Sneak Preview: 2012 Porsche 911

Exit the 997, enter the 991. The time for a new generation of Porsche's iconic, rear-engine sports car is almost here. On September 1, Porsche will release the first images of the brand-new 911, and two weeks later, the car will debut at the Frankfurt Show. In January 2012, the newcomer goes on sale in major European markets, with sales in North America to start the following month.

Of course, there's more to come. In December 2012, Porsche intends to launch the four-wheel drive versions. Again, there will be coupes and cabriolets, both as Carrera and Carrera 4S. For 2013, Porsche is readying the next 911 Turbo coupe to be followed the next year by the widebody whaletail softtop. Still in 2013, we will see the new 911 GT3, powered by a high-revving normally-aspirated flat six - probably the last of its kind before the all-new downsized turbocharged boxer engines come on stream in 2015. Late in 2014, the 911 Targa should appear -- it switches to the original removable roof panel scheme. Also planned but not yet confirmed are the new 991 Speedster; various turbo-look versions; and the top-of-the-line, rear-wheel-drive-only 911 GT2 RS.

The motivating forces
The sole available 911 engines for the first 18 months of production are a pair of upgraded flat sixes. The C2 and C4 will be powered by a 3.4-liter, direct-injected unit rated at 350 hp and 280 pound-feet; the S models will be fitted with a 3.8-liter engine good for 400 hp and 324 pound-feet. Both feature Variocam plus (adjustable camshafts), switchable manifolds, and two-stage free-flow exhausts.

How quick? How fast?
In combination with a 40- to 110-pound reduction in weight (depending on model and equipment), the next-generation 911 promises to be an even livelier machine. The manual-transmission C2 sprints from 0-62 mph in 4.8 seconds and tops 181 mph. The PDK-equipped model knocks 0.2 second off the acceleration time. The corresponding numbers for the C2S are 4.5 seconds and 189 mph. Again, the PDK variant is 0.2 second quicker off the mark. It has clocked an impressive 7:40-minute lap on the Nurburgring Nordschleife, thereby beating its predecessor by 13 seconds.

Updates to both transmissions
There is news on both the PDK and the manual transmission front. For the former, the good news is that the awkward thumb switches for the PDK are finally dropped in favor of a more intuitive paddle-shift operation. But the bigger change concerns the manual transmission, which is now a seven-speed. Where is top gear? All the way past sixth, a dogleg move away to the right.

Design by Michael Mauer
The main eye-catcher is of course the advanced cab-forward design, which helps to create more separation between the 911 and the Boxster/Cayman. Penned by Michael Mauer (previously at Mercedes-Benz and Saab), the new-look Porsche is scheduled to retain its revised proportions for two seven-year life cycles. Although the evolutionary silhouette still shouts 911, the wheelbase goes up by 4 inches and the overall length increases by 2 inches while the overhangs are cut by 1.3 inches in the front and half an inch in the back. The 991 is also half an inch lower than the 997, and if you order the S model and the sports suspension, the ride height drops another 0.4 inch and 0.8 inch respectively. Although the width is unchanged, the front fenders were flared to create that coveted Coke-bottle plan view. The active rear spoiler has been redesigned completely for improved efficiency and a less cluttered appearance when extended. At night, unique LED headlamp treatments make it much easier to tell the Carrera S and the turbo apart from the base model. The convertible top still looks as if it were made of soft fabric, but it actually consists of three semi-rigid lightweight panels coated with a novel furry material that conceals the cutlines. The optional sunroof is a so-called top-glider, a large tinted glass or painted aluminum panel that comes to rest on top of the roof rather than between roof and headliner.

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