If history has taught us anything, it’s that Porsche doesn’t make radical changes to its iconic sportscar without good reason. Changes are driven by circumstance, the 911’s success being its ability to evolve to the environment it faces and retain its character and unique appeal.

That explains the 992’s future-proofed body, with space for a hybrid powertrain, the widebody-only strategy not one born from the dynamics department — though the chassis engineers were only too happy to embrace it — but the need for cooling efficiencies, both for the revised 3.0-litre flat-six turbo engine presently, and that eventual electrical assistance.

The Carrera S and its eventual Carrera relation are the same width as the 991.2 GT3/GTS. The staggered 21-inch rear and 20-inch front wheels, as well as the 8-speed transmission, are new, too. To help offset the weight gains those bring, the engineers have applied more aluminium to the 992’s construction.

This, too, is a 911 that comes with the possibility of enhanced driver ‘aids’ like Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with stop and go functionality as well as Night Vision Assist. That technology is a stepping-stone to eventual autonomy, though, mercifully, it remains optional equipment. 

 

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Photos: Richard Pardon/Porsche

The 911 has always been, and, until it’s legislated against, will always be about the drive. Thankfully behind all the talk of the future, there’s plenty of focus on the performance and dynamic gains in the present. The now electronically-assisted brakes allow more precise, immediate control, the staggered wheel sizes and the wider stance allows the conflicting goals of greater stability, agility, steering response and resistance to understeer, allied to the promise of increased comfort and refinement.

That’s quite a trick, and one that should further improve the 992’s operating bandwidth over that of its 991.2 predecessor. The 911 should be a car that’s as effortless on a 1,000km drive as it is engaging on a fast, mountain pass. That’s always been the case with the 911, and with the 992 the expectation is that it’ll continue that, Porsche knowing that it’s fundamental to what the 911 should be.

The Hockenheimring is at my disposal. So too is a pair of Carrera S models. An S and a 4S, both, as per the launch strategy, are PDK models. The Racing Yellow colour choice isn’t the only similarity between them, both are specified with an extensive list of options to show them off in their best light. They’re also equipped with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Contro (PDDC), Rear-Axle Steering, Sports Exhaust with the tips finished in black, Sport Chrono with the steering wheel-mounted Mode Button, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with its 10mm drop, and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB).

The design team has done a fine job of modernising yet retaining the obvious 911 bloodline. There’s no denying that it looks big, but then, the 911 hasn’t been particularly compact for a while now, but the staggered wheels and that wider body, particularly at the front are obvious, even here at an expansive racing circuit. The shape is familiar, the detailing sharp, and visually, at least, the 992’s already a winner. 

Elements inside are immediately familiar, if more obviously modernised. There’s a large analogue rev counter, the redline indicated at 7,400rpm. On either side sit a pair of screens, showing digital representations of conventional instruments like all things modern, and they’re configurable.

Forget all that, and additions like the clever Wet mode, today, as while the Hockenheimring’s still to be completely dried by the morning sun, the Mode Switch on the 992 will be at the more extreme end of its operating parameters. Sport, Sport+ and Individual.

It’d be churlish not to give the 450hp from the 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six the best opportunity to do its best, which, with launch control enabled through Sport Chrono allows a 0-100kph time of 3.5 seconds in the S, and 3.4 seconds with the 4S. That’s 0.2 seconds quicker than without Sport Chrono, the 4S topping out at a 306kph maximum, the S gaining 2kph top end and closing and bettering the 4S’s advantage when traction is less of an issue and weight is, the S’s in-gear acceleration being marginally quicker.

 

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Photos: Richard Pardon/Porsche

You’d be pushed to notice the difference in reality, only here, on the circuit, do the Carreras reveal the slight differences that describe where and how they apportion their drive.

What’s immediately apparent in both is the fine control of the chassis, the reduced unsprung mass of PCCB no doubt helps here, and those lighter carbon ceramic brakes are welcome for the repeatable, resolute performance and fine pedal feel. PDCC helps, too, while the 992’s immediate turn-in response benefits here from the fitment of rear-axle steering — it a requirement if you option the trick PDDC chassis control.

Even taking all the optional equipment into account there’s a fundamental feeling of correctness into how the 992 drives. The control weights are beautifully judged, the weight and feel from the steering, the confidence and precision of the brake pedal, even the immediacy with which the now eight-speed PDK selects the next ratio via the paddleshifter underlines that the 992 is centred around the driver, and the drive.

The design team has done a fine job of modernising yet retaining the obvious 911 bloodline...

If the 991.2 brought more flexibility and any-gear urge to the 911 with its turbocharged 3.0-litre, then the 992 builds on that by improving the response further, giving the 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine a more eager nature. It feels more naturally aspirated in its immediacy, while retaining the low down punch that’s a turbocharged engine’s signature.

The resultant performance is such that you’d very recently had to buy the flagship Turbo to match the 992’s pace. There’s huge control, too, the 992’s balance sublime, its nose more resolute than any non-GT 911 model before, yet it retains the unique 911 characteristic of weight transfer-aided turn-in, and, should you want it, joyful corrective lock through and exiting a corner.

It’ll lap around here all day, its cleverness being its ability to do so without vice, yet being adjustable and engaging enough to involve and demand. There are subtle differences between the S and its 4S relation, the steering response feels a touch more natural in the S, though for all the S’s deftness and lightness, the 4S feels more resolute in turning in, the S perhaps prone to a infinitesimal initial moment of understeer before the front axle really gets to work.

Nuances, and, arguably pointless for road driving, but pushing the 992 to such extremes underlines the inherent balance on offer, and the fine control and feedback it offers its driver. That Porsche has achieved that, in such a challenging environment for is core sports car offering can only be applauded, the 911 remains unique, engaging and interesting, and very much a 911.

 

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