It wasn't even the first proper corner, it was just the curving exit of the pit lane at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo. But that bend was all it took for a wave of relief to wash over me and a smile to materialize. I'd been nervous about this moment, because the very first time you add some lock and really feel what the steering is like in a new car is a big one. Particularly in a Porsche 911.
Just to recap briefly, the 992 is the eighth generation of Porsche's iconic, rear-engine sports car. Manual-equipped and base models will come later, so right now there is just a choice of the $114,250 Carrera S or $121,650 4S, with a new, eight-speed, dual-clutch gearbox. The engine remains broadly similar as the one in the car it replaces, albeit with more power and torque. The 3.0-liter, twin-turbo flat-six now produces 443 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 390 pound-feet of torque between 2,300 and 5,000 rpm. A dash to 60 miles per hour from a standstill can now be covered in as little as 3.2 seconds in a Carrera 4S packing the Sport Chrono pack, although a standard Carrera S only lags 0.3-second behind that. The steering is 11 percent quicker -- 6 percent if you spec the optional rear-wheel steering -- and the front track is noticeably wider, while the adaptive dampers (PASM) are now infinitely adjustable with a broader operating window.
That's all very impressive, but until you get behind the wheel you don't know what sort of driving experience these facts and figures will all add up to. And I didn't want another 991 moment. I remember driving the previous iteration of the 911 across Wales for the first time when it was new and thinking, "What have they done?" The 991 improved with time, but you want it to be right from from the get-go.
Which is why that first input at the end of the pit lane felt so good: it instantly communicated so much positive information about the demeanor of the 992. There was real weight to the steering combined with a startling agility, partly from the 1.6-inch wider front track and partly from the optional rear-wheel steering fitted to the Carrera S I was in. And things only improved from there. Given that this is not a product of Porsche's famed GT department, the 992 felt incredibly at home on track. A tenacious front end allied to a feeling of a very short wheelbase that could be adjusted easily all the way through the corner. On the exit there was also more than enough instantly available torque to move the rear end around.
By lap two, on a circuit that I'd never driven before in a car that I had only stepped into a couple of minutes earlier, it felt completely natural to be pushing the tires to their limits. The new 911 was pulling off that most difficult of tricks: giving you confidence from its huge grip but also letting you feel deeply involved in the process of wringing the most from the chassis.
The other relief was that it sounded good from inside the car. Standing on the pit wall as the cars went past, there was very little to get excited about, with the exhausts emanating a rather quiet, breathy sound that lacked any real sense of edge. Not unpleasant, but hardly exciting, either. This is quite probably a result of the new particulate filters that legislation decrees must be fitted to the new cars. From behind the wheel, however, the flat-six has a much richer, more detailed note to it. It's not naturally aspirated, spine-tingling, top-end-wail good, but it's much more interesting and enjoyable than I'd feared.
So, the 992 passes the track test with flying colors, but it also needs to deliver on the arguably much more important territory of the road. Thankfully, it does. The signs are good as soon as you trickle through the first town, circumnavigate the first roundabout and generally drive slowly as you get comfortable. Even at very modest speeds, the 992 has well-weighted and genuinely tactile steering. And the whole car feels nicely involving. Not fidgety or tiring, just communicative.
There are several driving modes: Wet, which does whatand does so very effectively, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus, as well as an individually configurable setting. Sport Plus is only necessary on the track, because Normal and Sport provide all the entertainment you need for the road. If you like the feeling of managing weight transfer then the softer damping in Normal will be right up your street, as the car has a slightly looser feel and you get more of those classic rear-engined attributes coming through. Equally when you want to step things up a notch, Sport ties everything down, adding an extra layer of precision and response but without sacrificing any ability over bumps. A couple of times I saw nasty patches of buckled and broken tarmac on the road ahead and winced a little in anticipation, but the 992 simply shrugged them off, acknowledging the hit but retaining perfect control.
On smoother, faster roads, the 992 was simply wonderful. As you would hope with a Porsche, push harder and it rises to the challenge. With the 10-millimeter lower Sport Chassis there is very little roll, so as soon as you turn into a corner you're leaning into the tires' sidewalls and this allows you to instantly play with the balance of the car, adjusting it really very precisely with throttle and steering. What's more, it feels like you can get this adjustability and feedback across a whole range of speeds.
The 992 is of course tremendously fast across the ground when you want it to be, but the satisfaction comes from being able to make use of the car's power with conviction. You can use all 443 horsepower with as much aggression as you want because the chassis inspires confidence, dialing you into the grip available so that you know just how much more throttle you can use. The engine itself is... very good. Hard to fault. The power delivery feels very linear and throttle response is excellent. But while it works well as part of, and indeed is integral to the whole package, it doesn't feel like the sort of element that you will rave about in the way that you would say an Audi R8's V10.
Overall though the 992 is fantastic. A genuine joy to drive. The only real word of caution is that I had a quick drive in a Carrera 4S and although still a nice car to drive, it lacks the lovely steering feel and weighting of the rear-wheel-drive car. Curiously I found it was the other way round in the 991, with the all-wheel-drive car having the meatier, more confidence-inspiring steering. Anyway, unless you really, desperately, absolutely must have the added traction, I wouldn't bother with driveshafts going to the front wheels.
Stick with the Carrera S, spec the 10-millimeter lower chassis and the rear-wheel steering and you have a fabulous car. It feels as though all the big changes like electric power steering, turbocharging and rear-wheel steering that were phased in with mixed success over the lifetime of the 991 have been brought together to work in harmony on the 992. Add in the clean exterior lines and the fresh interior and the result is a car that feels like the complete package. A 911 that it is right at the top of its game, straight out of the gates.
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