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Week at the wheel: Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

Week at the wheel: Porsche 911 Carrera
Porsche makes its new 911 faster, more efficient, better looking and better built - what's not to like?


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| Week at the Wheel | Porsche 911 Carrera |

Overall rating: 5 5 5 5 5

We constantly bang on about consummate all-rounders, whether it be lightly warmed hot hatches, dynamically superior SUVs or frugal and fast executive saloons, but this time the hyperbole could just be justified. Relatively practical (2+2 seating and a decent boot), great to look at (inside and out), excellent to drive (for both the experienced and novice) and exotic enough to feel special (but also sensible enough to blend in when needed) the new Porsche 911 really does tick the boxes. In fact we'd wager that, whatever your needs in a sportscar, the 911 is good enough to satisfy every single one of them.

Key Facts

Model tested: Porsche 911 Carrera
Pricing: £71,449 (£85,845 as tested)
Engine: 3.4-litre flat-six petrol
Transmission: seven-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: BMW 6 Series, Mercedes-Benz SL, Aston Martin Vantage
CO2 emissions: 212g/km
Combined economy: 31.4mpg
Top speed: 180mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Power: 350hp at 7,400rpm
Torque: 390Nm at 5,600rpm

Inside & Out: 5 5 5 5 5

As you'd expect, the new Porsche 911 looks a lot like the old one; in fact at first glance it's hard to notice the difference. Look closer though and it's clear this latest example is lower, wider and on the whole is actually a much more balanced shape. With the optional 20-inch wheels and lowered suspension on our example it certainly looked the part, straddling the fine line between understated class and muscular aggression that 911s always do so well.

The new 911 doesn't disappoint inside either. The new centre console rising into the dashboard makes perfect ergonomic sense, while the switchgear and material quality is peerless. It's not as visually exciting as an Aston Martin, but everything works with a reassuring solidity, and being able to toggle between different digital displays on the third instrument dial is a work of genius.

Ride & Handling: 5 5 5 5 5

Early 911s have something of a reputation as being widow-makers, the engine slung out over the rear axle certainly not suggesting perfect weight distribution. But with each iteration it becomes more and more usable, and with this latest example all you need is a little bit of trust. Have the faith (or leave the Porsche Stability Management system turned on) and the 911 will grip, and grip and grip.

Of course you have to be aware of the physics - this is not a car to stamp on the anchors of mid-corner - but if you feed the power in slowly as you pass the apex, the Porsche simply squats down on its rear haunches and fires you down the road without a second thought. And everything that is happening beneath you and behind you is relayed right to the driver without a moment's delay - this is a car that talks back to you with every input. On our car it was undoubtedly helped by the inclusion of the optional Torque Vectoring system, limited slip differential and to some degree the active engine mounts. But even without this trick kit you'll likely be surprised at how easy it is to drive this car quickly.

Our example even came with the Ceramic Composite brakes (a costly £5,787 option), which proved absolutely unflappable on the road - as you'd expect. While we can see the point on the higher-power models, we're not convinced that they're required on this 'entry-level' 911 and we'd be inclined to spend the money elsewhere. We'd probably use some of it to add the sports chassis, which lowers the car by 20mm, but still manages to provide the 911 with a compliant-enough ride to make it a superb long distance tourer. Of course the nose bobs up and down over motorway imperfections and larger lumps, but there's no crash or bang and the 911 remains resolutely refined in this department.

That's helped by the excellent driving position and consistent control weighting across the board. And though many have lamented the inclusion of electric steering on this 911, claiming vital steering feel is lost, we'd be inclined to say that in the real world, to most drivers using this car on the road, the difference is so small it's not worth worrying about. In short, this particular 911 proves to be an absolute tool, even for the less experienced or gifted drivers who get the chance to spend some time behind the wheel.

Engine & Transmission: 4 4 4 4 4

Let's get this out of the way first - this 911 heralds the introduction of the seven-speed manual gearbox. We can remember when a six-speed offering was revolutionary, and now there's an extra ratio to contend with. At launch the shift action was criticised, reviewers claiming it had lost the sweetness of the previous generation's six-speed.

And you know what, they're probably right. This transmission isn't the delight the six-speed unit was, the slicing between cogs not quite as smooth as it was before. It's especially prevalent in the fifth and sixth gear shift plane, where anything but the most decisive and positive movement between the two results in the lever catching on seventh's opening. And if like us you occasionally block-shift, changing from third to top you'll end up frustrated, an electronic lock-out meaning you need to be in fifth or sixth before attempting to engage seventh.

But gearbox aside it's the engine that really matters with this (and indeed any other) 911, and thankfully there's no disappointment here. Peak power isn't made until 7,400rpm and it's true that, while the sharp throttle response masks some lack of low-down urge it's not especially willing below 4,500rpm. That does make it easy to drive slowly though, and the 911 is certainly civilised - and for want of a better phrase, tractable - at low speeds.

But start to explore the upper half of the rev-range and the 911 suddenly wakes up, the rev counter needle zinging its way round the dial in rapid fashion. It's certainly addictive, and with the Sports Exhaust button depressed (as it was almost by default during our time with the car) we found we spent much of our time enjoying the wonderfully cultured roar the flat-six could be persuaded into making. And with the 0-62mph sprint being dispensed with in less than five seconds, and a top speed of 180mph, there's no need to feel short-changed if you can't actually afford the more powerful Carrera S instead - this standard car is more than enough for our public roads.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 4 4 4 4 4

Stop-start used to be preserve of eco-friendly superminis hunting down the lowest emissions and highest economy, but this latest 911 has jumped on the same bandwagon. The result is a sports car that is now much more efficient than before - achieving over 31mpg on the combined cycle and emitting less than 212g/km. To put that into perspective the old model managed 27.4mpg and 242g/km - and in the age of ever more expensive petrol and rising road tax related to CO2 emissions that can only be applauded.

The £71,449 starting price isn't cheap, even when you consider this car's genuine supercar-style ability, and Porsche expect owners to personalise their models with some expensive options. Certainly it's not hard to bump the price up considerably - our example featured over £14,000 of extras and was by no means 'pimped' by the press office. But that's part and parcel of Porsche ownership, as are the excellent resale values, which at least sweeten the slightly bitter pill of paying for it in the first place.

Graeme Lambert - 10 Jul 2012    - Porsche road tests
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2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Image by Porsche.


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