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TEST DRIVE: Porsche 911 Carrera S

David Haueter samples the new Porsche 911 Carrera S in latest ‘Test Drive’ series…

Photo: David Haueter

It must be getting harder and harder for Porsche engineers and designers to make significant improvements to the 911.

After all, this model was first sold in 1964 and has been continuously developed since then, evolving into the most iconic sports car we’ve known over the last 60 years.

Yet somehow, some way, Porsche has managed to make the new 911 Carrera S one of the best all-around 911s in their long history.

The newest “type 992” of the 911 is the eighth-generation model and sticks to some core features that make a 911 a 911.

Most notably, it still has its engine mounted aft of the rear axle and it still uses a flat six-cylinder motor, both characteristics that have been part of the 911 from the beginning.

In a time when manual transmissions are going the way of cassette tapes, 911 Carrera S buyers also have the option of a 7-speed manual.

Changes are subtle in the 992 generation’s design, but it’s pretty amazing that you can still take one quick glance at this car and know that it’s a 911 and is descended from that first generation model in 1964.

It’s grown a lot larger and more complex, but its still the same basic shape as the first one and has the same goals of driver involvement and satisfaction.

Photo: Ingrid Kretschmann

The Carrera S model has more street presence than the base 911 model. The rear-wheel drive model that I drove now shares the same body as the 4S all-wheel drive model, which is 44 mm wider at the rear and 45 mm wider at the front than the previous generation S model.

It also has a track that is 1.8-inch wider at the front and 1.5-inch wider at the rear along with staggered wheel/tire sizes, with 20’s at the front and 21’s out back. All these elements make the car larger, but they also improve handling stability. There’s also a larger rear spoiler on the back.

Most people won’t notice much difference in the external styling of the 992-generation 911 vs. the 991, but the most obvious way to tell them apart is at the rear.

The taillights now span the width of the car and the lenses on each end are much lower profile, and the third brake light is now two thin upright lights mounted in the middle of the rear engine vents rather than a longer and thinner light that was positioned above the vents in the 991.

Overall, the 992 generation looks aggressive and nicely proportioned, though I think the big wheels look a touch too big, at least with the wheels that were mounted on the car I drove (Carrera Classic wheels in Satin Platinum).

The base 911 has 19’s at the front and 20’s at the rear, which I think look a bit better.

Photo: David Haueter

Inside, the new 911 Carrera S is quite different from the previous generation. There are more straight lines in the interior design, with a little shelf that runs the length of the dash.

It immediately reminded me of the older 993 and 964 generation models from a couple decades ago, and I like it. Most gauges are now digital, but Porsche stuck with an analog tach. Kudos to them for that!

A dial to select drive modes is mounted below the right stalk on the steering wheel, which looks a little odd but is functional. There’s also a larger infotainment screen that’s nicely integrated into the dash.

Notable changes to the engine include new turbochargers with larger turbine and compressor wheels (which increase compression from 10.1:1 to 10.5:1), new Piezo injectors and a larger intercooler that replaces a set of twin intercoolers in the previous car (resulting in lower intake temperatures).

There are also new dynamic engine mounts that give a stiffer connection between the engine and the chassis that enhances handling.

Photo: Ingrid Kretschmann

When it comes to performance, the bottom-line numbers are that the new 992-generation 911 Carrera S makes 443 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, which is up from 420 hp and 22 the previous model.

The 0-60 dash happens in 3.5 seconds, or in 3.3 seconds with the Sport Chrono package (which is included when you order the 7-speed manual). By the way, opting for the manual also gets you a mechanical limited slip differential vs. an electronically controlled unit.

The 0-60 times are around a half-second quicker than the previous car, but a more telling statistic is that the new Carrera S laps the Nürburgring Nordschleife around 5 seconds faster.

At 3,298 pounds, the new car is heavier than the previous car but it’s also 5 percent more rigid and uses a lot more aluminum in the body.

Aiding the handling on my test car was an optional rear-axle steering system that allows the rear wheels to steer up to 2 degrees in either direction. My test car also had the Sport package, which includes PASM adjustable dampers and stiffer springs that lower the car by 10 mm.

Truly special cars give the driver a sense of occasion when you get behind the wheel, and the new 911 Carrera S gives you that feeling.

Photo: David Haueter

The look over the hood, the sound of the flat-six and the feel of the hands on the steering wheel and the shifter all connect it to the 911’s that came before it, but this new Carrera S is supercar-fast and has a sense of balance that urges you to attack corners.

The power delivery is spot-on, with minimal turbo lag and a linear rush of acceleration, and the interplay between the pedals and precise shifter make rushing up through the gears a thrill.

The 911 Carrera S can play the sports car role anytime you want it to, but one of the really impressive things about it is that you can also drive it every day to do the types of things we do on a daily basis that don’t involve twisty back roads.

Put the driving mode in “Comfort” and it changes its character enough to fulfill that role quite well as long as it doesn’t involve putting anyone in the back seat.

I took the car on a weekend trip for two that involved an Airbnb with a fire pit, and the 911 fit two packages of wood in the front trunk and delivered 26 mpg on the highway.

The day after that, I was getting my thrills at the wheel on a twisty stretch of back road in the Catskill Mountains in New York, reveling in the dual nature of this car.

You can’t really go wrong with any of the new 911’s, but the Carrera S strikes a great balance of excitement and practicality (some of it anyway).

At a base price of $113,300, it’s also reasonably priced when you consider the prices of other cars that deliver this blend of performance, luxury and driver involvement.

Photo: David Haueter

David Haueter has been an automotive writer and photographer for the past 20 years. His writing and photos have been published in Roundel, Bimmer, Forza and Excellence and SportsCarInsider as well as other automotive and racing magazines.

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