Joe Punter and his wife Cheryl think all Porsches look the same.
How ridiculous. Even the partially sighted can tell the wing mirrors on the new 911 have been moved down 15cm or so. How obvious is that. And the whole car is longer and wider and a little lower as well. How could you not tell?
Porsche blindness, as opposed to being blind in a Porsche.
In fact, the new 911 has gone through the biggest dimensional change in the model’s nearly 50-year history. Who could not notice that?
OK, while each iteration of the 911 has brought better innards, the visual changes have been more subtle; a kind of gradual metamorphosis, unlike the toll time has taken on Joe and Cheryl.
For each model, the engineers have been given the same basic framework to work on, so they haven’t had to find solutions to new challenges, just improve what’s already there.
And improve it they have. The Porsche 911 has always been the benchmark for performance and handling and the first of this series, the Carrera and Carrera S, have significantly wider tracks, up to 20-inch rims, a longer wheelbase and lower roof line.
Porsche says 90 per cent of the components are new or have been revised and the changes have made an already outstanding vehicle even more exciting. It will now outmanoeuvre just about anything on the road.
I drove the Carrera, which is powered by a new aluminium 3.4 litre flat six engine that produces 257kW at 7400rpm with 390Nm of torque at 5600rpm.
And what a beautiful engine it is. It responds quickly to the throttle and pulls willingly without hesitation through the gears. With a 10cm longer wheelbase, the weight of the engine has been brought back more towards the centre of the car for better handling.
The body has been fabricated from aluminium and steel and is a significant part of a 45 kilogram weight reduction. The chassis has been stiffened to be as rigid as a bank manager’s smile.
Coupled with a variable rear spoiler and limited slip diff as standard, it sticks to the road with absolutely no body roll no matter how hard you fling it about.
The 911 I tested had the world’s first seven-speed manual gearbox, which will be an added security feature in a few years when the number of people able to drive a manual car drops dramatically.
I loved it. The automatic version (add an extra $5950) gets through the gears much faster but there’s no better way to get a good feeling for the car and get far more enjoyment out of driving than grabbing a gear knob and doing it yourself. Giddy-up.
Even so, seven gears sure is a lot of action.
The gearbox is part of the company’s response to stricter environmental regulations in Europe. It allows the car to lope along at the open-road speed limit at just under 2000rpm.
Other mechanical changes include an automatic start-stop function for the first time, electrical system recuperation and electro-mechanical power steering. Porsche claims it has reduced CO2 emissions and improved the fuel economy by up to 16 per cent.
With careful driving, you can get 13l/100km in the city and 9l/100km on the combined cycle but realistically, it’s just too much fun to drive to think about fuel efficiency.
You can shift to sports mode and add in sports suspension – a $3790 option – with the touch of two buttons to ramp up the performance. There’s also an optional button to open the exhaust baffles for a bit of aural entertainment.
And while the purists may shudder at the mere mention of electro-mechanical steering, in reality it’s sharp with excellent weight and feedback. No complaints from me.
Inside the cockpit, it’s a cosy fit – this is a sports car after all and even though the 911 is bigger, the two rear seats are still only good for the bits of your sports kit that don’t fit in the tiny boot.
What’s new includes electric park brake, hill-hold brake, five round faces in the instrument cluster with one being a colour screen – and a whole host of optional expensive add-ons.
Photos: Rob Homer
Standard equipment includes a Bose sound system, touch screen console, Bluetooth and a cup holder that ensures the comfort and entertainment controls get a good soaking at the first bump.
The lack of a proper parking assistance system as standard is just mean-spirited.
Nevertheless, it was voted 2012 World Performance Car of the Year, beating the Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 and the McLaren MP4-12C.
That’s enough basking in the sunshine you Porsche engineers, now go build a better one.
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