When we were planning a video project with Porsche-Design, to be filmed in Zell am See, Austria, they had the brilliant idea to let me drive the new Porsche 911, a.k.a. 992, from the Netherlands to Ferdinand-Alexander Porsche’s home ground in Austria. The 1,000-kilometer drive allowed me to get a good sense of what the new 992 is and how it compares to my own (2006) Carrera S. How did I like wet-mode, rear-wheel steering, the Burmeister audio system and having 450 bhp under my right foot?
Let’s immediately say that the new 992 is an entirely different creature from my 997. It packs 450 horsepower, compared to the 355 bhp that the 3.8-litre flat-six in my 911 delivers. It has a PDK automatic gearbox, while my 911 has a manual gearbox, and the new 992 comes with rear-wheel steering and a safety feature called ‘wet-mode’. I can assure you that my old 911 is much more tail-happy and there have been moments when I wished my 911 had something like this new wet-mode.
It’s brutal, blithering fast, and at the same time, oh so gentle and comfortable.
One of the best qualities of every 911 is that it’s a proper driver’s car. It’s a thoroughbred sports car, but it is not to be mistaken for a sports car that can only be used for a sunny Sunday afternoon drive, like many sports cars out there. This is the sports car that can be used as your daily drive, and to me, that is the best quality of the 911. Why? Well, this allows 911 owners to enjoy their flat-six on a daily basis. It’s not the sensitive garage-queen that many sports cars are. Whether you have to go for your weekly groceries, drive to the office, visiting family or friends, or taking her for a long drive for whatever reason, the new 911 is a perfect fit.
Delivery and first impressions
On a Friday afternoon (I’d just returned home from Switzerland two hours before) the 992 was delivered to my home and it didn’t take more than 10 minutes before some kids (from our village) on their bicycles came circling around our house to take a good look at the new 911. It could have been me, well, forty years ago that is.
First thing to do: install the child seat so I can take my 5-year old son for a ride. He was jumping for joy like those Duracell bunnies until he could finally take ‘his’ seat, and I opened the roof and took off. With the roof down it’s a pleasant drive and you hardly feel any wind or anything, but this can probably be said about many modern convertibles. The seats are incredibly comfortable, the steering, driving, braking, and everything works like a charm. And I’m pretty sure the neighbours prefer the sound (when starting the engine) of the 992 over the sound my 997.
In the Netherlands, it still feels OK to own and drive a 911. Having a Ferrari, Lambo or an Aston Martin on the driveway would cause very different emotions. Not just out of jealousy, but some people would also disapprove of such cars and say these are… vulgar. The 911 remains the sports car that is socially acceptable and it has a sort of like-factor. And that’s what you notice when driving a 911!
Porsche 992 features
During the drive from the Netherlands to Austria there was some (quite heavy) rain and the car immediately, automatically, suggested to activate wet-mode. The car was also equipped with lane-assist – an annoying feature that could, luckily, be turned off easily – and pretty much every accessory you can imagine. Usually, I’m not easily impressed by any accessory, feature or sound system, but I must admit that the wet-mode was a pleasant and reassuring feature. And another feature that blew me away, and which I certainly didn’t expect I would mention afterwards, was the sound system. I hardly play music these days when the sound system (home, car, or anywhere) doesn’t meet my standards. Not that I have very explicit standards, but I do notice that I’m just not enjoying music when it doesn’t sound good. During this 1,000-kilometer drive, I played a lot of the CD’s that I brought along. Totally unexpected! But the Burmeister sound system was one of the best, if not THE best, car sound system I have ever enjoyed.
992… the drive
Features, accessories, safety stuff… the real proof of the pudding is still in how the car handles and drives. And that’s like you would (could) expect from a 911. Only better! OK, in all honesty, I do prefer the sound of the 3.8-litre Mezger engine in my Carrera S and I love the manual gearbox. But, realistically, the new 992 is simply a much better 911 than any predecessor. How to explain this?
My 911 (997.1 C2S manual) has 355 horsepower on the rear-axle. It features a manual gearbox. This means you have to be very careful when releasing the clutch, otherwise, you just might (unintentionally) be launched like a rocket or get into a spin with uncertain consequences. And when the road is wet, let alone when it’s raining cats and dogs, the car is going to be tail-happy. And 355 horses that cause this tail-happiness… well, it’s not the easiest ride in the wet.
Now the new 992 is a different beast altogether: equipped with 450 horses (not 350), a wet-mode and many other safety features, the car can be kept within the lines! Furthermore, the new car is wider, longer and with those safety features, it is simply a much safer ride. It is also an easier ride and due to the automatic PDK gearbox, you can keep your hands on the wheel at all times.
Sport Mode and Sport Plus Mode
When driving it’s easy to switch to Sport Mode and Sport Plus Mode by a switch on the steering wheel. Sure, the Sport Mode improves the driving, as it makes things just a tad more sporty, a bit faster and more dynamic, but the real difference comes when switching to Sport Plus Mode. All Hell brakes loose, as they say. Suspension tightens, gets more firm, the PDK gearbox responds much more dynamically and the sound…. that sound coming from the exhaust! Now that’s a sound I really like. Admittedly, you don’t want to use the Sport Plus Mode in your friendly neighbourhood, because it won’t take long before it looses that 911-charm and you will become known as the neighbour with the noisy sports cars. Still, I do recommend it, maybe not for every ride, but once on the highway, it is good fun. In Sport Plus Mode the new 911 is also a magnificent racing machine for track days!
I love my own 911 for being a great daily car (except when it’s too wet). I love it for being a proper sports car, for being very go-kart-like and having this simpleness to it. A man and his machine, kind of feeling. The new 911 is very different! It’s a modern car with digital screens, a sound that is much more acceptable in the neighbourhood, and all the modern safety features you could imagine. However, when putting the pedal to the metal the 992 becomes a different creature, a proper racing machine and that can be felt best in Sport Plus Mode. You might even say it’s a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. The 922 can be the perfect gentleman’s ride for daily driving, but it can also be a full-fledged racing machine. Select Sport Plus Mode, put the pedal to the metal, and you’re in an entirely different creature that responds differently to anything you could throw at it – acceleration, braking, steering and road conditions.
So, the question remains… is the new 911 the best 911 ever built? Of course, some people will always prefer an air-cooled 911. And some might prefer a naturally aspirated engine over the modern turbo-aspirated six-cylinder, and rightfully so. However, keeping in mind that the 911 is THE sports car that you can actually use as your daily drive, I would still say yes. Sure, I do prefer the sounds of the old naturally-aspirated Mezger engine in my 911, and I do prefer a manual gearbox, but, for a ‘daily drive’, we have to acknowledge that all safety features make the new 911 safer, more comfortable and more modern. And arriving home safely is important, after a drive to the office, after a business trip to Switzerland, or after a track-day. And to me, that makes the 992 the perfect daily-drive sports car and the best 911 ever made.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.