By: Mike Ginsca
In 2011 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Porsche unveiled the 7th generation 911 that replaced the old 997 generation. While the layout of having the engine over the back wheels hasn’t changed since 1963, this new 991 generation has undergone a complete redesign from the aesthetics to the mechanics underneath the body.
Performance – To an ordinary person, the new 911 looks no different from the old one. It still has the teardrop shape, still rear-wheel-drive, and still powered by a flat-6 engine. But it is underneath the body where most of the changes occurred with this new 991 generation. The engine in this “S” model is a 3.8L that is capable of producing a tidy 400hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Around city streets the car doesn’t feel intimidating at all; in fact it is very capable of idling in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic all day without any mechanical issues. Creeping along at 10km/h it feels like any other German sports car, that is until you push down hard on the accelerator pedal. Past 2000rpms, the power feels relentless as it goes all the way to the 8000rpm redline. The 1,380kg body easily gets pushed to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds and on to a top speed of just over 300km/h. However, there is a way of getting faster to 100km/h with Porsche’s PDK dual clutch 7-speed gearbox rather than the 7-speed manual. The sprint to 100km/h gets done in just 4.2 seconds with the PDK and saving nearly half a second on each shift can add up quickly on a race track. Regardless of the driving conditions, the PDK gearbox shifts gears smoothly and so quickly that it takes longer to blink. The only thing that really irritated me while driving this PDK were the push and pull style buttons on the steering wheel for shifting. Paddle shifters are the way to go for all automated transmissions.
The powertrain was not the only upgrade that Porsche’s engineers worked on, the chassis, steering, and suspension also received upgrades… with some controversy. In the old 997 generation, the steering was hydraulically assisted. In this new version, the steering is electromechanical. The reason for the switch is to increase fuel economy but it has an adverse effect on the feel of the steering wheel. Porsche purists say that the new car doesn’t provide as much feedback to the driver as to what the front wheels are doing. While that may be true, the average Porsche owner will probably not notice the difference between the two cars unless they drove them back-to-back and at race car speeds. The new steering system is still quick to respond to driver inputs and like I said, it is very hard to tell the difference between the 991 and 997 generations because it still feels amazing to hold on to the steering wheel through corners.
To keep everything in check, the new 911 is packed with electronics to help the car and the driver become faster around a race track. Sport and Sport Plus modes improve the throttle response as well as change shifting times for the PDK gearbox. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) increases the stiffness of the suspension to limit body roll through corners along with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC). Torque vectoring system helps turning the car by applying the brakes to the inside wheels thus improving turn-in into a corner. And finally hydraulic engine mounts help reduce the inertia of the engine as the car turns from corner to corner.
Comfort – Another big change to the 911 is the redesigned interior. While the exterior has received a few minor changes to the lights and wheel arches, the interior is completely different than the outgoing model. The design has taken inspiration from the Panamera and in my opinion it is one of the best designed interiors of any sports car. The switches, buttons, and gauges have a high quality feel and are positioned where you’d expect them to be. Furthermore the most used buttons are next to the driver’s hand on the center console such as the buttons for PASM, Sport & Sport Plus, and Traction control.
The ride quality is not quite as comfortable as one would expect from a luxury sports car. For daily driving it is tolerable so long as you avoid potholes and large cracks in the asphalt. When PASM is set to its stiffest setting, it feels almost as though you’re driving in a race prepped car. Every little road imperfection can be felt though the steering wheel and through your back. The cabin however is well insulated and it keeps out most noises, that is until the sports exhaust button is pressed and you hear the mechanical noise of the flat-6 engine behind you.
Odds and Ends – With the increasing prices of fuel, Porsche has taken the bold step to try and improve the fuel efficiency of their flagship model. As mentioned earlier, the pursuit of a better fuel rating is the reason why Porsche decided to switch from hydraulic assisted steering to electromechanical. The new model also features a start/stop program that shuts off the engine at stop lights to further reduce the consumption of fuel. Also during continuous cruising speeds on highways, the engine is allowed to idle which further saves on fuel consumption. All of these little changes add up to a fuel rating of 10.6L/100km in a city and 7.3L/100km on a highway. With figures like these it obviously won’t compete against a Prius but for a sports car, they’re actually very good… and of course this is much more exciting than a Prius.
Overall the new 991 is a better and more refined version of the 911 compared to its predecessor and in many ways it is the perfect everyday supercar.
Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the car.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.