991 iteration of the Porsche 911 coupe

The 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera, codenamed 991 for no particular reason other than Porsche is running out of codenames beginning with ‘9, and this one was still available, for now available as a rear-drive coupe but soon to be joined by a full pipeline of variants. The standard Carrera uses a direct-injection 3.4-litre 350bhp flat-six de-stroked from the old 3.6-litre for fuel savings, while the Carrera S has a 394bhp 3.8-litre that is mostly carry-over. The seven-speed comes as a paddle-shift PDK or, intriguingly, as a manual with an extra dog-leg to the far right for the economy cruising gear.

It’s on sale in Europe next year, but we’ve already driven it in the USA.

Technical Highlights?

Many colours are available, but all will be green(er). Aluminum bodyshell content rises to 45 percent now that the roof, floor, doors, bonnet, front wings, and forward crash box are all alloy. That holds the kerbweights down to just under those of the previous model.

On a longer wheelbase with a lower roof and wider front track, Porsche is trying out several new technologies aimed at saving fuel, including its first use of electric power steering. This risky dalliance with a known buzz-kill uses a rack-mounted motor and extensive control logic to filter out unwanted ‘noise’ through the steering while preserving what’s we’re told is ‘useful’ feedback. More petrol pinching comes from stop/start, deceleration-only battery charging, and a coast-at-idle function for PDK-equipped cars that decouples the engine in some coasting scenarios. For handling, a new active anti-roll bar uses compact hydraulic cylinders in place of stabilizer-bar links to help keep the car flatter through corners, plus a torque vectoring system that selectively activates the rear brakes in concert with a locking differential, mechanical or electronic depending on the configuration, for aiming the car at apexes.

What’s it like to drive?

It’s only 30mm longer overall, but with the windscreen center point moved out 75mm over a deeper dash, and a sloping center console evocative of the Panamera’s, the new 911 feels much bigger from the captain’s chair.

Some of the old 911’s intimacy is lost, but road noise drops considerably inside (at 80 mph you can hear the Sport Chrono clock ticking, for example) and functionality and comfort both rise – even for the long-suffering back seat passengers, who get another 30mm of legroom.

The longer wheelbase and more equitable axle-weight distribution does as advertised and imparts greater stability, so there’s less vertical bounding through turns and better front-end bite out of the corners. Note: we drove only the 3.8 equipped with the optional dynamic engine mounts, which in the previous car helped greatly in keeping the arse planted.

The steering is indeed more filtered, with most of the hyper-organic jiggles and tugging tossed out. There’s still a progressive ramp-up in steering effort that feels natural enough for a car that sells mainly to older folk who aren’t cross-shopping an Exige. The brakes are solid and trustworthy, and they and the differential give the new 911 a sharp lift-throttle turn-in that it never had before.

How does it compare?

People who have always wanted a 911 shouldn’t feel that they’ve missed their moment. The 991 is smoother, quieter, larger, more comfortable on a long drive, but it’s still fundamentally a 911.

So the basic arguments for and against remain the same if you’re looking at, say, the Jag XKR, the Maserati Gran Turismo, or a used Aston. It may be less exotic, but the 911 remains a blue-chip choice and more of an engineering wonder than its rivals.