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2019 Porsche 911 review: Iconoclast

The new Porsche 911 may look familiar, but it's a longer, wider car with a new engine and new interior. Will it appeal to traditional fans?

The 911 is a strange creature of evolution, locked into a timeless recipe and yet steadily improved over eight generations.

Auckland, New Zealand

A NEW Porsche 911 rolled into town on Tuesday, and the good news is, nearly everything about it has been revamped. It's longer, wider, has a redesigned interior and is powered by a new engine.

The better news is, nearly everything about it is the same.

The 911 is a strange creature of evolution, locked into a timeless recipe and yet steadily improved over eight generations.

But maybe wrapping new tech within a fuzzily familiar shape is the very reason for its success; every new 911 has outsold its predecessor, while collectible 911s have seen their values skyrocket in the classic car market.

"It seems that people, in an ever-changing world characterised by technological advancements and globalisation, seek a personal balance, giving increasing value to tradition, heritage and family time," says Arthur Wilmann, the managing director of Porsche Asia Pacific.

Of course, it helps that the 911 is God's gift to keen drivers. The new one is no different, as The Business Times discovered on a drive in New Zealand.

With 450 horsepower, the new 911 (or the Type 992, to use a Porsche owners' shibboleth) is something of a rocket. The engine has new turbochargers, and it responds with violence if you goad it. As a matter of fact, it goads you; just see if you can resist giving it the beans repeatedly, as much for the characterful chatter from the engine compartment as for the exhilarating acceleration.

Either way, the Porsche slingshots up the road at a pace to make the buttocks clench. Road curves left and right suddenly? Feel free to unclench, because the 911 only responds by coming alive, dancing from corner to corner like a creature fashioned by Nature to frolic gracefully across the Earth.

A quicker steering rack means the 992 feels more alert at the helm than its predecessor, but there's also an inveterate surefootedness about the car that puts the driver completely at ease. The suspension laughs at bumps and the brakes are nearly as effective as a brick wall.

Porsche put two versions on sale this week, a Carrera S and Carrera 4S, which comes with all-wheel drive. It's practically impossible to tell the difference between the two, especially since there is a fiendish amount of traction available from the tyres anyway. They cling to the road the way Charlton Heston gripped his favourite rifle.

If you're worried about slippery roads, there's always Wet Mode, a vaguely kinky-sounding new setting designed to make the car more stable in the rain.

But what's more surprising than the 992's ability to get from hither to thither at speed is the way it cossets occupants. If your spine lets you make it over the doorsill, the rest of the experience is easy on the body.

The cabin is built to a higher standard than before, and the seats offer day-long comfort. The ride is naturally firm and you have to turn up the sound system a bit once you're at triple-digit speeds, but things never feel hectic inside. It's very clear that Porsche intended this to be a car that anyone at any age can lounge in.

All the modcons are present, so fiddling with most of the settings and functions involves prodding a touchscreen, but there are callbacks to the past.

The shelf-like dashboard is vaguely reminiscent of what was inside classic air-cooled 911s, and the most important instrument to any serious driver (the rev counter) is an analogue dial (which it darn well ought to be) mounted smack in the centre of the other gauges (where it darn well ought to be).

Some things seem to have been changed for change's sake. The door handles are now sleek and flush but the old ones worked better, and you now have to push a button to set the twin-clutch gearbox to its manual mode.

Those minor irritations stem from what's new, but there are tried and true elements to compensate, not least of which is the 911's basic shape, with its vaguely smiley mien, low bonnet, upright windscreen and wide, froggy rear stance.

Yet, the 992's smooth design suggests what driving it confirms: this is the best 911 yet. That it's so recognisable is entirely strategic on Porsche's part. If you're going to drop small property money on a sports car, you may as well do it in familiarity and comfort.

Porsche 911 Carrera S

Engine 2,981cc, flat-6, twin-turbo
Power 450hp at 6500rpm
Torque 530Nm at 2300-5000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 308km/h
0-100km/h 3.5 seconds (with Sport Chrono Package)
Fuel Efficiency 9.5L/100km
Price S$546,588 without COE
Agent Stuttgart Auto
Available Now