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Feature

07 May 2019

Photos by Richard Pearce

Figure of 8 – the all new 992

We get behind the wheel of the new, improved and determinedly different 911

This is the eighth time in Club history that someone has been tasked with dissecting an all-new 911: at once a privilege and a huge responsibility. For even as Porsche’s range grows, with new niche lines and electrification carving out a diverse and digitised future, the 911 remains the defining, pivotal product, the beating heart of Stuttgart.
 
On approach, the 992 is instantly distinguishable from the car it replaces in almost every respect. Most obvious are the muscular arches that contain a newly standardised wider track, adding some 45mm up front, even on the Carrera 2. Somehow the 992 accommodates the change with ease, testament to the skill of Michael Mauer’s design team.
 

 
Inside, Porsche has evolved the 992 in step with the rest of the range, adding the 10.9-inch touchscreen and removing all the physical switches that surrounded the gearstick. This has changed radically too, the large single piece of milled aluminium binned in favour of a much smaller lever. The resulting operation is more delicate, the overall look more logical and modern.
 
The new cabin feels typically Porsche, special without trying too hard. Angles have replaced the more organic curves of yesterday for an aesthetic that the Truffle Brown saves from borderline Brutalist. The seating position is still the best in the game, while a thinner seat squab provides more headroom without compromising on comfort.
 
Important to the new 911’s interior execution is a reimagined instrument binnacle, still featuring the sacred cow of an analogue central tachometer, now flanked by two frameless screens providing four auxiliary instruments in faux-physical fashion.
 

 
The central tacho is a thing of beauty, part of a marked improvement over the overlaid dial design that arrived with the 996. The unexpected ‘but’ is that the new instrumentation’s width means the steering wheel obscures the outermost ‘dials’, including the fuel gauge and temperature. This requires further investigation; there may well be a way to reconfigure the layout to avoid the problem, time allowing on another day.
 
Fire up the 992 and you are greeted by a warning bark that heralds the familiar boxer burble, aided by the optional but essential sports exhaust, £1844 well spent amid Porsche’s potentially ruinous ‘individual equipment’ list.
 

 
Hunkered down below the shoulder line, the typical 911 sensations flood back: short, light nose turning eagerly to your initial inputs, reassuring rumble behind the rear bulkhead. That extra width up front is something you’re unaware of and the 992 slips into traffic with the lack of fuss that has made every modern 911 uniquely accessible among its sporting contemporaries.
 
But there is drama to be had should you go looking, as you surely will. The 444bhp available in S spec isn’t worlds away from the 493bhp that Porsche championed in its last gen GT3, a formidable amount of power in a day-to-day road car, coupled with 530Nm of torque from as little as 2300rpm. And it’s all accessed with preternatural ease, thanks to the seamlessness and immediacy of Porsche’s newly optimised PDK and adaptive all-wheel drive.
 

 
Official performance figures tick off 62mph in 3.4 seconds (with optional Sport Chrono) en route to a 190mph V-max. But 0-99mph in 8.3 seconds paints a more useful picture, as does 50-75mph in 2.2. This series 911 is ballistically and effortlessly quick – all the performance you could ever need and a fair bit more besides.
 
During our road-only outing, limited to the confines of the perennially congested south-east, the full extent of the 992’s increased performance and handling went untapped. Our few opportunities for adequate shoe revealed a staggering turn of speed, tempered by grip levels you’d be certifiable to challenge on public highways. Prospective buyers can be sure the 992 lacks nothing in terms of useable grip and go.
 

 
Where divisions may be drawn in future pertain to the new car’s size and feel in the hands. The 992 is 4.52m long by 1.85m wide with mirrors retracted. It’s substantial in every direction, and as a sports car with a reputation for lithesome handling and useability, this doesn’t always feel like progress.
 
But it’s the preparedness for future mobility, partial autonomy, hybrid and all-electrical drive systems, is what determines the new 911. Larger, heavier, more intelligent, more complex, it has grown in stature, refinement, complexity and price, satisfying the demands of a changing clientele. Once the non-conformist’s choice, it is now more than ever the default sports car, increasing sales year on year, offering ever more comfort, tractability and ease of use. The 992 highlights Porsche’s capacity to evolve, moving inexorably away from a purer perception of a sports car to create one that can be more things to more people.


 
All this comes with a minor caveat. A Carrera 2 with a manual transmission may yet provide a sportier sweet spot. Dialling out some of the performance by reducing outright power and traction, and by upping driver involvement via the physical shifter, purer steering feel and the Carrera 2’s 50kg weight reduction, might again make the simplest of the options the one with the greatest rewards.
 
For now, that the 992 in any guise is a wonderful thing is beyond doubt. It’s also a different thing. Porsche has moved its own goal posts, or had them moved by market forces. Either way, the 911 has taken another sizeable stride on the evolutionary journey it began in earnest with the 964.
 

 
The once pocket-sized sports car is now as much a viable GT, straddling the divide with aplomb. Left in full auto and backed off on the mode selector, you could happily tour your preferred continent in fatigue-free luxury. But find the right road, select Sport Plus, get on the paddles and there is animalistic performance and compelling involvement still to be had.
 
No new car can be fairly assessed with its forebears as a constant frame of reference, something that dogs the 911 more than most. The 992 has its own role to play, preparing for alternative drivetrains in its lifetime while performing the demanding duties of the fast-paced present. The 911 once again sets the standard by which everything else will be measured. It’s a different sort of brilliance.

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