How do you change a 48-year old tradition? By not changing it! It took a fast left-hander at the Yas Marina circuit for me to realise that. Working furiously at the gearbox with five more gears still to go, I booted the throttle while the buttons on Sport Plus and the sports exhaust on the central tunnel were lit. Then a slight squirm, a wiggle and the vehicle threatened to go sideways. Bosch’s finest nanny controller stayed untouched and yet the 911’s 20-inch rear wheels broke traction. In an instant, I applied corrective lock for the fear of being thrown out of the train made up by three brand-new seventh generation Porsche 911 Carrera Ss being led by a Porsche Boxster S at the front. The 911 twitched, the Porsche’s new torque vectoring function kicking in, and it fell back in line before our test driver could even catch a glimpse of all the action in his rear-view mirror. I breathed heavily for the next few seconds as I tried to gather what had just happened – the 911’s wizardry had saved me a lot of coin, something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do in, say, the original, Butzi-designed car. That and the fact that the 100 mm between the two wheel wells isn’t extra in a 911, it is a concept-defying moment in the near-five decade history of the 911.
Welcome then, to what Michael Mauer, design chief at Porsche, says is just the third-ever all-new 911, even though it’s been around for seven generations. Still scratching your head? Well, if you look at the evolution of the species (and a successful one at that) you could define them into the category which made the 911 with the addition of five mph bumpers, then the entry of the 993, complete with flush bumpers et al and then this, the 991. A journalist even quizzed Michael on the logic behind the 991 tag, especially since the last was the 997. So isn’t 998, logical? He quipped, ‘We wanted to throw the competition and your lot off the trail by calling it the 991'. Clever indeed! But is the new 911 all that clever, is it better than ever before and most importantly, is it the best 911 ever?
To begin with, the 991 is as soul changing as the water-cooled engine for the 996 was. With the basic floorpan, doors, engine and luggage compartment lids made of aluminium, while the rest being high strength steel and magnesium, the car has become a potpourri of different metals and materials. As a result, it is 25 per cent stiffer than the last car, and the last car was pretty stiff to begin with.
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