The Porsche 911 has always been my favourite car. I dreamed about buying one when I was a kid and have been fortunate enough to have owned three of them. It was launched in 1963 and more than half a century later it remains one of the most desirable sports cars in the world.
Porsche, of course, are now a mass producer of cars and have various other models like the Cayenne, Panamera, Macan, Boxster and Cayman but the 911 remains the brand icon which is why they take such pride and care in making sure it never loses its distinctive and much-loved shape with every new generation they build.
In the not so recent past the rear-engined 911 was a nightmare to drive with all that weight in the back causing dreadful handling problems. That was more or less sorted out from the 993 version onwards and the last model, the 991, was about as perfect as you could get, although there were a few whinges about the electronic steering taking away some of the car’s ‘raw’ appeal.
Having driven that car I really couldn’t imagine how Porsche were going to make it any better when they got around to producing a new 911, but they have done exactly that with the refreshed seventh generation of the car, which most importantly also sees the end of the naturally aspirated engines and the start of a new era of twin turbo flat-sixes.
It doesn’t look strikingly different from its predecessor but the design has been refined; it is sharper and slightly more sophisticated. The biggest difference is at the back which has a new air intake screen with vertical instead of horizontal vents, three-dimensional rear lights with a thin band of LEDs running between the two of them, which acts as a third brake light and gives the back a wider appearance.
The front of the car has a more pronounced arrow shaped nose and all the rounded edges of the last model have been sharpened giving it a cleaner appearance. From the side, the car has new door handles and LED indicators. All this combines rather well to create a stunning appearance.
The interior is signature Porsche but there are one or two upgrades including a much improved infotainment system and seven-inch touchscreen with such things as Apple Carplay and a new steering wheel, based on the one used in the 918 hybrid supercar, which has a circular dial on it for selecting the drive modes; Normal, Sport, Sport plus and Individual.
It also has a central Sport Response button which gives you increased power for 20 seconds which is useful for overtaking. On the last model the mode selectors were on the centre console.
Porsche are no strangers to turbo-charged engines in both their track and road cars so I expected this new three-litre twin-turbo flat six to be a bit special and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s both more powerful and more efficient.
The engine in the entry level 911 Carrera has 372bhp with 450nm of torque but the Carrera S, which is the car I want to concentrate on, has 420bhp and 500nm of torque. Porsche say this new engine is amost 12 per cent more efficient with fuel consumption reduced by up to a litre per 100 kilometres.
The car I drove around Yas Marina Formula One circuit in Abu Dhabi had the latest PDK gearbox, which is now legendary, and a sports chrono package which means it sprints from 0-100kmh is 3.9 seconds, which makes it the first 911 in the Carrera stable to undercut the four seconds mark, and the sonorous noise it makes in the process is fabulous.
The handling of the car is truly impressive and for the first time the new Porsche Active Suspension Management system, which lowers the ride-height by 10mm and improves stability and agility, comes as standard on all models. There are also new wheels, with wider rims at the back.
The Yas Marina Circuit is a good examination of a car’s agility, especially the complex that goes under the hotel but just to add a tougher test of its handling Porsche provided a coned slalom course to push this new 911 to the limit. Our Carrera S had the optional rear-axle steering which enhances its turn-in. I have never been entirely convinced that rear-axle steering makes that much difference but how wrong can you be?
I took the Carrera S through the slalom course at a reasonable speed and it was hugely impressive. I didn’t realise just how impressive until I took the entry-level Carrera which does not have rear-axle steering through the same course at the same speed and, quite simply, it wasn’t in the same league.
The new 911 comes with all the latest automotive technology and driver assists you normally find in a modern prestige sports car. But it was that rear-axle steering and the seismic difference it makes to the car’s agility that really took me by surprise and I would recommend taking that option. What I consider to be the best sports car in the world just got a whole lot better.