What is it?
This is the new Porsche 911 Carrera S, tested here with the world’s first manual seven-speed gearbox. The manual is based on the PDK alternative, but has slightly altered ratios in third and seventh to benefit fuel consumption and maintain pulling power in top gear even at relatively low speeds.
Helping you to select the right gear from a crowded gate, a sequential shift lock makes it impossible to select seventh from anything other than fifth or sixth.
Beyond that, this 991 is very much the same as the PDK equivalent – faster than the outgoing car and with a greater top speed, but so much altered that there are several key questions that need answering. Chief among those is whether its new dimensions (56mm longer, 6mm lower, 100mm greater wheelbase, 50mm wider track) and electro-mechanical steering (adopted to save fuel) have messed up the winning formula of previous 911s.
What’s it like?
It’s a grown up version of what’s gone before – and perhaps not quite as fun if you’re an absolute hardcore enthusiast, but otherwise improved in almost every area, and in some of those by quite a significant margin.
Inside, it’s mostly business as normal. The cabin is classy, comfortable and understated. The extra cabin space is welcome, and makes putting a child in the back a more serious possibility than before.
The 3.8-litre engine puts out 394bhp at 7400rpm, up 14bhp, and 324lb ft of torque, up 13lb ft. Coupled to the car loosing 40kg despite its greater size and added equipment, the new flat six delivers a lively performance across a wide rev band.
On the move, refinement has taken a major step forward. Tyre roar and wind noise off the door mirrors are no longer an issue, and engine noise is damped out unless you open up the sports exhaust system or really wind up the revs.
The tall seventh gear makes cruising relaxing, too, a feeling aided by the relatively supple suspension, which absorbs road joints and potholes well, even in the Sports Plus setting. The added wheelbase and wider track undoubtedly help in making the car more stable, too.
The steering lives up to its billing of being “more precise than every other electro-mechanical system on the market” and then some. It imbues the car with a grown-up sense of poise and accuracy, while robbing it of a fraction of that movement and liveliness that was part and parcel of driving a 911 in the past. It takes the 911 in a new direction – but certainly not a bad one. The vast majority of drivers won't even give it a second thought after a while.
The seven-speed manual is more of a technical than practical success. Perhaps the clue is in the fact that Porsche has seen fit to display the gear you are in at the centre of the instrument console; with seven gears to choose from you can both find yourself struggling to be confident with shifts and losing track of what gear you are in. Whisper it, but on a fast twisting road the slick shifting PDK is actually more fun, as its easier to snatch a gear on the corner exit or change down at the last moment, as well as delivering better fuel economy and emissions whatever the conditions.