2012 Porsche 911 (991) First Drive Review – part 2 (with video)

Day two of the launch involved dynamic testing – chucking it about on a track!

By Shahzad Sheikh

Click here to read Part 1 of my review from the two-day Middle East and regional press launch of the all-new Porsche 911.

For day 2 we were back at the track, and apart from taking the opportunity to go hooning, there were a couple of legit reasons to be using the North Circuit of the Yas Marina GP race track.

This car’s predecessor, the 997, could be loaded with clever technical gizmos that made it do things you didn’t think possible. And the new car also has access to a load of updated electronics – all of which have obviously allowed it to achieve a Nurburgring Nordschliefe time of 7 minutes and 40 seconds for a Carrera S, which is as fast as a the previous Turbo or GT3 versions.

The reason for this, is down to the handling mostly, as well as the boosted performance. Of course the car obviously has two sports modes: ‘Sports’ and ‘Sports Plus’ as options and there’s the sports suspension too. You can also opt for sports exhaust which is genuinely louder and rortier as opposed to the standard sound generator device, which just gives the impression of a noisier exhaust as more sound is channelled into the cabin.

Fast corners

More key to the development of the new car are systems such as the Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) which is now standard on the Carrera S, and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) which is an option.

So the first part of the day was simply driving the cars on the track which involved the start-finish straight and the corkscrew cutting halfway into the long back straight. Even with all the electronic systems – traction and stability – left on, but the car in Sports Plus, I almost lost it in the second part of the twisting downhill corkscrew, as the back end started to come around and a good dose of opposite-lock was required to get it back in shape.

It could be cold tyres, it could be worn tyres, it could be my utter incompetence (most likely), and it could be that this is still essentially a Porsche 911 with an engine in the back and no amount of electronic voodoo is going to change that inherent balance of weight.

A few more laps later and I started to realise that this is indeed still at its core a traditional rear-engined Porsche. And it’s a car that, on track, rewards consistency and smoothness, as opposed to aggression and impatience. At speed you have to pick your lines, turning and braking points carefully. Do so and it holds the tarmac like few other cars. It’s so stable in fact that you can brake into a corner a corner from speed and apart from a wobble, keep it altogether for the next turn.

The first car I tried was without the PDCC (you can spot a new 911 equipped with this by the protruding lower lip on the front spoiler), so for my next set of laps I opted for the PDCC car. The cornering was flatter, the body control more stable, giving more confidence when changing direction – the car is 20mm lower with PDCC and PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management). And yet the body still moves, and you’ll will feel the weight transfer, but not quite as dramatically as without the PDCC.

Slower corners

The effect of the PTV and PDCC were more apparent on the slower slalom and handling course set up at the hairpin end of the track. How does the PDCC make a difference during the tight slalom? Well it’s the difference between a passenger banging their head on the exquisite roof lining or not under hard manoeuvring – as I can sincerely testify.

The change of direction remains as sharp, but the body is astonishingly flat, as actuators on the roll bars work to hold the car level and keep the wheels pushed against the tarmac. You may not feel you are going as quickly, but you’re actually faster.

The PTV works by varying the torque to each wheel at any given instant. As race instructor Sean Stevens explained, it’s as if you’re in a canoe and if you want to turn left, the paddler on the left holds their oar flat causing resistance, whilst the paddler on the other side actually paddles harder. So essentially the system works to get the car around the corner more efficiently, almost pivoting on its central axis. Even in road driving you can feel this working. Another characteristic we found on the handling circuit was its uncanny ability to tighten its line considerably if you just lift-off mid-bend, the direction change is extraordinary, but without losing the back end.

All of which explains why the new 911 is such a great, and almost fool-proof, road car (speeds are lower, corners are tighter) which gives a lot of added confidence to the keen owner going for a brisk Friday morning drive.

It’s also a great track car – one of the few to pull off both disciplines convincingly – but it’s also a demanding car. It remains a precision driver’s tool and will play along with you to certain extent but insists you respect it, or it will remind you that it’s defying physics and can bite at anytime – which of course is why it’s such a satisfying car for track-heads.


So the overall verdict after spending two days with Porsche’s flagship sportscar? It’s blooming brilliant. But then it was never going to be anything else – this is the sportcar maker’s iconic flagship, its template for the rest of the range, its brand identifier. Even though it only accounts for 8% of Porsche’s sales in the region compared to 61% for the Cayenne and 24% Panamera, it’s probably the one in which the most effort and thought goes into, back in Stuttgart.

The good news is that despite all the concern over its electro-mechanical steering, and all the computer voodoo working underneath the body, it remains a 911, and fans and owners alike will both immediately identify with it and get a whole heap of satisfaction out of driving it.

Even the Carrera has excellent performance, and brakes and transmission on both cars are very good. You can order a worlds-first 7-speed manual, but the bulk of buyers will opt for the even quicker double-clutch auto. Most owners get used to the horrible steering wheel toggle switches for changing gear, but you can specify proper paddleshifts for the sports steering wheel, although you’ll then lose the steering-wheel remote buttons.

The rear seats will just about take a pair of children as far as the school, and it remains a reasonable enough size to drive and park around town. Which is to say, it continues to be one of the most practical premium sportscars of all.

You have to dig hard for criticisms, and when you do find them, they’re not new to the 911 model range: the flat six can still sound like a Beetle at times (and it’s not the greatest engine noise by a long-shot even with the sports exhaust), it looks ‘the same’ as the last car and of course the engine still remains in the wrong place. But then these are the traits that make it a 911.

Other than that, it’s improved considerably in every way, and 911 fans will adore it once they finally get their hands on it. (See part 1 to find out when deliveries start and our road-drive impressions)

Price: $91,041
Engine: 3436cc, flat-six, 350bhp @ 7400rpm, 287lb ft @ 5600
Manual 4.8secs
PDK 4.6secs
Sport Chrono Pack 4.4secs
Manual 16.2secs
PDK 15.7secs
Sport Chrono 15.4secs
Top Speed
Manual 289kph
PDK 287kph
Fuel consumption
Manual 9.0L/100
PDK 8.2L/100
Transmission: seven-speed auto (PDK) or seven-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Weight: 1400kg

Carrera S
Price: $107,796
Engine: 3800cc, flat-six, 400bhp @ 7400rpm, 325lb ft @ 5600
Manual 4.5secs
PDK 4.3secs
Sport Chrono Pack 4.1secs
Manual 14.4secs
PDK 13.9secs
Sport Chrono 13.6secs
Top Speed
Manual 304kph
PDK 302kph
Fuel consumption
Manual 9.5L/100
PDK 8.7L/100
Transmission: seven-speed auto (PDK) or seven-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Weight: 1415kg

Photos supplied

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