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First drive: Porsche’s reborn 911 arrives

Flying the coupe: All-new 911 is larger and more powerful, yet lighter and more efficient.

Bigger and better in every area, Porsche’s Mk7 911 coupe finally lands Down Under

21 Feb 2012

FORTY-NINE years after the original 901-series shocked the world when it was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show, the third all-new Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe – the 991-series – is finally on sale in Australia.

Priced from $229,900, the most basic 2+2-seater six-cylinder rear-engined coupe costs $6100 more than its 997-series predecessor, yet shares only about five per cent of parts – even though the styling looks almost identical at first glance.

Helping to justify the price hike, the Zuffenhausen-built newcomer is bigger, roomier and stronger but up to 80kg lighter than before.

It is also over 15 per cent more economical and significantly cleaner in emissions, yet demonstrably more powerful and measurably easier to drive at low speeds while providing greater supercar capabilities at the upper extremes.

Viewed in profile, the windscreen is now more convex, the silhouette more streamlined and coupe-like and the wheels larger, while the (now standard bi-Xenon) headlights, redesigned bumpers and narrower tail-lights also help differentiate new from old.

Right now only two rear-wheel-drive 991 Coupe models are available here: the entry-level 3.4-litre (down from the 997’s 3.6-litre) Carrera – which comes with the world’s first seven-speed manual transmission or, for a further $5950, a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic – and the 3.8-litre Carrera S in manual (from $263,100) and PDK ($269,050) guises.

25 center imageFrom April, the 991-series 911 Cabriolet will arrive in the same specifications for $25,200 extra, while the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 iterations are expected in Australia late this year or early in 2013.

Among the usual host of 911 variants will be a 991-series Turbo flagship expected to be powered by a cracking new tri-turbo 3.8-litre engine, as well as replacements for the rear-drive GT3 track special and the wild turbocharged rear-drive GT2.

Until then, the old-shape 997 Carrera 4 and Turbo Coupe and Cabriolet models will carry on.

Not surprisingly, evolution continues to be the name of the 911 game, with the trademark ‘cannon barrel’ front wings, curved coupe glasshouse and sloping roofline defining the famous Porsche design.

Yet just the direct-injection engines and PDK transmission carry over, albeit in much modified, efficiency-enhanced form for this application. Both meet Euro 5 emissions targets.

The all-new body is 56mm longer at 4491mm and slightly lower at 1303mm, yet the 2450mm wheelbase has been stretched by a considerable 100mm in order to improve cabin space (if not aerodynamics, which stay at 0.29Cd). Front track width is 1532mm (S: 1538mm) while the rear is 1518mm (S: 1516mm).

However, while the front wheels are 30mm further forward and the rears 70mm further back, meaning that the front and rear overhangs are 32mm and 12mm shorter respectively, legroom increases by just 25mm up front and 6mm for back-seat passengers.

Headroom remains the same except if the $3890 sunroof is ordered, as this now-larger item slides up and over the roof rather than inside the vehicle, to raise headroom by 15mm compared to before.

Speaking of cabins, there is a Panamera sedan look and feel to the overall interior architecture, even though five overlapping instrument dials are once again part of the dashboard recipe. Among the changes are a completely redesigned console area, a lower seating position, an electronic park brake and dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning.

The outgoing 911 was one of the stiffest cars on sale yet its successor improves on the outgoing model’s torsional rigidity by 25 per cent, thanks to a body that is 44 per cent aluminium (front and rear bootlids, roof, rear wings), while the rest is either ultra-high-strength steel or magnesium (two per cent). New joining and adhesive bonding techniques have also helped increase body stiffness.

Weight losses have been dramatic. Taking the old volume-selling 997 Carrera S PDK as an example, its 991 equivalent tips the scales at 1415kg – a 40kg saving – even though there is 58.4kg of extra (mostly crash-related) mass on board.

Porsche engineers have been able to skim the excesses from the body-in-white (minus 80kg), engine (minus 10kg), suspension components (minus 5.5kg) and electrical hardware (minus 2kg).

