The launch of a new Porsche 911 is a special occasion. Probably the worlds benchmark sports car, each 911 is an icon of its time and is proof that constant refinement and re-engineering is the key to success. Since the 911’s introduction in September 1963 as the replacement for the 356, this new 911 is only the 6th generation from Porsche and only the third clean sheet design in almost fifty years!
Codenamed Type 991 (for added confusion), the new car is bigger, more luxurious and more comfortable than the Type 997 it replaces. But as an example of how technology progresses, the 991 is also lighter, faster and uses less fuel. It has an all new 3800cc flat 6 that loves to rev, and produces its peak power of 294kw some 900rpm higher than the old motor. That’s 24kw more and at the same rpm as the 996 GT3 of just 10 years ago.
The thing that separates Porsche from the rest is that they make cars that are equally at home on the race track as they are on the commute to work. That was the beauty in the 356, and it’s the beauty in the new Type 991 today. It’s more comfortable and liveable than the old one, and it’s faster than Porsche’s own track-day specials of just a decade ago. I haven’t driven a 991 (or any 911 for that matter), so I won’t go too far into what the new car is like to drive (you can read that in any of the major publications), however I will point out a few of the observations I made while having a look at the new car.
At a quick glance it might not look a whole lot different to the 997, but spend a little more time studying it and you’ll soon see it’s radically different. The classic 911 sculpted front guards remain, but the headlights have been moved as far out as possible to make the car look wider. The headlights are also reclined at a more relaxed angle than the 997, and the projectors inside them look as if they’ve come straight from the Carrera GT supercar.
But the big change to the 991 is it’s profile – the windscreen is now at a much more heavily raked angle, as is the rear window and C pillar. It’s a lot smoother and sleeker, and it all works together to make the car look a lot lower and wider. The rear guards have also been flared to accentuate the size of the wheels and brakes which further adds to the illusion of being glued to the road. The line of the rear side window is also a lot sleeker than the 997, and continues the famous silhouette started with the Type 901 way back in 1963. It might just be this angle, but I can definitely see hints of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage in the rear taillights.
I think this vented roof is very elegant. You can’t have an opening sunroof with a roof this short, so having one that pops up still gives the benefits of letting fresh air into the cabin, keeping the air circulating whilst driving and helping to keep the car cool when parked. I wouldn’t mind betting that a glass roof option would probably be on Porsche’s factory options list.
I’m really not a fan of this badging on the rear – I think it looks far too busy and cluttered for a car that is otherwise so smooth and clean. I think removing the ‘911 Carrera S’ script and just leaving the famous Porsche wordmark would be enough. I don’t understand why Porsche feels the need to write ‘911’ on the back. To my memory they’ve done this with no other 911 before, and I feel that the overall silhouette, shape and look of a 911 is it’s own brand in itself. You don’t need a badge to tell people it’s a 911 – it’s so recognisable that Porsche have even copyrighted the 911’s profile and shape.
Inside, the 991 feels a lot more substantial and of higher quality than the 997 did. It really justifies Porsche’s $269,000 asking price and it feels a lot more inviting than a 911 ever has before. Looking at the dash of a 997, you could still almost see the influence of the humble VW Beetle – see below for what I mean, but the 356 was heavily influenced by the Beetle, the first 911 heavily influenced by the 356 and each 911 since then has been a development of the last. The new 991 borrows it’s interior design language from the Panamera instead – it now has a large dash which morphs into the console, sweeping through the cockpit and dividing each side with controls at easy arms length.
More so than just being a car company, Porsche Design is one of the largest contract engineering firms around (Porsche Engineering actually designed the V-Twin motor used in the Harley Davidson V-Rod – and that’s a nerd fact.) Minor details are everywhere, and you just need to take a look at something like these little handles which fold the seats forward to see what I’m talking about. They ooze industrial design, and it’s clear to see that a team of clever people have spent a long time developing these handles to be as useable and aesthetically pleasing as possible. It’s these little details that you pay for, little details that build the quality perception of the car and the little details that you wouldn’t find in a Lotus.
As well as Porsche’s increasingly popular PDK semi-automated transmission, the 991 is also offered with a 7 speed H-Pattern manual. Yep you read that right – 7 gears with a proper clutch pedal! I’d take a guess and say you’d have a dogleg first, and then the next 6 ratios spaced like a conventional 6-speed. You’d probably hardly ever use first apart from takeoff, and then you’d get the benefit if having another 6 closely spaced ratios to play with. Very keen to try this!
So there you have it – a quick look at the new 911. A lot of enthusiasts have been worried that the 911 is gradually loosing its soul to technology, and that the new 991 will have lost some of the magic. But I think Wheel’s magazine’s Ash Westerman put it perfectly, and I fully agree:
“This car lets you have a crack with more freedom; it tolerates any minor miscalculations with more latitude. There’s no doubt some motoring journos and frothing forum fanatics will argue that this is a demerit mark; that a ‘real’ 911 should always feel like it’s plotting to kill you at the moment you have an inappropriate lift. They’re wrong, but let them argue. Fact is – news flash – Porsche doesn’t build cars for motoring journos or forum freaks (if it did, the 911 range would run from GT3 RS 4.0 to GT2 RS Club Sport.) Nope, obviously Porsche builds cars for its customers, and customers will love the new 911. They’ll love the lavish equipment levels that can be optioned in, how premium the car feels, how competently it handles the commuter/tourer roles. I doubt any existing owners will drive this new model, declare the steering inferior and say no thanks to a trade-in. Any purists who feel that strongly will already have a 993 in the garage for the days they really want to get back to the 911’s roots, a bit like lifting the cover on a turntable for an afternoon of analogue”