Seeing double

“You can live in your car but you can’t drive your house”. That expression came to mind after a morning of kicking tyres. It’s not everyday you get an invite to test the latest offering from Stuggart which is blatantly outside your budget; to the degree even I thought it was a mistake.  However when the return email came back confirming my drive time the anticipation started to grow.

The car was the newly released Porsche 991.2. Now the .2 is the important part. Why? Because the base Carrera now comes with, shock horror, a twin turbo 3 litre engine! Gone is the old naturally aspirated 3.8 donk and in moves the a sign of the times being a lower displacement turbo charged engine.

The most recent 911 I’d driven was the 997 Carrera S. The leaps and bounds which that car had made over the 996 was impressive. As a proper Porschaholic I’m a fan of the round head lights over the fried eggs and welcomed the return of the upright and straight edged dash board. So how was I going to find the latest 991, now with electric steering? Well, the car lined up for me was the opposite spec to what I’d be ordering in my hypothetical garage- it was the base spec four wheel drive Carrera 4 with a PDK paddle shift gearbox. Hmmm I thought with a raised eye brow. But really who am I to doubt the legend that is Stuggart and the 911? It was nothing short of a spectacular car. The first impression is just how beautiful the finish is now. The accountants seem to have less of a hold on the purse strings with lovely accents of aluminum and leather rather than horrible plastic bathing the interior. The instrument cluster has a screen crispness of an iPhone with a toggle on the steering wheel which displays everything from engine vitals, tyre pressures and through to the navigation. Turn the key and fire it up its a reasonably rasp, although quiet burble at idle. The 991 has an electric handbrake so pull the lever into ‘D’ and away you go. What struck me immediately, even within the first 100 metres, is how much stiffer these modern cars are and how much they’ve grown in size. The beauty of the early 911’s has always been the packaging and how they fit around you. The 991 really has swelled and has wide hips on it compared to the old. Still, again, it’s all progress. They have so many more safety features and creature comforts in them that they are all grown up. Our drive was on a tight schedule with time for a blast up the motorway and some around town stuff. Turning up the wick the PDK shift is so fast that you can see having two hands on the steering wheel would result in some seriously fast times around a circuit or up a 10 tenths twisty road. The auto blip on downshifts gives of plenty of pops and crackles to make up for understandably muffled exhaust note. But it really is just a joy to use. The novelty of shifting that quick makes you forget about having a stationary left clutch leg for the interim. What about that fundamental engine change though? What it lacks in noise it more than makes up for in torque. It pulls from surprising low down and feels really linear in its delivery despite being turbo. Any gear, any speed, it just pulls. Add to the driving characteristics the gizmos of Apple iPlay linking in your email, text, music and maps into the central display screen along with nice touches like blind spot detection and parking sensors you could easily drive this car everyday. Porsche know this is their market and so expect to see more of the same in the years to come.

Porsche 991.1

But what about for those that plan to have these as a special weekend car? Well conveniently there was also a 991.1 on the dealer lot with three pedals and a stick. The manual gearboxes on modern 911’s do feel pretty synthetic. There’s a slight disconnect compared to the old ones in which you could feel a weight and the meshing of brass gears together. I’m a sad individual who liked the old cars which were hard to get into second gear when the gearbox oils were cold. But without going on too much like an anorak they were also a bit of a pain to live with. My 993 in traffic was just a plain bastard. Your left leg became tired quickly with all the effort and it became a bit of a chore in grid lock or with continual hill starts. Move forward into the 996 and the dire straights Porsche was in financially meant the gearbox may as well have been out of a Corolla- a light clutch with an easy shift. So the 997 was a move back to feeling that old rifle bolt action of precision engineering with the benefit of a friendly bite point and weight. The 991’s centre console is raised like a Carrera GT so the gearknob is a higher wrist action rather than an on the floor reach. It’s also a 7-speed manual- the last gear purely to help with fuel economy and emissions testing. The gearing isn’t too tall that you can’t have fun swapping cogs at legal speeds though and is a happy mix of engaging the driver in the experience along with day-to-day driveability. The .1 does sound better than the .2- no doubt. The higher redline of the NA car is far more intoxicating however the mid range torque of the .2 turbo engine helps make up for this. Will some people hold onto their 997’s and 991.1’s because of this? I suspect so. But for those that won’t upgrade there will also be more that will buy the .2 because of the progress made and because it’s the latest 911. Automakers need to meet the times and hit these ever tightening emission standards- turbocharging seems the only viable option to keep the horsepower arms race going. Just like the 911 had to go watercooled so it could be sold to meet American standards- it’s also had to go turbo charged in the base Carrera to do it again. So the $240,000 question is then- would I buy a 991.2? No, the best value seems to be a manual 997 Carrera S. And with the left overs why not have the best of both worlds and buy a 993 or 964 too?

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