2017 Porsche 911:
A little boost makes all the difference
by Tim Stevens / December 9, 2015
n the 50-odd year history of the Porsche 911, the formula for that iconic car has largely stayed the same: engine at the back, round headlights at the front, room for four somewhere in the middle. It's variables within that equation that change with each subsequent generation, and in 2016 we'll see one of the biggest adjustments yet: turbochargers across the range.
Turbocharging means more power, more torque and greater efficiency, but it also means a very different driving dynamic. Rather than a high-strung, flat-six engine screaming and begging to be pushed to the rev limit, the new motor makes peak torque down low, at just 1,700 rpm. It's also throatier, quieter and, frankly, more refined. It's different, but it's still very, very good, and there are few better places to sample its charms than the twisty and beautiful but rough and bumpy roads on the island of Tenerife.
he motor is by far the biggest change in the 2017 model, so let's get that out of the way first. It's a new, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine in Porsche's typical flat, horizontally opposed configuration. This is down from the 3.4- or 3.8-liter engines in the outgoing 911. Porsche insists this isn't downsizing, instead calling it "right-sizing," but even ignoring the semantics, you can't argue with the horsepower figures, which are actually up. The base 911 Carrera now makes a healthy 365 horsepower, up from 345 in the outgoing model.
For the higher-spec Carrera S, power raises to 414 horsepower from 395, while torque climbs to 369 pound-feet from 325 before. Unlike years past, the displacement of the Carrera S is the same as the base Carrera. Now it's primarily the turbochargers that change, the pair of compressors on the Carrera S growing by 2mm to deliver a suitable increase in boost. There are some other miscelleaneous internal changes as well, plus a different exhaust -- though a separate, even throatier Sport exhaust is available as an upgrade on either model.
Given the nature of modern tuning on turbocharged cars, it's easy to imagine owners of the base 911 achieving similar (or greater) power levels with just a visit to their local ECU hacking guru, but only time will tell what this new motor can truly deliver.
It's always a shame to see a sports car getting heavier, but it could have been much worse
The new car sits 10mm lower than the outgoing 911, while the optional PASM Sport drops you another 10mm. If you're worried about what this means to the sanctity of the car's nose, an optional front lift system is available, providing an additional 40mm of on-demand front clearance for speed bumps, entrance ramps or frightened woodland creatures. Rear wheels are now a half-inch wider and, for the first time, rear wheel steering is available. This improves stability at high speeds and agility at lower ones. Porsche says the 2 degrees of active control over the rear wheels alone is worth two seconds around the mighty Nürburgring race track.
All that added together, plus a reconfigured gearbox with a new clutch and myriad other tweaks and fiddlings, help make the car an impressive 8 seconds faster around the 'Ring than the outgoing 911. That's despite being roughly 35 pounds heavier, and 12 percent more fuel-efficient.
Yes, it's always a shame to see a sports car getting heavier, but it could have been much worse. The twin turbochargers, plus the intercoolers and other required pipes and bits, actually added nearly 80 pounds to the car. Porsche clawed most of that back with dozens of little tweaks, like replacing more steel components with aluminum and switching to an oil pan made of plastic. Yes, plastic, but we're told it's still strong enough to survive a three-foot drop -- with the entire engine attached.
hankfully it isn't just the engine that's receiving some extra horsepower. The in-dash infotainment system receives a significant upgrade, a fourth generation of the Porsche Communication Management system. A 7-inch, capacitive, multi-touch display is the main interface, and it is relatively snappy, supporting gestures like pinch-zooming on maps.
Those maps now look considerably better, thanks to Google Earth integration. If your car has an active data connection, either with an integrated SIM or by tethering to your phone, the nav system will pull down satellite information, along with other niceties like 360-degree Street View images and real-time traffic updates. (No word yet on US carrier options, nor data plan costs.)
The other big boost comes from the integration of Apple's CarPlay, allowing you to plug in an iPhone and let it take over infotainment duties. I'm disappointed that there's no Android Auto support yet, but those of you who live your lives within Apple’s walled garden will be happy to know that you can now build a garage next to that garden and then park your Carrera inside.
ots of cars have recently made the switch to forced induction, yet for some reason everyone seems far more concerned about the change to the 911. I suppose that's partly because it's such a historic model, and partly because it's something so many aspire to own. I'm happy to report that this is very much still a car worth coveting -- even more than before.
I'll start with the negatives: it is a little less loud, and has a slightly different sound, too. It's more of a growl, less of a howl, but it still rises to the same flat-six crescendo as you probe the upper-limits of the tachometer. Opt for the sport exhaust and you'll have plenty of volume filling the cabin, yet outside the car's sound stays restrained. That's thanks to some magic from Porsche's engineers, who ran a series of tubes ("Sound Symposer" technology in Porsche-speak) from the engine's intake directly into the cabin. In sport mode, the second of these two tubes opens, giving you fuller, richer acoustics in the cabin without resorting to any BMW-style digital trickery.
And the second negative: yes, there is a little bit of turbo lag. Just a little, but it is there. Enough to ruin a lovely, energetic drive through some twisty roads? Absolutely not. Instead the new wave of torque, which peaks at just 1,700, quickly becomes addictive as it launches you out of corner after corner. Still, the motor wants to be revved and it will pull hard to the limiter -- which, I confess, did sneak up on me a few times.
Those of you who live your lives within Apple’s walled garden will be happy to know that you can now build a garage next to that garden and then park your Carrera inside.
Thankfully, shifting is no chore regardless of whether you've chosen the clean-shifting manual or the dual-clutch PDK transmission. If you want launch control, you'll need to go for the semi-auto box, which is also the only version of the car to feature the new Sport Response button. Taking a page from the ludicrous 918, the new little button on the steering wheel gives you 20 seconds in Sport+ mode. Imagine it: You're tooling along a country road, in no particular hurry, but then you encounter someone you need to pass right now. Tap the button, blow his doors off, and 20 seconds later the car automatically settles down again.
Changing driving mode also modifies the car's PASM adaptive suspension, which has a wider swing of settings than before. On normal mode, it's impressively compliant. Cinch it all the way down the other way and the car gets far more communicative, letting you know that it means business. But, even in its raciest setting, this car remains well-mannered even in the face of some serious road imperfections.
That smart suspension is now standard, which goes a long way toward explaining the roughly $5,000 price increase over the outgoing model. (The PCM infotainment system is also now standard, which covers the rest.) The new 911 starts at $89,400 (roughly converting to £59,380 in the UK and AU$123,500 in Australia) in coupe form, and $101,700 (£67,560, AU$140,490) for the drop-top Cabriolet. The Carrera S, meanwhile, is $103,400 (£68,670, AU$142,830) with a metal roof, $115,700 (£76,840, AU$159,830) without.
he most important thing to take away with you is that this car is still very much a 911. Rev the engine in neutral and it sounds rough and ready, pops and crackles from the exhaust mixing with the subtle whistles and whooshes of turbos as well as wastegates. It's a new twist on a classic sound that, at full-song, was plenty enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
If you're looking for a sports car, the extra power and better handling will excite. If you're looking for a touring car, the greater comfort, intelligence and economy will compel. And, if you're looking for something that hits that sweet spot right in the middle, you're going to have a hard time doing much better.
CNET accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, travel costs were covered by the manufacturer. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. The judgments and opinions of CNET's editorial team are our own, and we do not accept paid content.
About the author
Tim Stevens is Editor in Chief of Roadshow. He got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development. Currently he pursues interesting stories and interesting conversations in the technology and automotive spaces.
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