First Drive: Porsche 911 Carrera S

The new Carrera S
The new Carrera S
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WINTER: the obvious time to call Porsche and ask to test-drive a 911. The roads are slick, the traffic levels are high and the only saving grace is that the daytime temperature is well above freezing.

It’s the perfect chance to get your hands on a 395bhp sports car, then. No, really, it is. The Porsche 911 has oodles of grip from fat, sticky tyres and in warm, dry conditions you have to drive it like you’re on fire in order to find the limits.

In winter the limits fall much lower, and so do the speeds necessary to find them. That makes testing – and enjoying – a car like this much easier.

The Carrera S is, by first and enduring impressions, a lovely piece of kit. The leather surfaces are firm but flawless, while the cockpit layout is pretty much the same as in any other of the brand’s cars, which is to say purposeful and 
button-rich.

Some of those buttons do very interesting things indeed. On the centre console of this car, for example, you’ll find one for the electrically-controlled rear spoiler, one for Sport Plus mode and another to
activate the Sports Exhaust.

The spoiler reduces rear aerodynamic lift at high speed, in combination with a front splitter that helps to reduce understeer. But given the wet conditions and lower speeds, the more relevant buttons are the Sport Plus and Sports Exhaust ones.

Pressing the former turns on the latter automatically and delivers an unholy bellow from the engine behind you, especially with your foot hard down approaching 7,500rpm. Its effect might be boosted by a “sound symposer”, but it works.

This generation of 911 has a much wider front track, which is to say the front wheels are further apart than on 911s of old. It’s a blessing and a curse, making this, the seventh-generation 911, easier to drive quickly, more stable and less prone to lose grip at either end. The other side of the coin is that it doesn’t feel as agile. Whereas older 911s are as eager to dive into corners as a frightened rat, this one is more restrained. More grown up.

Accelerative traction remains epic, though, with the weight of the rear-mounted engine, which is slightly further forward than it used to be, pressing the fat rear tyres into the ground.

It’s still one of the 911’s unique driving characteristics, whereby on the exit of corners you can squeeze the throttle earlier and harder than in other, similar but front-engined sports cars. Oversteer is, by comparison, hard to come by.

There is a sweet spot in the 911’s handling, where the throttle input is just enough to overcome the initial tendency to push the front tyres out, but not so much that the back tyres shift sideways. Keep the car in that zone and its distinctive balance comes to the fore.

Technology defines this generation of 911, not just with the switchable exhaust or the astonishing engine, but also with automatic throttle blips on down-shifts, but only in Sport Plus mode. The car’s 
in-built systems make it very easy to go very quickly, very smoothly.

The ride quality is firm but unequivocally composed, especially with the suspension at its softer, standard setting. It’s no Rolls Royce Phantom but, even if you spend 100 miles or more in the driving seat in one hit, it’s surprisingly
comfortable.

There’s even a helpful dose of practicality to the 911, with the “boot” at the front offering plenty of room. You have to stack things up, but it’s entirely usable. And the Carrera S will even notch up mpg in the mid-30s on a steady motorway drive.

It lives up to its “everyday car” billing, and then some. It’s a wonderful all-rounder that ticks more or less every box. There are more extreme, more edgy and even more exciting alternatives, but nothing matches the 911 as a complete package.

VITAL STATS

PRICE £76,610

ENGINE 6-cyl 3.8l petrol

PERFORMANCE Top speed 188mph, 0-62 4.5s

ECONOMY 29.7

CO2 EMISSIONS 224g/km