Forced Evolution: Checking the Pulse of the Turbo Carrera
Put yourself in my shoes for a minute: You’re racing down Mount Teide—a 12,000-foot-tall volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands—in the latest 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S. Even though you’re up above 6,000 feet, all 414 horsepower are underfoot because of the all-new 3.0-liter, twin-turbo flat-six. At this point the road is straight, and you’re flying. Up ahead, two objects suddenly, simultaneously come into focus. The first is a giant bump on the right side of your lane. The second is an oncoming red koda Fabia that just whipped around the corner. At your current velocity, that bump could easily hurl you into the next lane/red koda.
Your gut instinct is to squash the brake pedal. Hard. Hey, this particular Carrera S is tricked out with every single performance option, including massive carbon-ceramic brakes that are stout enough to stop a gang of tweenaged girls from bum-rushing a 5 Seconds of Summer show. But you don’t bother. Instead, you keep the Porsche pointed straight because you know exactly how incredible the car’s damping is. After all, the adaptive dampers, springs, and anti-roll bars have all been recalibrated for 2017. Moreover, PASM, Porsche’s active chassis management system, is now standard on all Carreras. The only potential pitfall is the rear tires, which have grown to 305 section P Zeros. Guess what? The right side of the suspension simply eats the bump. One and done, as they say; the Carrera S stays planted and true. Porsche partially credits the standard rebound buffer springs for the new 911’s good behavior over bad pavement. Whatever the culprit, the new Carrera S features even better chassis control than the car that we handed back-to-back Best Driver’s Car honors. Now, about that engine
With each iteration of 911 comes a technological advancement that drives the so-called purists crazy. Every change feels like another side of a never-ending Starbucks holiday cup. Constant blasphemy is constant. First it was watercooling, then ABS, then traction control, then the Tiptronic transmission (they were right about that one), then PDK (dual-clutch), then electric-assisted power steering, and now mandatory turbocharging. Don’t like it? Buy a Corvette. Going forward, all 911s—save for extra sportive guys like the GT3, GT3RS, and the heavily rumored, all but confirmed R—will come with forced induction. Can’t fight progress, baby.
Why the change? Forced induction allows smaller displacement engines to create as much (though typically more) power and torque as larger ones while reducing fuel consumption (key for the U.S.) and emissions (key for Europe). That’s the official story. The gnostic chapter is that in China, vehicles with engines larger than 3.0 liters are taxed at 40 percent. Porsche would like to sell more cars in China. The original 991 (feels weird to type that) came with a 3.4-liter flat-six in base Carrera trim, but the more potent Carrera S packed a 3.8-liter boxer. The new 991 (991.2 in Porsche fetishist speak) uses a 3.0-liter mill for both cars; the Carrera makes 365 horsepower, whereas the S model gets different turbo internals, modified exhaust routing, and a software tweak to generate its 414 hp. As for torque, the base car stumps up 332 lb-ft of the stuff, and the top dog generates 369 lb-ft. Porsche claims all that twisting force is available from 1,700 to 5,000 rpm, but my butt-o-meter tells me the engine doesn’t start pulling hard until the revs are over 3,000 rpm. Don’t worry though. Both the engine and the two turbos spool up quick.
Has the twin-turbo powerplant ruined the 911? For the purists it’s a foregone conclusion: The new powerplant varies from the initial Butzi Porsche 901 design, therefore it’s rubbish. However, should you be of the sane persuasion, you’ll have the same opinion as me: The new engine rocks. Lag is present though minimal and easily overlooked, and acceleration is manic. There were more times than one when driving the Carrera S that I found myself thinking I was piloting a “regular” Porsche Turbo. The standard Carrera is no slouch, either. Porsche is claiming 0-62 mph in 4.2 seconds for the Carrera and 3.9 seconds for the Carrera S, 3.7 with Sport Chrono. All times are with PDK, of course. I’m gonna guess that once we strap our test instruments on and measure, the standard 911 will stomp to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and the big dog Carrera S will do the deed in less than 3.5. Either way, the cars are—and feel—seriously quick.
