Test drive: why the Porsche 992 is the best 911 ever built

Test drive: why the Porsche 992 is the best 911 ever built

What we’re driving: The new Porsche 911, also known as the Porsche 992 (yes, it's a bit confusing).

What it costs: from $265,000 for the Porsche 992 Carrera S, and $281,100 for the Carrera 4S variant.

Why we’re driving it: The Porsche 992 is the eighth-generation member of an iconic series stretching back to the 1960s, but swaps the 911 moniker for a strange new set of numbers.

That change seems odd when the car's distinctive swooping shape is still so very 911, but Porsche settled on the 992 reference as an internal code that signals dramatic changes to everything from the body basics to the engine-and-gearbox package, the cabin and even the infotainment system.

First to arrive for deliveries in the next few weeks are the rear-wheel drive 992 Carrera S and all-wheel drive Carrera 4S. Over the coming years they'll be followed by the fresh-air Cabriolet to the race-bred GT3 and eventually the GT2 RS which sits at the summit of 911-land.

Our test drive of the fresh 992 takes in streets, country byways and - eventually - the world-class racetrack called The Bend in the South Australian countryside.

On the outside

Many people will find it nearly impossible to pick the new 922 from any recent 911, but that’s a key appeal for the car: the shape and style is timeless in a way that most other car brands cannot understand and are unwilling to accept.

For a 911 fan, the cues are more subtle: some lines link to previous models, other swoops prove that Porsche is driving into 2019.

The body is wider than before – in fact, what was previously called the ‘wide body’ with big curved arches over the rear wheels is now standard.

Bug-eyed LED lamps make a statement at the front, ahead of 20-inch alloys, while the rear 21-inch alloys lead into a redesigned flip-up spoiler.

So the shape is evolution, not revolution, which is what 911 owners and followers want, and which still turns heads after more than 50 years.

Deep inside, the basic shell of the car is lighter and more rigid – despite an overall 20-kilogram weight gain that’s down to extra equipment – and it is ready for a hybrid upgrade with space set aside between the cabin and engine for a battery pack.

To illustrate the complexity of the 992 package, there will eventually be eight different roofs alone (including magnesium and carbon fibre) leaving buyers spoiled for choice.

Under the bonnet

Once again, the 992 is 'same but different'.

There's more power (a throbbing 331kW) and more torque through the eight-speed PDK gearbox with paddle shift, with a seven-speed manual - for the dwindling number of old-school fans - also on the way.

Plant your driving shoe-clad foot to the floor to do a 0-100km/h sprint in 3.7 seconds, and keep it there to reach a redline just shy of 310km/h.

There are more driver-assistance systems, but no sign of self-driving ability, with what Porsche describes as '80 individual computers' connected by over 2km of wiring. One of the clever high-tech touches is a ‘wet’ driving setting that's activated when the car detects spray inside the wheel housings.

Being wider at front and rear gives the Porsche 992 a better footprint for more grip in all conditions, including when you pump the giant brakes to invoke their race-style grip.

The all-wheel drive Carrera 4S has improved differential parts and better electronics to react to road conditions and driver demands.

Optional equipment includes four-wheel steering, which helps with parking as well as giving more high-speed stability.

On the inside

The now-inevitable digital dashboard is clear and concise, but Porsche has stayed true to the 911's roadster roots with a giant analogue tachometer in the middle of the driver’s display.

The seats are familiar but improved (and yield a smidge more headroom), the switches have been simplified in a less-crowded centre console, and the infotainment display is bigger with improved navigation software and the ability to link to a new Porsche Driving App through where drivers can hit the track and capture everything from performance information to lap times and even video.

On the road

Most cars feel more composed after a major revamp, and the new 922 is no exception. What is exceptional is the amount of grip that is available in every corner at every (legal) speed.

Porsche has provided much more front-end bite, which means the car tracks comfortably through most corners and copes easily if a turn starts to tighten – something which wasn't always the case with a 911.

The ride is also smoother, the new eight-speed gearbox is a touch more responsive, and the plus-sized brakes are plain brilliant.

But, and there has to be a 'but' even in a car as good as the 911, the car is over-firm at slow speeds and there can be too much road noise on harsh Australian surfaces. Things smooth out considerably above 80km/h, when tyre noise also fades noticeably.

Uncork the car on the right road and the magic of the 911 is there as always, but with less effort needed from the driver and a bigger safety net if things turn a bit tricky.

The Carrera S4, which has sometimes felt ponderous in slow corners, is  almost impossible to pick from the Carrera S - only an expert driver will pick the difference in feel and feedback due to a little more weight in the front end.

And when you open up the 992, as we did during a spell on the track, it's clearly a very, very swift thing.

Cranking confidently towards 250km/h on the main straight at The Bend, sitting stable through corners fast and slow, the 992's all-round abilities stretch way beyond a normal driver.

Summary

Treat it as a refined luxury car for the city and suburbs, or a super-quick coupe for that weekend drive: either way, you'll realise the 992 is in fact a 911 in every respect, so don't let those the new numbers throw you. It also happens to be the best 911 which Porsche ever built.

Paul Gover

Paul Gover

As Motoring Editor for Australian Business Traveller, Paul Gover spends less time at his Gold Coast home than he does on the road (literally) test-driving the best of the four-wheel world.
 

2 comments

  • Ricardo

    Ricardo

    28 Mar, 2019 07:48 pm

    Ummm ... I don't like to quibble in an otherwise excellent report on an excellent car but your comments "and the first to swap the 911 badge for a strange new set of numbers." and "so don't let those the new numbers throw you" are simply not right.

    All Porsche 911's have a model designation number and the last model was the 991. There has also been a 901 (the original) and a 997, 996, 993, and 964 (I think there is one more in there too)

    If you look at the badge on the rear of your test vehicle you will see, like the 7 generations before it, the 911 badge.

    cheers
    Members who gave thanks

    Boogs, Tayto

  • Howard

    BigH

    29 Mar, 2019 02:57 pm

    One can be pedantic but there is a place for that and it is not in this forum I think. Great write-up PG. Now to make room in the garage... ;-)
    No member give thanks

Guest

19 May, 2019 10:57 pm

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