It's easy to criticise the Porsche 911 for a lack of evolution in the 40-plus years since it first hit our streets, but this hasn't stopped people buying the things in their droves. The latest version of the Porsche 911, with the model code 991 features the slightest of aesthetic tweaks, but has just the right number of changes below the surface to push the brand forward. We tested the 911 Carrera S with the 7-speed manual transmission, which retails for £81,242.
If you've seen one Porshce 911, you've seen them all, including the latest 991 edition. Don't let this car's evolutionary looks fool you, though, it's been built from scratch from the ground up – the first 911 to have that honour since the 997 in 2005. There are a few minor aesthetic revisions, but more important is the fact the the body has been constructed almost entirely from lightweight aluminium, which helps reduce the overall weight of the car by 45kg. It's lower, too, while its wheelbase is 100mm longer and it has a wider track, all of which are designed to improve stability.
The 911 won't rival your Ford Focus for practicality, but it's a car you can use on a daily basis without too much compromise. There's plenty of room up front for driver and passenger, but the rear pews are only really suitable for yoga instructors, the vertically challenged, children, or people who will sacrifice the health of their spine for a ride in one of the most iconic sports cars. That said, you get a pair of cup holders (though both live in a strange, spring-loaded compartment above the glove box) door bins large enough for a couple of energy drinks and a few packets of Rowntrees Randoms and room for a mobile phone in a central cubby.
Luggage space is pretty limited. The car's rear-engine, rear-drive layout means the 'boot' is at the front of the vehicle under what would be the bonnet of a normal front-engined car. This offers a mere 135 litres of space, which is about a third of the room you'd get in a normal hatchback. It's large enough for three or four average-sized backpacks, or a few days' shopping, though any more than this is a bit of a stretch.
Performance & Handling
The entry-level 911 Carrera and the mid-range Carrera S are cut from a similar cloth, but they're powered by very different engines. The Carrera ditches the 3.6-litre unit of old in favour of a smaller 3.4-litre unit but still produces 350hp – the same as the faster, previous generation Carrera S. The new Carrera S uses the same 3.8-litre lump as the S model, but this time it churns out 400 horses and 440Nm of torque.
With the reduced weight, the Carrera S is now capable of 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds with the manual 7-speed transmission, or 4.3 seconds with the optional dual-clutch PDK transmission. Both versions feel incredibly quick, laying down the engine's power efficiently, like a sprinter bursting out of the blocks.
The 7 speed PDK is faster, but the manual 'box works like a dream. The first 7-speed manual ever to be installed in a production car, it has a fantastic short throw action, is accurate and, most importantly of all, makes you feel all types of manly when you fling the stick into a new ratio. Having seven of them to bang through is a real joy.
Handling is surprising neutral for a car so powerful and so arse-engined. It isn't tail-happy, it doesn't understeer uncontrollably – it just goes where you point it. Is it too sensible? No. Disengage the active stability control, throw it into a corner, stomp on the go pedal and you'll unleash the devil within, but this is a monster with manners – it's a pitbull that treats you as its master at all times.
If there's one thing we didn't like about the driving experience, it's the fact its a tad too jiggly over speedbumps and broken roads. Oddly, though, it cruises beautifully on smooth, open roads, gobbling motorway miles like a proper grand tourer.
Economy & Environment
The Porsche 911 Carrera S maybe incredibly quick, but oddly, it's also very frugal. The manual gearboxed version will return 29.7mpg, while the car with the dual-clutch PDK breaks through the 30mpg barrier, clocking up 32.5mpg – not bad for a car that'll do 188mph. Equally impressive is the 911 Carrera S' low emission – 224 in manual guise, but an incredible 205g/km in PDK trim.
Equipment & Value
Although the Porsche 911 is one of the most common sports cars on our roads, Porsche offers a shedload of personalisation options so no two need be alike. That ability to personalise your car will cost you, though. Four standard colours are available – black, red, white and yellow – with eight metallic options available for £801 extra. There are three 'special' metallics available for a whopping £1,805. 19-inch wheels come as standard, with 20-inch options available from £971 to £1,809 depending on their bling level.
Leather seats come as standard, but if you want the 4-way adjustable sports seats, you'll have to splash out £2,513. The the 14-way adjustable pews will set you back £3,739, while the 18-way jobbies go for £4,661. The sat-nav, which forms a part of the Porsche Communication Management system, will set you back £2,120, but even that doesn't quite compare with what you'll need to spend if you want in-car telephony. The telephone module (a dash-mounted slot for your SIM card) costs £558, but you'll need to spend an extra £413 if you want the cordless handset for discrete calls or £445 if you want to make calls with your mobile over Bluetooth.
The bottom line: The 911 has plenty of options to choose from, but you'll break the bank tweaking it to your exact requirements.
The 911 Carrera S has the full compliment of safety equipment, including Porsche Stability Management -- one of the best stability systems on the market. Leave it engaged and there's little or no chance of losing control, unless you're a moron. Even if you choose to disable it, the 911 is so predictable you'll rarely find yourself wishing you'd left the safety systems engaged.
The Porsche 911 is a victim of its own success. There are many of the opinion that it hasn't evolved enough over time or that it's too common a sight on our streets. They're probably right, there's a damn good reason they've kept their looks while maintaining their popularity – they're bloody brilliant. This latest car picks up where the last model left off, throws in several improvements and is, ultimately, a triumph. It's super fast, incredibly efficient, easy to get on with and – most of all – a lot of fun.
Model tested: Porsche 911 Carrera S manual (991)
Engine: 3.8-litre flat-six petrol
Acceleration: 0-62 in 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 188mph
Economy: 29.7mpg (claimed)
Emissions: 224g/km CO2
Price: £81,242 (OTR)