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Porsche 911 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
9
It’s a turbo Porsche but not as we know it. Send your thank you letters to environmental groups.

Porsche buyers may want to make a rather large donation to Greenpeace or any other environmental cause of their choice next time they’re feeling generous.

Had the greenies not been trying to hug trees and save the planet, the most affordable Porsche 911 may never have been this quick.

The driving force behind the rapid introduction of tiny three-cylinder turbo engines powering hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf is the same reason the new Porsche 911 just got a whole lot faster.

As car makers chase more stringent fuel economy and emissions standards set by the European Union (in Australia, we’re about six years behind the rest of the world when it comes to these regulations) they have reduced the size of their engines and added turbocharger technology.

This enables modern fuel misers to run on fumes in traffic and then provide a power boost when the driver wants to use more of mother earth’s finite resources.

When the new Porsche 911 is tested in laboratory conditions -- the same as every other car on the road -- its fuel economy figures come close to that of a Toyota Corolla.

Drive this car like a Porsche and, if you listen carefully, you’ll be able to hear them drill for more oil in the distance

But as we all now know, fuel rating labels are nothing but a comparative guide only.

Drive sedately, and you can match or beat the claim on the label. But drive this car like a Porsche and, if you listen carefully, you’ll be able to hear them drill for more oil in the distance.

Despite the incredible and worthy gains in engine efficiency we cannot escape one simple fact: you need to burn a certain amount of fossil fuel if you want to move a mass of a certain size, weight and shape at a certain velocity.

Do buyers care? Aside from the 911’s famously small fuel tanks, not a jot.

If you can afford a Porsche you can afford to fuel it. Some buyers probably prefer higher fuel prices because then they don’t have to queue for as long at the bowser.

And so this, then, is how we ended up with the best 911 Carrera ever built.

Porsche chased a fuel economy number and the boffins in white coats found a way to turn on the taps whenever the driver feels the urge.

Some purists will be up in arms that this is not a “real” 911. They said the same thing when Porsche switched from air-cooled to water-cooled engines in 1998, and again when Porsche adopted electric power steering in 2012.

But make no mistake, this generation 911 will go down as one of the most significant changes in the iconic sportscar’s 53-year history.

On the road

It’s hard to write a Porsche 911 review without sounding like you’re gushing because, as much as it sounds like a cliché, and as much as Australians love to cut down a tall poppy, the cars really are that good.

So let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

The road noise from the tyres is way too loud. I SAID THE ROAD NOISE FROM THE TYRES IS WAY TOO LOUD.

That’s because they are wider than before, and more tread means more tyre roar. It’s a trade-off for the good road-holding, Porsche says.

And the options list is expensive. To make your new 911 sound like a Porsche, buyers must pay an extra $5890 for a louder exhaust and discreet pipes that pump engine sound into the cabin.

Do you have a steep driveway? Your car will cost an extra $5490 for a lift kit that raises the front end so you don’t scrape the bumper.

Radar cruise control -- to maintain a safe gap between the slow coaches ahead of you -- is an option for the first time on a 911 and a not-so-cheap $4690.

Despite all the turbo plumbing, it sounds as pure as a 911 always has

The standard brakes are bigger than before and have a larger “swept” area, so the car stops better. But if you want the absolute best brakes money can buy -- the carbon-ceramic brakes that F1 cars use -- they will cost $19,990, or the price of a new small car.

With all the doom and gloom out of the way, it was time to get acquainted with the new model, identified by subtle changes to front-end appearance and sharp new tail-lights and a vertical air vent grille in the rear wing.

First: the engine. It’s smaller in capacity than before, but has more grunt. Despite all the turbo plumbing, it sounds as pure as a 911 always has.

There is a disclaimer, however. All the cars on the media preview drive were equipped with the optional sports exhaust, so we have no idea what a standard car sounds like. We’re told by those in the know the standard exhaust is a little muted.

Contrary to perception there is no delay in power delivery (or “turbo lag” in the vernacular) when driven normally.

But if you occasionally find yourself in a hurry, you do want the best gadget on any new car in the past decade: a “push to pass” button on the steering wheel.

Porsche doesn’t call it that, of course. They call it a “response” button and it’s part of the optional $4790 Sport Chrono pack that also includes a stopwatch on the dashboard and a launch control option.

Just like in Formula One, this gives you 20 seconds of extra boost so there is no delay while waiting for the twin turbos to get up to speed.

The dearer Carrera S packs more power but when dawdling you can’t pick the difference between the two cars

At the press of a button, the gearbox shifts down a few cogs and the revs rise to between 3000 and 4000rpm, the turbos spool up and the 911 is ready to pass a caravan. Or head to the next planet.

Can you leave the button on? No. Can you trick it by leaving your finger pressed on it all the time? No.

But damn, it works just fine as the maker intended.

The throttle response is smooth (peak torque is at an incredibly low 1700rpm). Despite now being turbocharged, the 911 engine still loves to rev (to 7500rpm).

And that was just in the regular $223,750 Carrera, the so-called “entrée” to the 911 range.

The dearer Carrera S packs more power but when dawdling you can’t pick the difference between the two cars. The extra grunt really only comes into its own on a race track.

If the budget stretches to about $260,000, the Carrera S is worth considering. Porsche owners agree. The dearer car accounts for two out of three 911s sold.

Either way, this so-called “regular” 911 turbo with lower-case “t” is as fast as the Turbo with a capital “T” flagship was 10 years ago.  That’s progress.

Verdict

Purists will say it’s not a real 911 now that it has a smaller, turbocharged engine. But it is in fact the biggest leap forward in the 911’s 53-year history. Amen.

Is the new 911's extra turbo thrust enough to protect its pedigree? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here for more 2016 Porsche 911 price and spec info

Pricing Guides

$164,725
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$0
Highest Price
$329,450

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Carrera 3.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $141,460 – 162,580 2016 Porsche 911 2016 Carrera Pricing and Specs
Carrera 4 3.0L, ULP, 7 SP MAN $153,230 – 176,110 2016 Porsche 911 2016 Carrera 4 Pricing and Specs
Carrera 4 Black Edition 3.4L, PULP, 7 SP MAN $143,880 – 165,440 2016 Porsche 911 2016 Carrera 4 Black Edition Pricing and Specs
Carrera 4 GTS 3.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $187,550 – 215,600 2016 Porsche 911 2016 Carrera 4 GTS Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9