The centrepiece of this car remains its 3.8-litre naturally aspirated flat six. Turn the key and it fires into a guttural, surprisingly baritone idle. As the revs climb above 2500rpm its noise deepens and hardens, before rising to a ferocious howl as the redline approaches. It isn’t devoid of torque, as even at lower revs and in higher gears it will pull with vigour, but it’s definitely an engine that needs to sing in order to get the best out of it.
Fortunately, the rapid-shifting PDK gearbox means it’s not trouble at all keeping the engine scorching along. Pull the tactile aluminium shifter paddle and the next gear is engaged in but a moment, accompanied by a bark from the intake system as the engine shifts through its rev range. Peak power is produced at 7400rpm, before the engine nudges into its limiter at 7800rpm, and it never takes long to get there. It feels like it would happily spin far beyond that, too, but it does have to endure for the duration of the three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, so a little mechanical sympathy need be applied.
Porsche’s dual-clutch transmission feels a little obtrusive here, however. Left to its own devices, in gentle driving, it performs well. It does have a coasting mode – it disengages the clutches and idles the engine – to improve efficiency, which leads to some infrequently annoying pauses and a lack of engine braking at points, but it’s otherwise responsive and swift. Roll on the throttle, however, and the transmission can often be too keen to drop one, two or three gears, leaving you with several thousand revs on the tachometer, countless decibels from the tail and little in the way of acceleration. Sometimes you’d rather just have it hold one gear, so you can better utilise the engine’s ample torque reserves.
This poses somewhat of a conundrum. The Porsche is best enjoyed in Sport Plus mode, where the engine and chassis are at their most responsive, but not to an overbearing extent. However, in this mode the gearbox clings onto the lower ratios with aplomb and, similarly, will drop several gears in an instant. Eventually, you just relent and put it in manual mode. It’s at this point you start wondering whether you should have just bought a manual instead, because the gearbox only appears to cope well with two extremes – flat-out and cruising – and little in between.
The saving grace, outside of sheer ease of use in traffic, is its launch control mode, because it’s so easy to use. Switch into Sport Plus mode, stand on the brake pedal, then pin the throttle pedal to the floor and hold it. The engine will stabilise at about 6500rpm, at which point you’re free to release the brake. It’s a sure-fire way to get near the Porsche’s claimed 0-62mph time of just 4.0sec, over and over again. It’s also one tempting reason, thanks to that repeatability and automation, that you might want to opt for the PDK. The four-wheel drive system also helps boost traction without corrupting the steering and, on the motorways, a modicum of power is shuffled to the front axle to improve stability.
All in, this is a more exciting, engaging proposition than a Carrera 4S, albeit one that's predictably less comfortable and noisier. Otherwise, the 991’s fine credentials remain relatively unchanged. The neatly trimmed interior still offers that glorious view over the peaked wings and plunging bonnet, and the optional sports seats offer plenty of support. It’s great that the 911 still gets an analogue speedometer and tachometer as well, as these offer up so much more information – current indication, rate of change and remaining scale – than numerical digital readouts.