The Porsche 992 Carrera S is the ultimate sporting all-rounder
The Porsche 911 just seems to get better and better as the years roll by
What have we got here? Another new Porsche 911 that looks exactly the same as the old Porsche 911?
I knew you'd say that (insert eye-roll emoji). Though they share a similar silhouette, the new 992 does differ from the 991 it's replacing. The changes may be subtle but if you spend a little time pacing around this eighth incarnation of Stuttgart's iconic sports car you'll notice that the designers have penned what I would say is possibly the best looking 911 since the 993 that bowed out in 1998.
The front (now 45mm wider than before) is particularly attractive. It has styling cues reminiscent of past air-cooled masters such as the 911 SC that pounded the pavement back in the 1980s - particularly around the headlights as well as in the shape and creases of the front bonnet. Further referencing of this era can be seen etched across those flat-lipped wheel arches, not to mention that dramatic new light bar that connects the tail lamps.
At night it illuminates a shade of bright neon red that adds to the retro-futurism vibes. Add in more swollen rear haunches (Porsche claims that they're now 44mm wider in width too) and fairly enormous wheels - 20-inch front and 21-inch rear - and you get a sports car that wears an enviable street presence.
Yeah, I don't buy your styling rationale for one minute but I will admit that the new 992 is one beautiful hunk of metal. What's the inside like then?
My one criticism with the 991 is that it still had far too many buttons and switches scattered around its cabin - especially on the centre console running between the front seats. The interior designers have finally tidied this all up with most of the car's controls now being pulled into the excellent Porsche Communication Management touchscreen infotainment system. Driven through a crisp 10.9-inch display this setup allows you to access everything from drive settings, climate control and satellite navigation.
FAST FACTS: Porsche 992 Carrera S
• ENGINE: 2,981cc twin-turbo flat-six
• POWER: 331kW at 6,500rpm
• TORQUE: 530Nm from 2,300 to 5,000rpm
• TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed PDK
• 0-100KM/H: 3.7 seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 308km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 8.9l/100km (claimed)
•PRICE: From R1,708,000
Crucially, Porsche still left a few physical buttons for controlling everyday cabin essentials such as fan speed, temperature and music volume. You can also override the traction control system and stiffen the car's adaptive dampers. All of this allows for quick on-the-fly adjustments without the need to pry your eyes from the road unfolding ahead.
Interior comfort is excellent for such a sporting vehicle and it's easy to find your ideal driving position no matter what your bodily proportions may be. What impressed me most, however, was the design of the all-new dashboard that pays homage (again) to the air-cooled cars of decades gone by - particularly in the instrument cluster that's an unashamed modern remake of the one used inside its classic forebears.
Dislikes? Well if I'm being picky I do miss the old dual cupholders that folded out from above the cubbyhole.
Okay, enough with the semantics already - is it quick?
It is seriously fast. Thanks to new turbocharged boxster engines mated to seamless eight-speed PDK transmissions the 992 offers ruthless acceleration. Even the "entry-level" Carrera S has the potential of reaching 100km/h from standstill in a scant 3.5 seconds when equipped with the optional Sport Chrono Package. The all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S can take this down to 3.4 seconds, which is only 0.5-seconds slower than the Lamborghini Huracán Performante I drove a few weeks ago - a car R4,298,000 more expensive.
Both variants top out just north of 300km/h and, trust me, both get up there with minimal coaxing. The new motors remain turbocharged but they still rev freely and sound fantastic with that characteristic flat-six growl interspersed with a healthy dose of wastegate chatter when you come off the throttle mid-boost. Specify the sports exhaust (R50,120) and you also gain some artillery-like pops and bangs on the overrun.
Talk to me about the actual driving experience - is it still a sharp tool?
So the first thing I noticed about the 992 is a notable increase in front-end traction. Due to the rearward weight bias of the 911 (the engine is at the back, don't forget) this Porsche has always had this slight tendency to understeer when being driven hard. The last GT3 model partly resolved this issue with lots of clever suspension geometry tweaks. Here in the 992, however, Porsche seems to have addressed this hereditary handling quirk with a wider front track (the distance between the two front wheels) and, man, does it feel better for it.
Around the high-speed twists and turns of a mostly moist Franschhoek Pass my 992 4S felt deliciously neutral - even when I entered tighter corners with a little too much forward momentum. Further aided by that wider rear track this 911 feels properly stuck to the asphalt at all times. It is a sports car that massages your confidence and your ego, and encourages you to really hoof it when road conditions allow. Steering feel and feedback is excellent for an electronic system and consequently you always know exactly how much grip you have at hand.
This Porsche might be the consummate back-road shredder but it also rides with a fluidity that belies the car's intended purpose. Though firm the suspension never feels hard or jarring. Even at high speed across lumpy tarmac or over unexpected undulations the chassis soaks up jolts with aplomb. Where I was grimacing in the Lamborghini Huracán Performante - slowing down in fear of momentarily losing contact with the ground - I kept on pushing in the 992. It's an incredible feat considering just how big those wheels are. As such the new 911 is the ultimate sporting all-rounder: a car fit for all surfaces and conditions.
Interesting. So it sounds like a classic case of "the king is dead, long live the king"?
Yes. Absolutely. And I'm not just saying this because I'm a Porsche fanboy: in my relatively short test drive I was blown away by how good this sports car is over such a broad spread of motoring disciplines. Caught in the treacle of morning traffic it feels no more compromised than your mum's Volkswagen Golf and yet show it a mountain pass and the 992 rewards in a way more expensive rival offerings can only dream of emulating.
With this eighth-generation 911 there's more technology, more grip and, for the purists out there, more aesthetic acknowledgement to its ancestry. The entry point is more expensive now - there's no "Plain Jane" Carrera offering at this time - but for the money the two S derivatives still represent unmatched performance bang for your buck.
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