It may be a 49-year-old idea to build a rear-wheel drive two-door sports coupe with a flat-six engine slung out back, but the latest generation of Porsche’s 911 is at the cutting edge of sports car design. The 991 – Porsche’s internal code for the new 911 – rides on an all-new platform, only the third time that’s happened in nearly half a decade. Although the length hasn’t grown by much, the wheelbase is 100mm longer and the car tracks wider too. Apart from the obvious advantages you’d expect those increases to have on the car’s stability and handling, they also have a major impact on the aesthetics. It’s all in the proportions, you see. Where the previous cars seemed burdened in side profile by an aspect of the dog-with-tail-between-its-legs syndrome, the Michael Mauer-penned 991 has more fluidity. A racier windscreen rake and lower roofline work wonders, helped by slimmer tail-lights, wide-set headlamps and daylight-running lamp units that all emphasise width. The result is a 911 that is sleeker, smoother and sexier than ever. However, changes beneath the skin are just as attractive.
Despite the increase in overall dimensions, the new Carrera S PDK is around 40kg lighter than its direct predecessor. The majority of that weight loss is down to increased use of aluminium; nearly 50% of the body-in-white is made from the stuff, including doors, lids, wings and roof. The adoption of a stop/start system and electro-mechanical steering help to reduce fuel consumption, but more on the latter later. Power from the 3.8-litre flat-six engine is up to 294kW at a tuneful 7400rpm. Improved engine refinement and better cabin insulation make the new car a quiet everyday cruiser, but that characteristic boxer wail has not been lost, so long as you bury the throttle and flick the sports exhaust button on the all-new Carrera GT-esque dashboard. The interior scores high on quality, style and button count – where others have over-simplified to the point of confusion, Porsche’s combination of touchscreen, button and dial is well-judged. On launch, the only transmission on offer was the brilliant seven-speed PDK semi-auto. You can order one with the world’s first seven-speed manual instead, but surely that gear lever’s top cap has run out of real estate? Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), two-mode variable damping (PASM) and 20-inch wheels are also standard fitment on the S.
So how does it go, how does it handle and has the new steering severed the 911’s spinal chord leaving it bereft of all feeling? The answer to that convoluted question is it goes like it’s been shot from a cannon, handles and grips like a lollipop rolling on a sheet of A4 paper and steers like an old 911 after an effective software upgrade i.e. glitch-free and perfectly weighted across the full speed range. In a word, brilliant.
Around the Yas Marina Formula One circuit the new 911 felt completely planted at the front with loads of grip and almost none of the lightness you’d expect of a rear-engined car. The chassis balance is impressive, allowing you to throw it into corners, knowing the front end will turn in and stick, then power on early and smoothly with a level of confidence usually reserved for front-drivers. It’s that good. Like Porsche’s event driver said, if the traction control keeps lighting up, the problem’s probably with you.
FOR: Iconic looks now perfected, packs electric steering, torque vectoring all the latest electronic trickery but doesn’t disconnect the driving experience
PICK OF THE RANGE: S for now, but Turbo and GT3 still to come
ALTERNATIVE CHOICES: Audi R8 V8, Maserati GranTurismo S, Jaguar XKR-S, Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
TOPCAR RATING: 9/10