From £67,202
Engine and drivetrain improvements make the entry-level 911 even better

Our Verdict

Porsche 911
The 991 generation of Porsche 911 was launched in 2012

The Porsche 911 is a sublime all-purpose sports car

What is it?

You do wonder sometimes whether Porsche isn’t a touch too understated for its own good, particularly when it comes to the mid-life revamping of its various models. Take the latest ‘heavily revised’ 997 as an example.

Here is a car which, to the untrained eye, looks all but identical to the original 997 of 2004, yet under the skin it has a brand new range of direct injection flat six engines, not to mention the gearbox Porsche has been threatening to put into one of its road cars for the last 25 years – a road going version of the double clutch (PDK) unit pioneered by Weissach’s Le Mans cars in 1982.

On the surface the only items that telegraph just how different this car is compared with its predecessor are, wait for it, a pair of slightly bigger door mirrors (wow), some LED lights front and rear and, oh yes, a mildly new design of 18- and 19in wheel.

Deeply committed 997 anoraks might also spot that there is no longer a big central radiator to be seen behind the front grille, the new engines being so much more efficient at self-cooling that they no longer require the centrally mounted front radiator of old. But while such styling restraint is actually quite refreshing in an era of increasingly garish fast cars from Audi, Mercedes et al, in this instance you can’t help thinking that Porsche’s designers have undersold the achievements of their colleagues in engineering. Surely a car this new and this significant technically deserves a few more visual cues to prove its point?

No matter, the 2008 model year 997 may well be one of the most unobvious redesigns of the modern era outwardly, but inwardly it’s a seriously impressive piece of work. The big news on the engine front is the fitment of a Bosch direct injection system, which, claims Porsche, improves emissions and economy as much as it does pure horsepower.

The base 3.6 now produces just 225g/km, a 15 per cent reduction compared with the previous model, but at the same time it boasts an extra 20bhp, making 345bhp at 6500rpm in total. The 3.8 unit from the 'S' model jumps 30bhp to 385bhp, and in both cases the cylinder blocks are an incredible 22 per cent stiffer thanks to the fact that there are, says Porsche, around 40 per cent fewer moving parts.

Arguably of even more significance is the car’s optional new seven-speed PDK (Porsche Double Clutch) gearbox, which, at £2338, could well be the best value option Porsche has ever offered on a 911. Porsche pioneered the idea of the double clutch gearbox with its Le Mans cars a quarter of a century ago, but it hasn’t produced one for the road until now because it wanted to ‘entirely perfect’ the system before its release.

It works in a similar way to Audi’s DSG gearbox, with the odd ratios (1, 3, 5 & 7) being separated from the even gears (2, 4, 6) on separate shafts, each set of gears having its own individual wet clutch. This effectively enables the system to pre-select and deliver full bore up or down shifts at less than 200 miliseconds, and without a break in the power.

What’s it like?

If the new PDK gearbox sounds complicated on paper, in reality it works beautifully, except for one thing; the buttons themselves aren’t especially intuitive to use. Unlike rival systems that feature an upshift paddle on the right and a downshift wand on the left, Porsche has chosen to fit upshift buttons which you nudge with your thumbs on top of the wheel on both sides, with the downshift buttons again on both sides at the back. To begin with you may find yourself flicking the left hand downshift button to change up, and all sorts of other odd combos.

Once acclimatized to the way in which the system is accessed, however, the gearbox itself really is something special. Upshifts are almost seamless, even when changing from second to third at 7400rpm. And on the way down it’s arguably better still, blipping the revs perfectly to match the lower ratio, and doing so faster and more precisely than any human ever could.

I tried the entry model with the 3.6-litre flat six engine, yours for £63,070 before items like PCCB at £5439 and PASM at £1030 have been added, as they had been to the test car. The new engine is notably smoother and more refined than It was which is, in the main, a very good thing. It suffers from less vibration across the whole rev range, the throttle response is keener than ever, and the relative lack of noise on the motorway is clearly a step forwards.

What’s perhaps not so welcome is the lack of aural character of the new engine, Porsche having done such a good job at improving refinement that it is now hard to tell how many cylinders there are and what sort of formation they lie in. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but, either way, the flat six soundtrack has definitely been toned down a decibel too far. Mind you, it’s nothing a factory fit sports exhaust couldn’t sort.

Should I buy one?

At £63,070 before options the latest entry level 911 isn’t cheap; the test car I tried cost over £74,000 on the road thanks to the fitment of PCCB, PDK etc. And the more powerful Carrera S will set you back £70,360 before you so much as set eyes upon the options list.

It’s also no secret that Porsche is struggling to shift metal in the current economic climate, sales in the UK being over 20 per cent down compared with this time last year. Which means this new, hugely improved model won’t arrive a moment too soon when it hits the showrooms on July 5.

Though it may look similar to the old car it’s almost a brand new model, and apart from the absence of aural thrills, it’s an absolute peach to drive, especially when fitted with the PDK gearbox. It won’t, but it deserves to solve Porsche’s sales problem all on its own; it really is that good on the road.

 

Join the debate

Comments
42

13 June 2008

[quote Autocar]

It’s also no secret that Porsche is struggling to shift metal in the current economic climate, sales in the UK being over 20 per cent down compared with this time last year. Which means this new, hugely improved model won’t arrive a moment too soon when it hits the showrooms on July 5.[/quote]

Okay, two things here:

First, total sales are indeed down by around 20 per cent, but sales of the 911 are down by a buttock-clenching third. In America, where almost half of all Porsches are sold, they shifted just 832 of them last month. It won't get better.

