The Porsche 911 is a Marmite car. Before reading any of the words we put down on this page, you’re going into this article either believing that the 911 is the best sports car in the world. Or that it’s some stupid, anachronistic development of the Beetle that’s typically driven by fools. In this vein, we should declare that we're 911 fans.
But that means we approach this new, 991-era 911 with some trepidation. Because rumours abound that - whisper it - the new 911 has lost some of the nameplate’s magic.
So what’s it like? Well, bigger and lower for a start - 911s have always had a surprising compact-ness in the metal, but that’s less apparent with the new car. It seems long; it is longer than the car it replaces. Annoying then that there’s little more luggage or leg room. Yet, it does look better. It’s wider, the roof line is lower and as it moves down the road – especially on 20-inch wheels – as it it looks: exceptionally well resolved and premium.
Inside, there’s a greater sense of change between this new car and the one it’s replacing. Material use and trim in here is now particularly fine. You drop super low into the seat, making you feel very much like you’re in - rather than sitting on - the car.
Between you and the passenger there’s a new centre console which will be familiar to anyone who knows the Panamera saloon or Cayenne SUV. Festooned with buttons, it’s a bit old school compared to many modern car interiors – where the march of the touchscreen interface has been cleaning up cockpits and removing buttons for some time. Problem is, those settings and menus in the touchscreen systems can be annoyingly slow to respond and almost impossible to access on the move. Porsche, on the other hand, has always been about the drive and the driver - so it makes total sense to give you buttons for the dampers settings, sport suspension, traction control and fruity exhaust close to your hand.
Key in the ignition - it is, and seems likely always to be, a key in a Porsche - twist, hold, listen to the starter motor chunter away for a second behind your head before the straight catches with a flare of revs and settles to that slightly uneven sounding Porsche idle. We drove a PDK gearbox-equipped car. That’s Porsche speak for a twin-clutch auto gearbox, with seven gears. It can be controlled by a pair of meaty paddles behind the steering wheel which respond with an immediacy that most other manufacturers don’t get close to.
And despite being a "non S", basic Carrera car, this new 911 still feels fast: 0-60 takes less than 5 seconds. Pressing on, you’re still aware of the mass of that engine behind the rear axle, which likes to have a little bit of input into your trajectory if you’re silly with the car. It’s all very engaging, very quick and everything (brakes, steering, pedals, buttons) has a uniform weighting and feel which makes the 911 feel like the kind of precision German machine you might expect.
On a closed race track, we couldn’t get a feel for the functioning of the navigation and other media systems, so we’ll wait to assess that in our review story, once we’ve spent some more time in the car, in a couple of months time.
But it’s clear that the reasons that for so long have made the 911 the sport car of choice, still stand. Namely, this is a brilliant machine to drive fast, but you can also easily drive it 365 days of the year or have one as your only car. It’ll always start, slog across Europe for hours on the go, look after you and cosset you when you’re not in the mood and you can squeeze two kids in the back and a decent amount of luggage in the front boot.
That might sound like the kind of thing any car should do, but it’s surprising how - up at this price point and in this market - so many other manufacturers get the basics wrong and make their cars a pain to put up with when you’re not in the mood for driving like your pants are on fire.
Porsche has always been different; it’s why you see 911s everywhere. This latest car, on first impressions at least, guilds the lily. It takes the ‘have your cake and eat it’ qualities to a whole new level. Don’t believe the hype. The 911’s still got it.
Which organs will you chose to live without to get one?