Story by Benjamin Greene
Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/NewsCenter/NewsCenterDetails.aspx?mmysid=4175
The flat six of the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S holds a monstrous wail that invades the cabin as we watch the rpm needle stretch into the upper echelons of the center pod—it feels as though the gear will never end. We are putting down all of the engine’s new, round 400-hp figure as the digital display surpasses 130 mph. There is no drama—no more than at 70 mph—and cabin noise seems limited to the deeper-than-we-remember-for-a-911 exhaust note just behind our right shoulder. Our attention is on the road, but it is somewhere soon after 135 mph when we become suddenly aware of the resulting prison time if caught doing nearly double the posted speed limit on the long stretch of open highway. We snap off the throttle, but the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S doesn’t slow down in a dramatic fashion. Its rpms don’t drop. In fact, they hold near the boiling point as it waits for our next input; it is ready to conquer the next stretch of highway.
A turn off presents a sweeping corner, and we allow the car to enter at a conservative momentum. We push deep into the throttle early—a trademark ability with the rear engine—to exit the corner with tremendous speed. We feel the car get a little loose underfoot, but it holds its line. Forced to slow down to the congesting traffic just ahead, we mundanely slide into a place in line, providing a chance for our heart rate to lower.
It is exhilarating. It is beautiful. It is the new 991.
Some will balk that the 991 is not different enough. Those are the people that have yet to drive the new car. The redesign of the Porsche 911 for 2012 is the most significant since the 993 was replaced with the 996. Although its iconic silhouette has been retained, its wheelbase has been stretched nearly four inches and overall length has grown by one. The result is more interior room without making the new 911 coupe that much bigger than its predecessor (In fact, its shorter overhangs should help it to perform better.). The increase in interior space does not make the 911 backseat friendly—although it doesn’t hurt—but it does significantly increase legroom for the front two chairs. Have you ever sat in a sports car and not had to bend your knees? I didn’t in the 991 with my six-foot-two-inch frame. In fact, in its farthest recessed position, I couldn’t comfortably reach the pedals. Headroom is also plentiful, leaving room above that can’t be found in many other sportscars. My passenger, Tom Heinz of Reeves Import Motor Cars of Tampa, Florida, tells me that the cabin’s roof is 1.5 inches higher inside despite the exterior roof sitting 1.5 inches lower than the 997. It’s another example of that Porsche magic that will leave you asking: “How did they do that?” Our car was also equipped with the sunroof, which opens out, and once positioned above the roof, it works with the car’s rear spoiler to aid in aerodynamics.
The 991’s windshield features a stronger rake, so much was redesigned from there moving forward. It also features a more-ergonomic Carrera GT-esque center console, although much less steep. The interior is a similar quality as the 997, which brought about larger changes to the merely adequate quality of the 996. It's not on par with the Land Rover we recently tested, but we would be pressed to truly complain.
There are also big changes underneath. New electric steering, working with an automatic start-stop function and electrical system recuperation, increases efficiency without sacrificing feedback. Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), which first appeared on the 2011 Cayenne, helps reduce roll when cornering and keep the tires planted to the road. And, extensive use of aluminum keeps weight to below that of the outgoing car.
The 3.8-liter engine’s reworked internals in the S model help it produce 15 more hp for a total of 400. As would be expected, its times are a hair above the base car, requiring only 4.1 seconds with the normal PDK transmission. Our 911 Carrera S was equipped with the optional Sport Chrono Package, which boasts a 3.9-second zero-to-60-mph time. It is activated by a Sport Plus button on the center console, which lowers the car, stiffens the suspension, heightens the exhaust note, and quickens the shift times, noticeably, among other changes.
At one point in our drive we stopped mentally listing everything we liked and started an easier to remember short list of what we didn't; its abilities to do so much right made us search for things it could be doing wrong. After leaving the 911 keys behind, we begin to compare the 911 to other cars we have driven, which wasn't beneficial to those cars. Despite producing similar outputs and feeling just as powerful, the 911's engine feels much smoother than a Corvette’s. The 911’s acceleration is also less brutal, and its ride more civil, yet just as competent. And, once we got back to the office and jumped behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon in our care, we were suddenly aware of how drab AMG's steering can be. The 991 became a mental predator to the other vehicles of seemingly similar significance.
As Bill Eichmann, certified sales manager, at Reeves Porsche in Tampa, Florida, sums up the changes: “The benchmark by which all sports cars are measured has improved in all areas; it is longer, roomier, quicker, and more fuel efficient.”
400 hp @ 7,400 rpm
325 lb-ft @ 5,600 rpm
3.9 seconds (PDK Sport Plus)
Front: 245/35ZR-20, Rear: 295/30ZR-20
Big changes, same iconic silhouette
Brings out the worst in other cars