Second, many pundits are suggesting that demand for cars like the 911 actually peaked a little while back, and that with the price of oil and environmental awareness riding high, Porsche are on a slippery slope from hereon in. It won't help them that in trademark iterative style this "hugely improved" model is indistinguishable from the last one; I disagree entirely that it "won’t arrive a moment too soon". On the contrary, it won't make a blind bit of difference.

I do question how long can they go on upgrading rather than rebuilding their flagship product, because I can't be the only one who's bored to tears at the mere sight of one now. I know motoring hacks rate them and city geezers wouldn't park anything else outside their favourite wine bar, but most people don't even give a second glance.

13 June 2008

I believe the new front end looks too much like 996 turbo....liked the old 997 front end better It would have been better by just integrating the led in the existing bumper design. The rear looks nice though!

13 June 2008

It's not just Porsche who are suffering. Ask any high end dealer and they will talk about being "amply stocked". So Porsche may be suffering now but will bounce back.

The 911 is an iconic sports car with 45 years of history behind it. If you're a sports car enthusiast you already know that Porsche evolve the car slowly, the only exception being the switch from air-cooled to water cooled.

If you want a more radical change then the 911 may not be the sports car for you - a Bangleized BMW or Lamborghini or the latest Skyline might be a better, flashier fit.

Porsche is doing a good job of being relevant in the real world by reducing emissions - where are we now 225? Most other sports cars seem to be well north of 300. In silver, battleship grey, or black the 911 is the safe choice for a practical day-to-day sports car.

The changes just announced make it even more so, and with PDK there's no reason not to drive it every day, whether that be on the M25, or the 405.

13 June 2008

[quote Le Chef]

If you want a more radical change then the 911 may not be the sports car for you - a Bangleized BMW or Lamborghini or the latest Skyline might be a better, flashier fit.

[/quote]

Or a nice Cayenne?

Porsche nuts always bang on about 'purity' and the awful compromise of rivals, but the truth is that the company's history has been tainted by a heavy reliance on selling SUVs to stock jocks and footballers' wives. Their ugly Touareg-alike accounts for what, half of total sales now? Car and Driver claimed Porsche were responsible for just 20% of the overall Cayenne package; the only 'pure' thing on show is badge fashion.

UA

13 June 2008

[quote ThwartedEfforts]Car and Driver claimed Porsche were responsible for just 20% of the overall Cayenne package; the only 'pure' thing on show is badge fashion.[/quote] You've obviously never driven a Cayenne, or probably any Porsche for that matter. I have a pre-facelift Cayenne Turbo and a 993 Turbo, as well as a 986 Boxster 2.5 (well, it's my mum's actually, but never mind). I believe that there is no other car company in the world that understands itself better than Porsche. I don't mean as a maker of sports-cars, but I mean how a Porsche should 'feel'. It doesn't matter what Porsche you get into and drive, nor the age, that core interaction between car and driver, the feedback, control weights, basic handling characteristics - they will be the same. I am constantly amazed that every Porsche I drive only reinforces this feeling - the constant evolution of each and every model (remember, even the 'failure' 928 was in production for 16 years) means that they truly understand their product. And as for the Taureg and Cayenne only being 20% different - having driven both, it appears that Porsche made every .01% of that difference count, as apart from architecture, they feel as different as an X5 and an ML.

13 June 2008

Porsche's problem is they ( and this refers to the 911) produce far too many and charge far too much for them.

Price:

I think per car produced they have the largest profit margin of any manufacturer. They need to rethink thier pricing. When you spec up a Carerra S to decent level it comes in around 80k- that's too much for a 'standard' 911.

Volume:

There are just too many produced. There used to be a time a 911 was a good investment, decent running costs and a good residuals at the end. The residuals now just doesn't apply. With the R8 and V8 in the marketplace the running costs for alternatives isn't that different now, but they'll both be worth more than a Carerra S come 3 years down the line.

Competition:

Over the last couple of years the competition has grown considerable with the likes of AM V8, Audi R8, M series, AMG's, Jag XK, Maserati's, GTRs. I am sure you'll see that the 911 market share has shrunk in the last decade.

Don't get me wrong, I love 911s- heck I own one!, but while being the best drivers car ( in my humble opinion), Also think it would be the most economical as well as the cars above are all gas guzzlers. Personally, I wouldn't change the look of a 911 at all (but the interior needs a serious rethink). however, I do think the overall package however has diminished.

No doubt the current economic situation is having an effect along with eco concerns, but I think if you are looking for a 2+2 everyday supercar you'll struggle to beat a 911- but I ask how many 911 owners use thier car this way?.

I'm sure most 911 owners will use it as a 2nd/3rd car.

13 June 2008

PDK may be a staggering technical achievement, but there is not greater satisfaction than a perfectly executed downshift in a manual. Having a computer do it for you is no fun! I suppose PDK helps to cut emissions, which can only be a good thing.

13 June 2008

'...This effectively enables the system to pre-select and deliver full bore up or downshits...'

Sorry to be juvenile, but this spelling mistake made my day. Frankly I really don't want any full bore 'upshits' thank you.

The gearbox and other changes sound terrific. The external design changes, or lack of, bore us all silly. And worse, if you line up the main Porsche cars on sale in profile, it's hard to distinguish any of them, from the A pillar forward. And I used to love the 928/944 designs when alongside the 911.

I don;t mind them not changing the 911 radically - sometimes best not to tamper with an icon - but I wish their other cars were more visually dynamic.


13 June 2008

They better acquire VW in a hurry or VW will own them, which would make sense because it is a VW after all.

You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows
—Robert Allen Zimmerman

13 June 2008

[quote ThwartedEfforts]but most people don't even give a second glance.
[/quote]

oh I don't know, two girls (one in a Beamer) the other in a Fiat 500 followed me home after work this week and that was in an early 997

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