Additionally, the 991’s centre of gravity is down by 5mm and drag is down by four per cent, while rear aero lift has been cut by 28 per cent – a result of increased rear downforce on the vehicle.

The lighter kerb weight combined with Porsche’s engine idle-stop function (saving 0.6 litres per 100km), an electrical system recuperation system, thermal management technology (another 0.35L/100km saving) and coasting function that can cut up to 1.0L/100km in certain ‘off throttle’ scenarios, results in a more economical 911 – as well as a faster one.

The 3.4-litre direct-injection quad-cam 24-valve variable valve timing and lift (VarioCam Plus)-equipped water-cooled flat-six engine found in the base Carrera Coupe delivers 3kW more power than its 3.6-litre predecessor, at 257kW at 7400rpm and an equivalent amount of torque (390Nm at 5600rpm).

With a kerb weight of between 1380kg and 1400kg (PDK), top speed is 289km/h (PDK: 287km/h), the claimed 0-100km/h sprint time is 4.8 seconds (PDK: 4.6 or 4.4 seconds with Sport Plus), while the Carrera Coupe returns 8.2L/100km and emits 194 grams per kilometre of CO2.

That makes the base 911 some 16 per cent more efficient than the equivalent 997 3.6 PDK, as well as the first Porsche sportscar to slip below the 200g/km emissions mark. Choosing the standard seven-speed manual transmission ups those tallies to 9.0L/100km and 212g/km respectively.

The Carrera S Coupe’s 3.8-litre flat six, meanwhile, ups the ante to 294kW (gaining 11kW) and 440Nm (plus 20Nm) at the same engine speeds as the 3.4, for a 304km/h V-max (PDK: 302km/h) and a 4.5-second 0-100km/h dash (PDK: 4.3/4.1 seconds with Sport Plus), while the bigger-engined vehicle consumes more premium unleaded petrol (9.5L/100km PDK: 8.7) and coughs out more CO2 (224g/km PDK: 205).

To help provide a raspy engine soundtrack, Porsche has developed ‘The Sound Symposer’, which channels a variety of mechanical noises into the cabin at the will of the driver.

The front axle, meanwhile, retains the same basic MacPherson strut formula but is all-new, as is the electro-mechanical power steering system that does away with the old 911’s hydraulic set-up, for a claimed 0.1L/100km economy improvement.

At the back is another variation of the previous edition’s multi-link rear suspension system, with the wheels independently guided on five control arms.

The company’s Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) electronic dampers and Porsche Torque Vectoring system (PTV – consisting of a mechanical rear differential lock that helps vary torque between the rear wheels) are standard on the S.

On the braking front, there is a dual-circuit system aided by PSM Porsche Stability Management, with the base car boasting four-piston aluminium monobloc brake callipers and 330mm perforated and vented discs – uprated to 340mm items up front for the Carrera S.

The standard tyre size is 19 inches on the base car (235/40 ZR19 up front and 285/35 ZR19 out back), an inch down on the Carrera S’s respective 245/35 ZR20 and 295/30 ZR 20 items.

Porsche says that dry braking performance is up three per cent, while dry handling performance rises two per cent and wet handling performance also improves by two per cent.

Among a host of new options is the $7690 Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control that features an active anti-roll bar system to counteract body movement, a Sports Exhaust system for $5890, a Sport Chrono package for $4790 and front/rear parking sensors for $890.

Porsche expects the Carrera S to maintain the two-to-one sales lead over the base model.

“Australians tend to go for the best that is available,” says Porsche Cars Australia managing director Michael Winkler.

Porsche 911 pricing(plus on-roads):
Carrera Coupe$229,900
Carrera Coupe (a)$235,850
Carrera S Coupe$263,100
Carrera S Coupe (a)$269,050
Carrera Cabriolet$255,100
Carrera Cabriolet (a)$261,050
Carrera S Cabriolet$288,300
Carrera S Cabriolet (a)$294,250

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