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 Porscheâ€™s 911 is at the cutting edge of sports car design. The 991 â€“ Porscheâ€™s internal code for the new 911 â€“ rides on an all-new platform, only the third time thatâ€™s happened in nearly half a decade. Although the length hasnâ€™t grown by much, the wheelbase is 100mm longer and the car tracks wider too. Apart from the obvious advantages youâ€™d expect those increases to have on the carâ€™s stability and handling, they also have a major impact on the aesthetics. Itâ€™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 â€“ where others have over-simplified to the point of confusion, Porscheâ€™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 worldâ€™s first seven-speed manual instead, but surely that gear leverâ€™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 911â€™s spinal chord leaving it bereft of all feeling? The answer to that convoluted question is it goes like itâ€™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 youâ€™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. Itâ€™s that good. Like Porscheâ€™s event driver said, if the traction control keeps lighting up, the problemâ€™s probably with you.
FOR: Iconic looks now perfected, packs electric steering, torque vectoring all the latest electronic trickery but doesnâ€™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