New Porsche 911: Improving perfection

By Botchi Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer January 30,2019

It’s a little known fact with family and friends that I love the Porsche 911. Starting from the first water-cooled 996 model up until the present, I’ve driven almost all models on both road and track.

It is, for me, the very definition of a well-sorted car that I use as a guide when reviewing all other cars.

I’d love to drive the older models but unfortunately nobody wants to lend me one since prices for these classics continue to soar, a true sign of their coolness and desirability.

The 911 has amazing handling, feelsome steering, and amazing rear-end stability, and is powerful, responsive, with great sounding engines, and the perfect mix of day-to-day usability coupled with exhilarating performance at 10/10 driving on the road and especially on track.

I attended the 991 launch seven years ago in Santa Barbara, California, and was blown away.

After I returned from that trip, I got engaged to my wife. Attending the 992 launch sees a full circle in my life, closing an old chapter and starting a new one.

Despite what cynics say about a new 911 looking like all previous past seven generations prior, you can expect the latest one to be an absolute great drive, undergoing various improvements, mostly miniscule but some ground-breaking to provide a driving experience far elevated from its predecessor.

The 992 sits atop a heavily revised 991 platform, itself the only third all-new platform since the Type 901 prototype was unveiled 55 years ago.

The revised platform has the same wheelbase as its 991 predecessor, but is slightly longer, uses more aluminum (32 percent of the chassis), allowing it to be lighter, stiffer and safer than its predecessor.

The entire side panel—starting from the base of the A pillar, the roof rails, B and C pillars, tail lamp, and lower chassis rail—is now a single piece of aluminum, which helps shed 12 kg alone per side panel, and is an engineering and manufacturing marvel in itself.

The use of a staggered 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheel and tire combination necessitated a slight increase in length to help bring proportions back to ideal.

Pirelli and Goodyear developed special compound tires just for the 992’s specific sizes.

The larger rear 21-inch wheel/tire allows the 992 to perform at its maximum level longer, thanks to better thermal mass afforded by larger rubber with more air volume inside.

Visually, all 992s will utilize the widebody platform, emphasizing the sensual lines coupled with stronger road presence.

The sloping rear roofline and round front headlights remain.

Rounding out visual changes are the active front radiator inlets that open and close to either improve aerodynamic efficiency, or provide added downforce and cooling when open.

The rear sees a new adaptation of the 3D effect taillights, coupled with a huge flowing horizontal curtain tail lamp spanning the entire width, again to further emphasize the girth and road presence of the 992, and making it look more exotic in the process with all these minute details.

The active rear spoiler now spans almost the entire width of the rear as well, providing more downforce.

The engine is the same 3.0 displacement all-aluminum alloy mill with 24 valves, dual overhead camshafts, and direct injection.

Slightly bigger Borg Warner turbochargers with electrically actuated wastegates provide better boost response and control.

Tweaks to the variable valve and cam timing, and repositioned intercoolers that are fed by the engine deck lid’s intake louvers help improve power and torque by 30 hp and 30 Newton meters more, bringing power to 450 hp and 530 Nm of torque.

A new 8-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission is used, and is hybrid-ready if in case Porsche decides to hybridize the 911 line.

All these changes, together with tweaks to the suspension, driving aids, and firmer steering help deliver a 5-second improvement on the 992’s lap time around the famed Nurburgring Nordchsleife to 7:25, from the 991’s 7:30 lap.

On track, in sport plus mode, the 992 is super sharp and precise around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, a high-speed and highly technical track that is home for the Spanish MotoGP.

The track is characterized by sweeping high-speed complexes and esses, chicanes and off-camber corners to really throw the car off-course.

The rear feels lively, but the 992 is forgiving and stable as ever.

On a cold track, with cold tires, the 992 simply delivers the goods despite the conditions and lack of familiarity with both car and track.

Porsche stability management (PSM), Porsche torque vectoring, and rear axle steering definitely saved me from running wide a few times, and from oversteering on some misjudged corner entry speeds, and inappropriate brake and throttle applications, getting me back perfectly on-line like a pro.

On open roads, in normal mode, the 992 feels as comfortable and as pliant as ever.

On an easy cruise, the sonorous wail from the direct-injected engine feels good, providing a true old-school man-machine link. No wonder the 911 is the original all-road, all-weather everyday sportscar.

Throttle response is electric despite being turbocharged, and the optional 400 mm front and 390 mm rear PCCB ceramic brakes provide fade-free eye-popping performance, yet still give excellent feel and modulation.

Regular steel discs measuring 350 mm front and rear are standard. Both setups use Brembo-supplied 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers.

Steering has been firmed up to provide more feel, and the rear axle steering makes the 992 more maneuverable in tight spots and at low speeds.

A new wet mode also ensures safer driving on downpours. Acoustic sensors fitted on the fender wheel wells listen for water splash, then tweak the electronic driving aids, engine, suspension, transmission, active aerodynamics, and steering for optimized safe handling in the wet.

At least up to approximately 100 kmh, wet mode is almost
idiot proof, based on my experience driving around a very wet and slippery handling track.

Even when trying to induce oversteer/drifting, the 992 just corrects and corners tidily.

As a 911 fan, I am truly amazed and impressed about how much evolution a “flawed” platform can take, to bring it as close as possible to driving perfection.

It has some tricks that require some getting used to (torque vectoring and rear axle steer sometimes correct a little suddenly and sharply, which feels very artificial and inorganic), but overall, Porsche has definitely improved on perfection.

Now I wonder what’s in store for me in the near future?

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