Review and road test of the Porsche 911 Carrera
Porsche's updated seventh generation 911 is now smarter and more efficient, with the key changes found beneath the bonnet with the installation of a fresh range of turbocharged engines. It's still as intoxicating as ever though.
Ten Second Review of the Porsche 911 Carrera
Porsche's 911 is an automotive icon but the Stuttgart brand still needs to keep it current. Hence the installation in this updated MK7 model of an efficient 3.0-litre turbo engine to replace the previous naturally aspirated 3.4 and 3.8 litre units. Has the quest for greater efficiency robbed this car of its essential character?
The Porsche 911 may have been around since 1963 but the pace of evolution in this model range has been so slow, even Darwin would struggle to notice it at times. The very first platform used in this car lasted all the way up to 1997, a millennia in automotive terms. Platform two that underpinned the '996' and '997' series models (to use Porsche's own internal chassis codes) lasted a further fifteen years before it was replaced in 2012 by that of the current '991' model.
Porsche knows that while people still love the 911's combination of pace, handling and genuine everyday usability, competition is tougher than ever. With rivals like the Mercedes-AMG GT boasting nearly 500PS, not to mention tightening emissions regulations, time was ticking for this car's old naturally aspirated motors. Hence the need for this updated MK7 model's 3.0-litre turbo unit. As a result, today's 911 is more fuel efficient, less polluting and significantly faster. Add the latest tech too and Porsche hope to be back at the top of the class.
Despite being up to 800cc smaller than the engines it replaces, this 911's 3.0-litre turbo offers more power than 911 Carrera and Carrera S buyers have been used to before. In the former model, the new motor develops 370PS, while in the latter this increases to 420PS. In both cases this in an increase of 20PS over the old engine, with torque increased by 60Nm. Crucially, peak pulling power is now developed from just 1,700rpm, which should make it much easier to tap into the performance.
The 0-62mph sprint now takes 4.2 seconds for the Carrera and just 3.9 seconds for the S (using the PDK auto gearbox), with top speeds at 183 and 191mph. Those are figures a full fat 911 Turbo model would have been proud of in the not too distant past. Those worried about losing the 911's distinctive noise at high revs are promised a lofty (for a turbo motor) 7,500rpm redline and the 'typical sonorous Porsche flat-six engine sound'. Handling isn't likely to be too much different for the regular Carrera, although 'Porsche Active Suspension Management' is now standard. More of a change will come from the optional four wheel steering system which is available on the Carrera S for the first time.
Design and Build
There may be a revolution in the engine compartment of this improved 911 Carrera but the rest of the facelift is typically Porsche. In other words, you'd be hard pushed to notice many of the changes unless you had this and the old model next to each other. On the outside there are smarter headlamps with four point daylight running lights, sleeker door handles, revised bumpers with active air ducts and a change in the exhaust positioning. Plus there's vertical instead of horizontal louvres on the engine cover and sharper-looking rear lights too.
Underneath the restyled body panels, the hybrid aluminium and steel structure remains, as does the basic suspension set-up should you avoid the four wheel steering. There is however, an optional hydraulic lifting function that can raise the nose of the car by 40mm to prevent scraping. Inside is a revised 'Porsche Communication Management' infotainment system that supports smartphone style gesture controls and offers a simplified menu structure. There's also Apple CarPlay connectivity for the first time along with a wireless charging pad for supported devices. Also added to this improved model is a steering wheel inspired by the 918 Spyder hypercar - an optional 'GT sport wheel' that is 15mm smaller in diameter.
Market and Model
As ever, the basic 911 range includes two models offered in both coupe and convertible guises. Starting with the regular Carrera, you get the 370PS engine, leather sports seats, 7" touchscreen Porsche Communication Management including sat-nav, dual-zone automatic climate control, SPORT button, Bi-Xenon headlights. There's also Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Stability Management (PSM), tyre pressure monitoring and a Porsche Vehicle Tracking anti-theft system at pricing that starts at around £77,000 (or around £85,000 for the drop-top).
Starting at nearly £86,000, the Carrera S adds bigger wheels, a limited slip diff and of course the pokier 420PS version of the new flat-six. It's only the S that's available with the four wheel steer system that can increase agility at low speed and improve stability as velocity increases too. Both the Carrera and S undercut the 911's closest current rival the Mercedes-AMG GT. All models can be had with the PDK semi-auto gearbox (£2,500), front axle lift (nearly £1,600), a sports exhaust (another £1800 or so) and ceramic brakes (nearly £6,000!). As you'd hope, Porsche are serious about safety including airbags, traction control, stability control, ABS, multi-collision braking system and even a driver training course at the Porsche Experience Centre at the Silverstone racing circuit.
Cost of Ownership
Thanks to the more efficient turbocharged engines, running costs are now a little more affordable, despite the significant uplift in performance. Just as the best acceleration figures require Porsche's PDK auto gearbox, the headline economy and emissions figures need it too. The regular Carrera is capable of 38.2mpg on the combined cycle and 169g/km of CO2, while the S is barely any worse at 36.7mpg and 174g/km. This represents economy improvements of 3.8 and 4.2mpg respectively, over 10% better than the old engine. Even with petrol prices better than they were, that's a significant saving. If the money doesn't interest you, then at least you'll be visiting fewer petrol stations over your ownership period.
It should be noted that the difference should you wish to change your own gears is significant. For the Carrera S, economy drops to 32.5mpg while emissions rise to 199g/km. The warranty is a standard three year affair although does include three years of roadside assistance as well. Should you want further peace of mind, extended packages are available.
It's at this point that many motoring publications would bemoan yet another move away from the 911's core character. They'd say the move to turbocharging robs the engine of its unmistakable sound. At the same time, making it even more usable on a day to day basis somehow makes it less special. If though, we get back to reality and look at the 911 as a car instead of some sort of deity, the far-reaching changes made here are exactly what was needed to keep this model competitive.
The problem is that it isn't 1963 or even 2003 any more, so change is necessary. The 911 Carrera and Carrera S models are now less thirsty, less polluting yet even faster than ever before. In case you were wondering, these are all very good things. They're also the reason why this is likely to be the best normal 911 ever to come out of the Zuffenhausen factory.
Porsche 911 Carrera review by Car & Driving