How does it sound? Yeah, well, if there’s one drawback to turbocharged engines, it’s a reduction of sonic quality. Only AMG seems to have this particular boogieman totally licked. I drove 2017 911s with both regular and sport exhaust, and good news, you can get the base Carrera with the sport exhaust. It’s a must-have option. Checking that box makes either car sound orders of magnitude better and I suspect might even provide a tiny power bump, as the pipes are physically shorter. Quick side note: The regular exhaust on the Carrera has two rectangular pipes mounted toward the edges of the rear bumper, whereas the Carrera S has quad round pipes, two per side. Both cars outfitted with the sport exhaust have fat, round twin pipes mounted more closely inboard, though not as close together as they are on the GT3/GT3RS. The other piece of the sound puzzle is that when you get into the meat of the powerband, you hear the buzzing of the turbos. In the Cabriolet the noise reminded me of a miniature Bugatti Veyronâlike a tiny steam plant, always fizzing and humming. Cool music, if you’re into that kind of thing. But before you go crying over spilled milk, I’d say two things. The first is that the added performance and mpg, plus reduced emissions, are worth the hit in sound quality. Two would be come on, man, the old car didn’t sound all that great to begin with. It certainly never growled like a small-block, for instance.
Much more impressive than the straight-ahead thrust—to me, at any rate—is the handling, specifically the handling of the Carrera S when equipped with optional rear-wheel steering. For some time now Porsche has sold both the 991 Turbo and GT3 with rear steering. I think the Turbo was too quick and the GT3 too insane for me to truly notice the benefit, but here on the Carrera S I’ll go ahead and label rear-wheel steering another must-have option. Not only does the rear steer enable the Carrera S to turn in more quickly, but you’re also physically moving the steering wheel less. Meaning that you can transition from left to right and left again much faster than in non-rear-steer cars. The rear-wheel steering makes the vehicle feel more nimble, lighter, and smaller than 911s with plain old two-wheel steering. To steal a line from Tom McCahill, it handles like a snake in a drain pipe.
I drove both PDK and manual transmission versions of the new 911. My preference is still with the seven-speed dual-clutch because it’s just so bloody good. PDK has been slightly retuned for 991.2 duties, and frankly, it’s better than ever. Even in Sport (as opposed to Sport Plus) the rapid-ride twin-clutch will go right on ahead and blast off two downshifts under moderate braking. I love it. Come to think of it, I didn’t even grab a paddle once. Didn’t need to, because PDK is so smart. As for the manual, the ratios are new, and it now sports a two-disc clutch, but it suffers from the same problem as Porsche’s seven-speed manual always has: There are five forward positionsâreverse, first, third, fifth, and seventhâand they are too crowded together. You will mistake third for fifth at some point, and vice-versa, sure as day becomes night. Not so great for highly enthusiastic driving. Compare this with Chevrolet’s superior solution in the Corvetteâfour forward positions because reverse is straight back from seventh. That said, the manual 991.2 is engaging to drive because the meat of the torque doesn’t show up (in reality) until you’re above 3,000 rpm. So the manual is tons of fun, though less precise, smart, and quick. Hey, the choice is yours/get the PDK.
Adding it all up, the result is one gobstopper of an amazing machine. It’s quicker and more capable than ever, and Porsche has made the improvements necessary to keep its most important car at the head of the class. Not just in terms of performance but also consumption, efficiency, and (thanks to Chinese tax laws) sales. After spending time in almost every conceivable iteration of the 991.2, my dream Carrera would have an S badge and a hardtop, PDK, sport exhaust, carbon brakes, rear-wheel steering, and the stunning new launch color, Miami Blue. Figure we’re talking $25,000 USD over base. Pricey? Sure, but the median yearly household income of an American 911 owner is $650K USD. You can of course spec yours any way you see fit. The big takeaway here is this: The Porsche 911 is a better sports car today than it has ever been. Especially if you’re willing and able to spend a little bit more.
|2017 Porsche 911 Carrera/Carrera S|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Rear-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door, coupe or convertible|
|ENGINE||3.0L/365-414-hp/332-368-lb-ft, twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6|
|TRANSMISSIONS||7-speed manual, 7-speed twin-clutch automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,150-3,400 lb (est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||176.1 x 71.2 x 51.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.7-4.6 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet rated|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||March 2016|