Porsche’s redesigned 911 raises the bar
An icon is a recognizable, famous symbol, but the dictionary says it is also an image of a holy person. I smiled when I read that because when it comes to worshipping at the altar of performance, few icons are as easily recognized or worshipped more faithfully than the Porsche 911.
For engineers and stylists, designing a new 911 is a delicate process, like balancing on a knife’s edge. The goal is to innovate and move the concept forward while keeping its essence, or DNA, alive and well. The task is like reinventing Coca Cola or the Big Mac.
The 2012 is the seventh generation of the 911 that was introduced almost 50 years ago. e new car, technically known as the 991, is light years ahead of that first car. Compared to last year’s model, the 2012 is longer, lower, has a wider front track and a new rear axle compared to last year’s model.
In spite of the changes, you can see and feel the first car in this one. The shape that has evolved through seven redesigns is still instantly recognizable. The raspy, high-strung wail from the flat-six engine is deeper and more mature, but it’s still that of a 911. Porsches have a distinct feel and this car maintains that. It is direct, but refined. Some writers have criticized the new car for being too refined, not as edgy as before, but I embrace the change.
The 2012 comes in Carrera and Carrera S models. The Carrera’s base price is $82,100 and the Carrera S starts at $96,400. Porsche lets buyers tailor their cars with many options, but that also bumps the price considerably. The test car had $23,000 worth of options.
I drove a Carrera S for a little more than a day, and I was captivated by its ability to be as docile as an economy car one minute and viciously fast the next. Porsche’s introductory video says the 911 will run out of driver before the driver runs out of car, and that certainly was . The performance of this car is so prodigious that you need a racetrack, or maybe the autobahn in the wee hours of the morning, to explore its capabilities.
Technological development has long been a Porsche trademark, and the continues that tradition. The 3.4-liter engine in the Carrera is smaller than last year, yet its 350 horsepower is greater than last year’s 3.6-liter engine, and it gets better fuel economy. The auto start/stop function shuts off the engine at stoplights and a “sailing” function enables the engine to idle when the car is cruising a long stretch of downhill expressway.
Transmission choices include a seven-speed manual and a seven-speed PDK, or dual-clutch automatic. The PDK is essentially a seven-speed manual gearbox with two automatic clutches and it changes gears in milliseconds. In normal mode, the transmission shifts like an automatic, but the driver shift manually with steering wheel paddles.
The Carrera S has a 3.8-liter engine with 400 horsepower, yet it’s rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway.
The Carrera can sprint to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds and has a top track speed of 179 mph. The Carrera S squirts to 60 in 3.9 seconds and its top track speed is 187.
At normal speeds, the Carrera S purrs like a kitten and is plenty happy to chug along as low as 1,400 rpm in seventh gear. Click the Sport or Sport Plus button on the console, stab the throttle and it summons the demon from within. Acceleration is explosive. Because the test car was brand new I did not take the engine to maximum revs, but it was still exceedingly fast.
For Porsche, cornering and braking are as important as acceleration. It is hard to explore the car’s road holding capability on public roads, but suffice it to say that the car grabs the pavement as if the tires were bear claws. The Dynamic Chassis Control and Torque Vectoring rear axle are major contributors to the car’s stability in cornering.
For 2012, the 911’s wheelbase has grown by nearly four inches, although the car’s overall length is just 2.2 inches. A new rear axle design the engine to be moved forward for better weight distribution. And speaking of weight, this car is about 100 pounds lighter than before due to the use of aluminum for the doors, hood, roof and engine lid.
The longer wheelbase gives a roomier cabin. The center console is now similar to that of the Panamera.
The cabin is surprisingly quiet, helped in part by having the outside mirrors mounted on the doors instead of the windshield pillars.
Porsche brakes are extremely powerful and those on the 911 erase speed immediately.
Safety items include anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control. Front, side and side-curtain airbags are standard, too.
The base price of the test car was $96,400. Options included metallic paint, black leather seats, Bose audio system, sport suspension, PDK, 20-inch Carrera wheels, park assist, sunroof, multi-function steering wheel and the premium plus package. The sticker price was $120,585.
Warranty: Four years or 50,000 miles.
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2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Engine: 3.8-liter, 400-hp 6-cyl.
Transmission: Seven-speed PDK
Wheelbase: 96.46 inches
Curb weight: 3,120 pounds
Base price: $96,400
As driven: $120,585
Mpg rating: 20 city, 27 hwy.