when you pull the right paddle. Flat-out performance is rapid, with 100kph taking 5.09 seconds, 150kph 9.54 seconds and 200kph just 16.86 seconds! In-gear acceleration is very strong too, despite the car having tall gearing. You won’t need a long stretch of road to hit its claimed top speed of 298kph. These quick times are also possible thanks to the optional launch control system our test car came fitted with.

Drive it a few notches down and the 911 is still impressive. On our ever-crowded streets, it’s quickly apparent that, with the gearbox in D, this car is almost as civilised as most family cars. The ride is pretty impressive for a sports car and Porsche’s PASM adaptive damping system (standard on the S models) must get credit here. With four new vertical chassis sensors, the PASM is capable of making the 911 as supple as a family saloon whilst cruising. Also remarkable is the suspension’s ability to absorb bumps and maintain composure over broken tarmac. In Sport mode, you can feel jolts more prominently and body movements are sharper but never to the point of being unduly harsh. Even the ground clearance is generous enough to tackle most speedbreakers.

And, unlike the mid-engined supercar brigade, the 911 is easy to see out of, front and rear, making it that much eaiser and friendlier to drive in traffic.

The 911 has a fuel tank capacity of just 65 litres and, when you consider its low overall 6.3kpl figure, it gives it range of just 400km. Porsche Communication Management (PCM) is available as an option for the 911 models. It comes with various systems that can be controlled via the intuitive touchscreen display. The package includes a radio, a six-disc DVD player, and aux-in and USB ports. If you opt for the Chrono Package you can even download data from the Chrono onto a flash drive via the USB port. There is also an onboard hard drive and Porsche says you can store upto 10,000 MP3 tracks on it. The full-fledged navigation system is capable of displaying maps in either 2D or 3D. It also gets voice control for added convenience, and the Bluetooth telephony is capable of displaying your text messages and can read them out too.

Porsche continues to impress with the 911. The latest 991 is no exception. At Rs. 1.46 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Carrera 4S is expensive. But, for this price, there’s little else that can match its blend of driver thrills, everyday usability and quality.

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