Porsche, that ultimate exemplar of the art of automotive design evolution, continues its long- established philosophy with the announcement of the next generation 911.
A major point of interest at this month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, it may look, at first glance, very similar to its predecessor, but it is lower, sits on a longer wheelbase, and makes use of what Porsche describes as “an intelligent aluminum-steel construction” to create “a completely redesigned generation” of the car. It is also lighter by up to 45 kg (99 lb), more powerful (although the regular Carrera has a slightly downsized 3.4-L engine), is more frugal, and has improved emissions, with a best CO2 of 194 g/km. The use of a seven-speed manual gearbox is claimed as a first for a production car.
Porsche uses the phrase “tradition meets modernity” to describe the new 911, which confusingly carries the company code name of 991, despite following in recent years the sequence 993, last of the air-cooled models; 996, first of the water-cooled; and from 2005, 997.
The initial announcement of the model range covers just the rear-drive Carrera and Carrera S, but hybrid, all-wheel-drive, cabriolet, and Turbo versions are expected to emerge over the next couple of years.
Porsche once tried to design a model to replace the 911. In 1978, the radically different and futuristic looking 928 appeared, with front-mounted V8 engine. It promptly won a Car of the Year accolade—and equally promptly failed to persuade the vast majority of 911 aficionados to shift their affections. The 911 cult would continue and strengthen.
Even 30 years later, Design Director Michael Mauer really did not have much choice when the time came to update the 997. He has overseen the creation of a car that—despite being a little larger with the wheelbase stretched 100 mm (3.9 in), about 10 mm (0.4 in) lower, and with a more steeply sloped rear end—looks very similar in its general configuration to the outgoing model and the 996 of 1997. However, its roofline now tapers more smoothly with a steeper angle for the rear windshield and narrower side windows with optional 20-in wheels contributing to the visual effect of a slimmer side elevation.
The car still retains the core DNA of the original 911 (initially designated 901) of 1963. Front fenders remain high with wide arches covering an extended track. The external mirrors are now mounted on the upper forward area of the door like those of much earlier and more basic 911s, including the 3.2 Carrera, which was the last of the type to do without such fripperies as power steering or ABS. Porsche states that body stiffness of the 991 is greater, although it gives no figures.
The front bumper is higher and carries boldly placed LED daylight running lights; rear LED lights are slim, blending less smoothly with the body. There is a wider, variably extending rear spoiler.
The use of a 257-kW (345-hp) 3.4-L engine is down from 3.6 L, but it is marginally more powerful and of similar capacity to the power units of the Boxster and Cayman. In the regular Carrera it is allied to a twin-clutch PDK automated manual transmission and, in Sport Plus mode of the optional Sport Chrono Pack, gives a best 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 4.4 s. The comparative figure for the 294-kW (394-hp) 3.8-L Carrera S is 4.1 s.
Fuel consumption of the 3.4 L with PDK is 8.2 L/100 km in the combined New European Driving Cycle, 1.6 L/100 km less than its predecessor. It is also the first Porsche sports car to achieve less than 200 g/km CO2 emissions. The Carrera S, now having 11 kW (15 hp) more power, with PDK achieves a combined 8.7 L/100 km and 205 g/km. Auto stop-start is fitted to the Carrera engines, together with thermal management.
Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), an active roll control stabilization system, is now available on the S, which also gets Porsche Torque Vectoring and a limited-slip differential. All 911s gets electromechanical power steering as an aid to reduced fuel consumption.
The interior is traditional 911, with a large centrally mounted rev counter, though it also includes elements of the exotic Carrera GT and of the Panamera. The center console rises toward the front of the car, and the gear or shift lever is positioned particularly close to the steering wheel. A 7-in touch screen is fitted. Seats are leather, sports-type.