Saturday 16 December 2017

The new 911 range has gone turbo, but has it dampened the magic of the iconic sports car?

Philip Hedderman has been to Silverstone to find out.

Philip Hedderman

Porsche puritans were horrified and even some of the more liberal petrol heads were less than enthusiastic about the T-word.

Yes, the German car giant has finally gone and done it  - installed not one but two turbochargers in all versions of the 911.

Some say, it was inevitable while industry insiders claim the radical move is purely to make the engines more efficient and to reduce CO2s.

But the great debate amongst owners and fans is whether the naturally aspirated iconic sports car has lost some or any of its unique character?

911 Carrera S
911 Carrera S

To answer that comprehensively one would have to have driven every 911 since its debut in 1963, but the general consensus amongst test drivers at the Porsche Experience Centre in Silverstone is that it hasn’t.

We are here to drive the full range which include 2WD, 4WD, a coupe, a cabrio or the legendary inbetweener Targa.

It looks like the car park at Chelsea’s training ground with row after row of  magnificent machines starting with the entry-level  Carrera, followed by the Carrera S, Carrera 4, Carrera 4S, Targa 4, Targa 4S and topped by the 911 Turbo and the Daddy - 911 Turbo S.

Starting with the runt of the litter, the Carrera is a formidable machine and should prove the most popular in Ireland.

With a price tag of £76,412, the 3.0 litre flat six is packing 370bhp, a 0-100kph sprint of 4.2 seconds and a top end of 293 (182 mph).

Not only is there 20hp more, the torque (also up 60Nm) kicks in a 1,700rpm giving almost instant access to all that grunt.

This is particularly noticeable with the seven-speed PDK automatic gearbox which is sublime and the snarly pop on kickdown never fails to put a smile on your face.

There is also a Sports Response button to give a 20 second burst of acceleration while the Dynamic Boost feature eliminates turbo lag.

911 Carrera S / 911 Carrera Cabriolet
911 Carrera S / 911 Carrera Cabriolet

Ride and handling is a pure joy and far less intimidating than previous model which had a tendency to get the tail out- especially in the wet.

Thanks to PASM (Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management) with adjustable dampers as standard, the 911 sits 10mm lower than its predecessor and twinned to drive select will calibrate the steering, suspension and gear ratios to your liking.

Activate PSM (stability management), switch to Sport mode and you’re ready to go racing (which we did at the home of the British Grand Prix).

This tight, twisty course will test the mettle of the bravest pilots and the hairpin bends and sweeping corners really pushed driver and car to the limits.

Whatever about me the car was impeccable.

Pin-point precision is the only way to describe the steering and the feedback through the wheel second to none giving unprecedented  grip and agility.

Other tests included launch control with emergency braking.

This was conducted in the blistering Turbo S with the meatier 3.8 litre with 580bhp and a 0-100kph sprint of 2.9 seconds.

My co-pilot/instructor Liam O’Toole (a fellow Dubliner) conducted the countdown to GO.

The gleaming black car rocketed close to 100mph and shuddered to a halt in half the time when I hit the anchors.

Remarkable braking power and a true testament of a supercar.

Another brilliant safety feature is motorway lane control which will keep you from veering left or right under severe braking - again under Liam’s expert tutelage brought us from 130kph to a standstill - hands free and in a perfectly straight line.

But on the road is where the 911 is king thanks to its every-day capability.

You can drop the kids off at school and rob a bank on the way back such is its versatility.

Zipping around country is a blast while motorway driving, although a little noisy, isn’t as choppy or unpleasant as one expected.

The cabin is plush with wall-to-wall leather (avoid the scarlet red though), polished aluminium at every fingertip and loaded with technology including sat nav with Google maps and Apple Carplay.

The choice of model and specification will make you as dizzy as the performance and range from £76k-£154k.

The bog standard (if you could call it that) Carrera manual pretty much has it covered and is more than enough in fun and excitement for any driver.

For the puritans .... all I’d say is take a spin at the Porsche Experience Centre then order a large slice of humble pie!

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