2017 Porsche 911 first drive review

The Porsche 911 isn’t just a car. It’s car history, one of the foundation garments on the body of work that includes everything from the Model T to the Beetle to the Corvette.

Catch us on the right day and we’d argue the 911 is one of the cars mankind will be measured by, if there’s ever a real day of reckoning, and the reckoner turns out to be a car freak.

There’s a reason it’s an enduring piece of the landscape. The recipe hasn’t changed much in 50-odd years, and it hasn’t had to. The flat-6 engine, the teardrop shape, they’re timeless and distinctive pieces no other brand can replicate without looking like the basement at the Beijing auto show.

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That said, even icons have to bend with the times. Whether it’s fuel economy or safety, or just the competition’s full-court press into everyday supercar performance, even the 911 isn’t immune to the rising tide of rivals. A Tesla Model S can best its acceleration; a Mustang GT puts down more power on paper.

The current 911’s been with us just since 2012, but this year, it makes a huge leap of faith into the turbocharged world. With a fresh set of turbo-6 drivetrains, a slew of suspension changes, and a new interface, it’s making bigger change than the progression from 991 to 991.2 indicates.

What you really need to know about that leap, is what happens from 1,700 to 5,000 rpm.



A couple of decimals’ worth

From the exterior, you can’t tell that there’s much new with the 911. It’s been sold in its current aluminum-intensive guise since the 2012 model year. As a 991.2, almost nothing changes from the outside, save for some revised lighting and grille vanes on the engine cover.

It’s out back where the 2017 model marks a big moment in 911 history. The base Carrera’s made the switch to turbocharged power—so yes, there are turbos, then there are Turbo turbos.

With twin blowers on a new, downsized flat-6 engine, the 2017 Carrera and Carrera S now put out more power, and more low-end torque. Displacement drops from 3.4 liters to 3.0 liters, but the addition of twin turbochargers has given it a huge boost down low.

With the standard direct-injected 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-6, the 911 Carrera makes 370 hp (up 20 from the last Carrera) and 331 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-60 mph run in as little as 4.4 seconds and a top speed of up to 183 mph.

The Carrera S? It lays down 420 hp and 368 lb-ft for a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 191 mph. Add all-wheel drive and launches go a bit more smoothly, and the 0-60 mph times drop by another tenth of a second.

Where it all matters is that wedge of the power charts, where the Carrera turbo gulps in air, feeds it down its rear glass, spins its turbos and lights off the fuel-air explosion with a newly centered spark. Peak torque shows up at 1,700 rpm and stays on tap, on a massif central of twist while the flat-6 engine spools up to 5,000 rpm and beyond.

At 5,000 rpm it’s been more power longer than the former Carrera S. And while turbocharged engines aren’t typically as high-revving as naturally aspirated engines, the new flat-6 has a redline of 7,500 rpm. Plenty heady, that territory.

The trade-offs seem slight. The new Carreras carry around a little more weight, but it’s not enough to make a difference on tracks like the mighty Nurburgring, where Porsche’s clocked the new car at up to 10 seconds faster over a lap.

That low-end Catherine Wheel of torque gives it a huge advantage hitting the ‘Ring’s long uphill climbs–or the stark elevation changes on the California coast somewhere between Mendocino and nowhere.

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