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25 Mar 2020

Photos by Barry Hayden

Simple pleasures with the 992 Carrera

Can less be more for the entry-level 911 Carrera? Matt Master heads to the hills to find out

You might argue that a cold and wet winters day is not the ideal time to explore the vagaries of the new 911 Carrera. Equally you might suggest that a few hundred miles in the worst sort of driving conditions our little island has to offer is the shortest possible route to some definitive answers. Let’s go with the latter.
This is the base 992, which means no S suffix and no all-wheel drive. Less power – some 65bhp less, in fact – and the standard eight-speed PDK transmission sending everything aft. Also gone is the usual glut of performance trimmings, meaning no PASM, and therefore a standard ride height, and no Sport Chrono package with its dynamic engine mounts, quicker shifts et al, all activated via Sport Plus on that now familiar mode switch. By and large, this is as basic as it gets. Or as basic as a new 911 can ever get these days.

Jumping into this handsomely finished car in Aventurine Green, trimmed inside with two-tone Black and Island Green leather, you’re immediately struck by the new 911’s existential conundrum. Is this a sports car or a grand tourer? So commodious and comfortable is it, so well-appointed and tech heavy, and that much bigger than the far from slimline 991.
The firmness of the ride suggests sports car, but the cabin is so refined and the drivetrain so seamless that a two-hour cruise to the foothills of the Black Mountains is effortless enough to reinstate the 992’s touring credentials. I fear the jury may be out indefinitely on exactly what the 911 now is.

But perhaps a refusal to be pigeonholed is a strength. The new Carrera, with its 3.0-litre flat-six, twin-turbocharged to produce 380bhp at 6500rpm, feels more than quick enough as we climb into the low clouds over Powys. A really heavy right foot betrays a small shortfall in outright, in-gear grunt, but perhaps by only the percentage that in the Carrera S is largely superfluous. The S is only half a second slower to 62mph than a last gen GT3, don’t forget, and the performance metrics it is dabbling in now were once exclusive to the rarefied territory of out and out supercars. I don’t think you need it. Or, crucially, will miss it in the base Carrera.
Besides which, the 4.2 second 0-62mph time on offer here is hardly inadequate. Nor is the theoretical 182mph top speed. There is more than enough performance to be making hay in the standard Carrera, and enough mid-corner composure on a fast mountain bend to make you question the necessity of all the electronic wizardry of PSM Sport and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control.

So here’s a thought: when a car is this good straight out of the box, is there not more pleasure to be had from exploring the boundaries, finding the limits, rather than leaning on evermore costly and complicated technology to push those limits that bit further away? Or to circumvent them altogether?
It’s an idea that is certainly gaining traction in some quarters, driving a small but concerted and informed movement towards simpler pleasures in our sports cars, if not our GT cars. Andreas Preuninger famously saved the manual, now a popular hashtag in its own right, and Porsche’s GTS and Touring derivatives are offering a more involved driving experience, the latter, of course, with no extra power.

The 911 Carrera, while still a highly complex and forward-facing car, is none the worse for being simplified where possible. I suspect the arrival of the seven-speed manual in early 2020 will only hammer this home.
Meanwhile, up a wet Welsh mountain there’s enough go in the standard Carrera to be thrilling, and enough stop in its slightly smaller brakes (down 20mm to 330mm in diameter front and back) to still be confidence inspiring. The pedal feel here is perfect, with short travel and a quick, progressive bite. No need whatsoever for the expense of carbon ceramics. And there’s still no better electric steering set-up on the market for immediacy and accuracy.

The staggered wheels are an inch smaller than those on the Carrera S, which probably serves to improve ride quality, but our press car had the larger 20/21-inch options, so there could be further ‘less is more’ to be enjoyed here. The first 992 we drove was a Carrera S fitted with rear axle steering, PASM and Sport Chrono. With all its trimmings it was a £109,000 car. How interesting it would be to try a truly base 992, without a single extra box ticked on the configurator. That would set you back less than £83,000, and I’m not sure the majority would miss all those big-ticket options.
Right now, going out on a limb, I’d say this is the best new 911 you can buy. For not dissimilar money, a 718 Cayman GT4 is arguably a better sports car, but with the 992 offering the touring potential it now does, this incredibly versatile car feels like the most complete Porsche to date.

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