Porsche 911 coupe - Engines, drive & performance
The Porsche 911 is still one of the very best sports cars on sale, regardless of which model you choose
The Porsche 911 has a long history of being rewarding, engaging and great fun to drive, with more modern iterations refining this experience to suit drivers of all abilities. The fundamental design of the 911 is idiosyncratic: it has a flat-six petrol engine mounted in the back of the car, rather than in the front or the middle, as per most conventional sports cars. Though this layout sounds counter-intuitive, Porsche has refined the recipe to provide great traction in all conditions, light, communicative steering, and huge reserves of grip – especially in four-wheel drive Carrera 4S form.
The latest 911 is the best it’s ever been from behind the wheel. It’s still the benchmark in its class for enthusiastic drivers, with supercar-rivalling performance, reassuringly predictable handling and remarkable on-track ability. Rivals like the Audi R8 and Aston Martin Vantage may go about their business with more drama, but the 911 remains top of the class as an all-rounder. The GTS offers a more focused driving experience than the entry-level Carrera models, while the Turbo versions are hugely capable supercars with enough comfort for cross-country roadtrips. The pinnacle of the range is the GT3 version, which will dismantle almost any other rival around a challenging race track, but this does give it a hard-edged feel on the road.
Porsche 911 petrol engine
Launched slightly after the more potent 'S' versions, the standard Carrera still produces an impressive 380bhp from its turbocharged 3.0-litre flat-six petrol engine. Coupled with the 911's famous traction - thanks to the rear-mounted engine pushing the tyres into the tarmac - it can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds, with the four-wheel drive Carrera 4 taking 4.4 seconds.
Both the Porsche 911 Carrera S and Carrera 4S use the same 444bhp twin-turbocharged flat-six petrol engine. It propels the rear-wheel drive Carrera S from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds, while the Carrera 4S takes just one tenth less at 3.6 seconds. Top speed is 190mph for the 4S, or 191mph for the S, and careful tuning means it sounds more exciting than before.
When fitted with the optional Sports Chrono Package, 0-62mph times for the Carrera models drop by two tenths of a second across the board, thanks to a launch control system and faster gearshifts for the eight-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox. The S and 4S are now available with a seven-speed manual gearbox. In one way this doesn't make much sense - it's 0.7 seconds slower from 0-62mph - but there's an undeniable boost to the interaction between the car and driver.
Improvements to the manual gearbox mean it has a crisper feel than before, and as in the Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster, software perfectly blips the throttle when you downshift in the Sport or Sport Plus drive modes. Yet it's not these objective improvements that matter most but the subjective change in feel the manual gives the 992. From behind the wheel it feels like a more traditional 911, and to our ears it even sounds better and more satisfying as you accelerate through the gears.
The performance on tap from the 3.0-litre flat-six is fantastic, regardless of which of the car’s eight gears is in use. There’s plenty of low-down and mid-range punch, while revving the engine out results in truly rapid progress and a fantastic exhaust note. In fact, the performance on show is akin to that found in the previous-generation 911 GTS.
Unless you regularly tackle snowy alpine roads, the two-wheel drive Carrera S has more than enough grip and traction on offer in all conditions. Less weight and a lower asking price mean choosing this 911 is easy. It also has a clever 'Wet' driving mode, that makes the two-wheel drive S feel almost as capable as the four-wheel drive 4S when squeezing the throttle out of sodden corners.
The GTS is a compromise between the Carrera and Turbo models. It’s powered by the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine as the lesser models but has an increased power output of 473bhp. 0-62mph takes just 3.3 seconds in the GTS when equipped with four-wheel drive; the rear-wheel-drive model is just one tenth of a second slower.
Porsche has sharpened the suspension of the GTS, too, giving the ride a slightly firmer feel than the Carrera S. While it’s not uncomfortable, it can feel slightly unsettled on rough road surfaces. However, it's a small sacrifice given the GTS feels noticeably sharper to drive than a regular model, with astonishing levels of grip in corners and secure body control. It’s unfazed by rapid changes of direction on the road, with communicative steering that makes it a very engaging car to drive.
As the current halo model of the 911 range, the Turbo S betters the performance figures of the Carrera models by a considerable margin. It features a larger engine, at 3.8 litres, that produces 641bhp and is capable of getting the car from 0-62mph in just 2.7 seconds.
The current 911 range uses electric power-steering that offers best-in-class communication, consistency and accuracy; placing the car exactly where you want is easy and the driver is never left wondering how much grip is available. The steering is also quicker than before, meaning the car feels a bit more lively than the outgoing model.
Fitted with optional PASM adaptive dampers, the 911 deals admirably with flowing, bumpy roads like those found in the UK, seemingly ignoring rough road surfaces. This system can be softened for comfy motorway cruising or tightened for harder cornering, but we are fond of the default setting which strikes a happy balance.
As is tradition, the 911 GT3 goes without a turbocharger in favour of a naturally aspirated 4.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine that revs to a scintillating 9,000rpm. It officially gets from 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds with a PDK gearbox but a manual is also available. It has a 198mph top speed.
Power is only up by 10bhp over the previous GT3 but it wasn’t the priority in the development of the latest version. Instead, Porsche has made radical changes to the chassis and aerodynamics, and the result is a staggering 17-second improvement on its time around the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit. A huge rear wing with 'swan neck' style struts helps the GT3 gain 50 to 150% more downforce, depending how it's adjusted by the owner.
The most notable single change is a double-wishbone front suspension setup, for the first time in a 911. This elevates front grip to a new level and has allowed Porsche to make the suspension much stiffer, without ruining ride comfort. It exudes stability and confidence on track, with gear changes that are so fast and smooth, they allow the driver to shift in a corner without upsetting the car's balance. Optional carbon-ceramic brakes provide incredible stopping power with feel. Everything comes together to make the GT3 the closest thing to a racecar without actually buying one.
Which Is Best?
- Name2dr PDK
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- Name2dr PDK
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- NameS 2dr PDK
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto