2012 Porsche 911

Carrera Black Edition RWD 2-Dr Coupe H6 man trans

2012 porsche 911 Reviews and News

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet Front Left View
As goes the 911 coupe, so goes the convertible. The all-new 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet is longer, lighter, and more powerful than its predecessor. While it retains all the unmistakable DNA like the rear-mounted flat-six and evolutionary styling that still pays homage to the 1965 original, there's no mistaking this 911 for any previous generation. With sophisticated suspension technology and controversial electric power steering, the 2012 911 Cabriolet is more refined than ever and the difference is palpable.

The totally solid, completely rigid, hard-as-a-rock, soft top

While the 911 Cabriolet has the look of a softtop, there are actually four rigid magnesium panels that define the shape of the polyacrylic fabric outer shell. The lightweight metal sheets make for a smoother roofline than the typical softtop with fabric stretched between slender bows, and with the roof up, the cabriolet in profile looks more like the coupe than ever before. The seamless, rigid roof also pays dividends in cabin quietness and aerodynamic drag.
If you're anything like us, at this point you're wondering, "Why didn't Porsche just make a hardtop?" A true folding hard top would require a much more robust structure and far more moving parts, making it unacceptably heavy. As Porsche executed it, the top weighs roughly 100 pounds; a hardtop would, at a minimum, double that. Additionally, a fanatical Porsche roof engineer contended that many cabriolet buyers appreciate the characteristic look of a contrasting fabric roof.
Of course, the convertible identity is even stronger once you've opened the roof, a process that takes just 13 seconds at the push of a button. A new power-operated wind deflector flips open at the push of a second button, raising a mesh screen over the second-row seats and behind the front passengers' headrests to calm cabin turbulence when the rear seats aren't occupied. With the top down, 911 aficionados will recognize that the rear-end hump hiding the roof is no longer as pronounced as on the last-generation car. That look is more of a visual trick than an actual dimensional change. Instead of lowering the height of the decklid, Porsche engineers have raised the beltline to compensate for larger wheels, streamlining the bodysides and the rear end in the process.

Longstanding traditions and new realities

Porsche's normally aspirated, horizontally opposed six-cylinders are slightly up in power to 350 hp in the Carrera and 400 hp in the Carrera S. At the same time, they're also more efficient by about 15 percent. But those numbers don't communicate how exceptional these engines are. As other sports cars adopt turbochargers to boost fuel economy, the Porsche flat-six is more rewarding than ever. The engine is vigorous, silky, and unrelenting as it pulls to the power peak at 7400 rpm and it sounds fantastic whether or not you opt for the sport exhaust.
The seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic can still claim to be among the best transmissions in the business, with shifts that are blisteringly quick and masterfully precise. The seven-speed manual delivers equally satisfying action, but it takes some time to pick up on the spacing of the four side-by-side gates. Distinguishing between third and fifth gear when downshifting from seventh is particularly challenging. Nevertheless, we think it's great that Porsche continues to innovate with a technology that so many automakers are leaving for dead.
In his first drive of the 2012 911 coupe, West Coast editor Jason Cammisa lamented the lack of steering feedback from the 911's first-ever electric power steering setup. We'll use our first drive of the cabriolet drive as a second opportunity to echo that sentiment. While the effort and speed and responsiveness of the steering are all above reproach, on gritty roads, over broken payment, and at the limit of adhesion, the always smooth steering would have you believe you're driving on glass.
The suspension is similarly misleading -- but that's a compliment, not a complaint. Loaded up with big-money options, the 911 rides as comfortably as some luxury cars, erasing road imperfections without feeling squishy soft. Dive into a corner, and the 911 cabriolet remains flat, composed, and graceful. A no-options 911 Carrera has a fantastic ride-handling balance as well, but the split personality is most prevalent when the car is equipped with active dampers and the new $3160 Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control available on the Carrera S. With hydraulic actuators acting on antiroll bar at each corner of the car, the system virtually eliminates lean in corners without inducing side-to-side rocking over imperfect straights. These technologies allow Porsche to sprinkle its press materials with oxymorons like "sportier, more comfortable suspension" without fear of being called out, because Porsche isn't bluffing. The Stuttgart automaker has truly stretched the bandwidth of the 911, building in touring-car refinement without compromising the sports-car performance. It's impressive, yet to the driver who cherishes the 911's legacy, refinement also feels like dilution. While Porsche engineers can point to quicker acceleration times and increased torsional rigidity, the 911 is losing that edgy character that appeals to a special set of drivers.
All of this likely means little to the 911 cabriolet customer. The convertible has always been the 911 for a softer set of customers, and from that perspective, the 2012 model is the ultimate folding-roof 911. It is exceptionally accessible with a phenomenal ride, a remarkably quiet cabin, and a sumptuous cockpit. The 911 is still an athlete, too, with an impressively rigid structure, sophisticated transmission, and lively engines. The net effect is that the 2012 911 cabriolet caters to the L.A. commuter crowd without abandoning nearly fifty years of sports-car heritage.

Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet

On sale: May 2012
Base price: $94,650/$108,950 (Carrera/Carrera S)
Engines: 3.4L flat-six, 350 hp, 288 lb-ft; 3.8L flat-six, 400 hp, 325 lb-ft
Transmissions: 7-speed manual, 7-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
EPA Mileage: 20/29 mpg (est., Carrera)
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Front Right Side View
We can't look at any icon without understanding why it became an icon in the first place. Famously difficult to drive but incomparably rewarding to master, a Porsche 911 is the furthest thing from your loyal Labrador retriever: this bitch bites back. The 911 is always in charge, teaching its driver how to behave and not the other way around. The monster in the back of every 911 is loosely caged, ripping at its engine mounts, doing everything it can to pass the front wheels. The 911 is nearly fifty years old, but we know of no class-action lawsuits or Nader crusades to kill it. Why? Because everyone knows exactly what they're getting with a Porsche 911.
Porsche's engineers tried to snuff out the 911 in 1978 by replacing it with the 928, a front-engine, V-8-powered poodle that proved to be too patrician for Porsche fans. The 911 got a stay of execution, but the proverbial pitchforks came back out when the fifth-generation car debuted for 1999. Unlike the 928, it had a proper flat six dangling out back, but it was water-cooled. Worse, the wetted-down monster had been drugged: soft chassis tuning induced understeer to keep it in check.
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Front Left View
By the time the sixth-generation 911 arrived for 2005, Porsche had returned to form. Here was a 911 that felt like a 911 should feel but with a full safety net of stability aids. Turn off the electronics, though, and the 911 would still bite you; the outgoing car is a true 911 in every way -- a little scary, a lot capable, and a complete match for the thrill of the old air-cooled 911s.
Porsche's sports cars have distinguished themselves from every other car in the world by communicating to your fingertips every little thing the front end does. A dip, a hole, a camber change, the curled edges of a red Japanese maple leaf -- you are blissfully aware of precisely everything that a 911's front wheels roll over. More important, every steering input you make is met, a fraction of a second later, with an equal and opposite tug at the wheel caused by the monster fighting your every move. The outgoing 911, inparticular, is a glorious departure from modern cars' ridiculous obsession with beating their predecessors and competitors around the Nuerburgring. Sure, the 2011 911 is fast as hell around that and every other racetrack, but that's not what makes it so good. We love the 911 mostly because it's the only car in the world that delivers supercar performance with sports car levels of driver involvement.
For 2012, there's an all-new 911, which Porsche refers to internally as the 991. Driving it is not appreciably different from driving a Boxster or an Audi R8 or a Ferrari 458 -- or other cars whose rear wheels bear the majority of their weight. The 911's even greater rearward weight distribution means that, like its predecessors, it has the traction to rocket out of corners like no other two-wheel-drive machine on the planet. Thanks in part to a computer-controlled adaptive suspension, computer-controlled variable-rate antiroll bars, computer-controlled magnetorheological engine mounts, computer-controlled electric power steering, and a computer-controlled limited-slip differential, the new tech-filled car is easily the fastest 911 ever on a back road and certainly around the Nuerburgring. It's forgiving in ways that no other rear-engine car has ever been and few mid-engine cars have managed. Its ride is quiet and supple like a luxury car's, it has a handsome interior with a full complement of gadgets and gizmos, and it's beautiful unlike any previous 911. But it sure doesn't feel like a 911 from behind the wheel.
As we described in detail a few months back [Driven, November 2011], Porsche's new flagship is 90 percent new. It's an inch longer, but it rides on a wheelbase that's been stretched by 3.9 inches. That means shorter overhangs (especially in front, which reduces scraping on driveways) and a smoother ride. A substantial increase in front-wheel track helps stability and allows a broader-feeling cabin. The body includes a significant amount of aluminum, and it's not only stiffer than the outgoing car, it's also lighter. Obsession with light weight permeated the 911's entire development -- the engineers boast of weight savings everywhere from the body panels to things you'd never think of, like the motors of the engine-cooling fans.
An overall weight reduction is especially impressive given the new 911's more opulent interior. In the Panamera-style center console, ergonomics take a back seat to design, as some buttons are hard to see or reach. Speaking of the back seat, the longer wheelbase hasn't made it big enough to actually fit adult humans -- a quarter inch of extra legroom means that the 911's back seat went from being almost totally useless to being pretty much totally useless.
The front buckets feel wider and more comfortable than the previous 911's seats, however, and both the parking brake and the tilting-and-telescoping steering column are now electrically actuated. The overlapping round gauges, first seen two generations ago, return in the new car with a Panamera-style TFT screen in the second-from-right spot that can display audio, trip, or navigation functions. There are familiar buttons near the shifter that adjust throttle response, stability control, exhaust and intake sound level, and suspension firmness.
We sampled both optional stereos, a 445-watt Bose and an 821-watt Burmester, and each is capable of turning the 911's cabin into a rolling discotheque. Exceptionally quiet road- and wind-noise levels don't hurt, but neither system is powerful enough to drown out the titillating engine noise coming from the back. An optional "Sound Symposer" uses the parcel shelf behind the rear seats like a big speaker to amplify the flat-six engine's hallowed intake honk. Add in the optional sport exhaust, and the engine screams with the most guttural wail this side of a GT3.
A new version of Porsche's seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic is optional; the standard transmission is, well, a standard -- and the world's first seven-speed manual at that. A clever lockout mechanism prevents accidental fourth-to-seventh upshifts, and the extralong cruising gear makes for quieter and more economical highway driving. Porsche chose a slightly shorter top gear than the PDK's, so downshifts aren't required on slight grades. In fact, there's plenty of reserve power to climb even substantial hills at highway speeds in seventh gear.
Shifting, however, is one of the best parts of driving this 911. The pedals are slightly offset to the passenger side and the heavy clutch has a long stroke, but the shifter's gates are well defined and the ratios tightly spaced. The clutch has a positive engagement point that practically forces you to be smooth. Despite its big displacement, the 3.8-liter six wants the needle to be well past the tach's halfway point to deliver full thrust: maximum torque isn't available until 5600 rpm. There's a big ramp-up in thrust as the revs rise, and whether you're dawdling along or dusting Toyota Priuses, the powertrain is nothing short of magnificent.
The PDK works well, trading the manual's pops and backfires during shifts for uninterrupted forward momentum, knocking 0.2 second off the manual's 4.3-second 0-to-60-mph run, according to Porsche. Equipped with the Sport Chrono package, it's 0.2 second quicker yet again, thanks to a clutch-dump launch-control function that, despite an absence of wheel hop, is so brutal we can't imagine actual owners ever using it.
We drove only the 3.8-liter Carrera S with all of the electronic doodads. The base Carrera model is 0.3 second slower in each configuration, making do with a 3.4-liter engine in place of the old 3.6. It, too, revs to 7800 glorious rpm, and it, too, makes more power than the engine it replaces. Numerous changes, including standard start/stop, promise dramatically improved fuel economy numbers for all new 911 models -- even though the outgoing car was already at the top of its class in efficiency.
Although that's an admirable side note, no one buys a Porsche 911 because of its EPA numbers. And while we'd argue that you probably shouldn't buy a 911 because of its Nuerburgring lap time, either, we should mention that Porsche's quoted 7-minute, 40-second figure means that the Carrera S is just as fast as the last GT3 and Turbo.
Clearly, the new 911's handling limits are considerably higher than before, and it demonstrates body control, balance, and stability that all rank among the best we've ever experienced from any car. While assaulting a technical back road at speeds that would have resulted in an extended stay at the local hospital in any previous 911, our only concern was staying out of the local jail. The car will not snap oversteer -- instead, the rear tires break away smoothly and progressively and only if you beg them to do so. Even then, the new 911 settles into a four-wheel drift, something old 911s would do for only a split second before exploding violently into oversteer and attempting to mow down every car in a quarter-mile radius. (Man, we loved that.) The 911 doesn't resist turn-in (its computers can brake a rear wheel to help initiate rotation), it doesn't get squirrely at high speeds, and it won't get angry if you make a mistake.
In fact, the 2012 Porsche 911 has no temper at all. The rear end never feels like it's going to come unstuck. And the steering? Well, it never feels like much at all. As a result, the new 911 doesn't really feel like a 911. For that, we can blame European-market customers and press, who railed that the last car was nervous at top speed. They weren't wrong -- it was -- but that problem is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Even Porsche points out that less than ten percent of autobahns now have no speed limit. The company also admits that the United States is "easily the most important market" for the 911.
We don't have autobahns here. At our slow interstate speeds, modern cars are so incredibly capable and refined and removed that we eat food, apply makeup, and talk on the phone -- because we're bored. That's what makes the 911 great -- you actually have to work to keep the car on the straight and narrow. Or at least you used to.
If the 991 is the only 911 you've ever driven, you'll probably think it's the best Porsche ever -- and in many ways we agree. If, on the other hand, you reveled in the old 911's endless feedback; if you relished the thrill of taming a car that didn't really want to be tamed; if you loved the 911 precisely because it wasn't perfect; and, certainly, if you thought that the Porsche 911 was an icon that couldn't be improved and shouldn't be changed, then the 2012 Porsche 911 might not feel like that much of an icon to you.
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S
24-valve DOHC flat-6
DISPLACEMENT 3.8 liters (232 cu in)
POWER 400 hp @ 7400 rpm
TORQUE 325 lb-ft @ 5600 rpm
TRANSMISSIONS 7-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
DRIVE Rear-wheel
Electrically assisted
SUSPENSION, FRONT Strut-type, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR Multilink, coil springs
BRAKES Vented discs, ABS
TIRES Pirelli PZero
TIRE SIZE F, R 245/35YR-20, 295/30YR-20
L x W x H
176.8 x 71.2 x 51.0 in
TRACK F/R 60.6/59.7 in
WEIGHT 3120/3075 lb (PDK/manual)
FUEL MILEAGE 20/29 mpg (est.)
0-60 MPH 3.9/4.3 sec (PDK Sport Chrono/manual)
TOP SPEED 187/188 mph (PDK/manual)
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Aqua Blue Rear In Motion
The big existential question that Porsche surely asked itself when developing the new generation of 911 is: what is it that makes a car a Porsche 911? This is a question without a right or wrong answer -- it's a matter of perspective.
One suspects the marketing folks would say that it's a car with a curved roof line and round headlights, with a flat-six engine mounted behind the rear wheels and the ignition key located to the left of the steering wheel. A 911 is exquisitely well crafted and offers supercar performance with everyday usability, uncommon reliability, and unmatched fuel economy. A broad product portfolio-there were twenty-three variants of the last 911, not including transmission choice-helps it find home after expensive home, and a half-century history of constant evolution and racing provides a historical backdrop unlike any other sports car.
There's another view, of course -- the one from the driver's seat. From that perspective, the 911 is a pure sports car; a one-of-a-kind combination of modern-car refinement with old-school involvement, as engaging at 15 mph as it is stressful at 150. That it can achieve what supercars can achieve is the triumph of brilliant engineering overcoming a seemingly insurmountable design flaw: it is outspokenly and unabashedly rear-engined. From the parking spot to the flat-out Autobahn run, it never stops reminding its driver of the caged animal behind the rear wheels. The steering wheel bounds about nervously in the driver's hands, constantly reacting to the rear-mounted animal's every motion. The front end bobs up and down quickly -- a reminder that there's no engine there to dampen the suspension's motions -- and the front wheels follow every dip and groove and camber change, doing everything they can to get another inch further from the scary engine in back. All the while, the rear of the 911 dances around, bouncing left and right, as the animal tries to free itself from its mounts.
In the past, both of these views did indeed define a Porsche 911. Beginning February 4, 2012, that's no longer the case. The day the 991-series 911 goes on sale, the marketing view becomes the only view. The 991 is, from that view, the best 911 Porsche has ever made.
As an everyday car capable of reality-bending performance, the two 2012 911 Carrera S models we drove (one with a manual transmission, one with a PDK dual-clutch automatic) easily trump the previous 911. Indeed, Porsche boasts that the S is capable of lapping the Nuerburgring Nordschleife in seven minutes, forty seconds, a full fourteen seconds faster than before. That's as fast as the old GT3. Using the PDK's launch control function, if you're devoid of mechanical sympathy, means you can ride along as the Carrera S catapults itself to 60 mph in as little as 3.9 seconds. (Or 4.3 seconds with the manual transmission.) And unlike previous 911s, this happens with no wheel hop at all.
Even the base model 911 Carrera puts down scorching numbers, according to its makers: the dash to 60 happens between 4.2 and 4.6 short seconds. And that despite a smaller engine than the outgoing 911: down 0.2 liters, the 3.4-liter flat-six makes five more hp (for a total of 350) and matches the old engine's 287 lb-ft of torque. The bump in specific output comes thanks to higher revs -- the rev limiter doesn't wake up until 7800 rpm. Torque peak moves up 1200 notches higher on the tachometer (to 5600 rpm) and the horsepower peak has been bumped by 900, to 7400 rpm.
The new Carrera S keeps its 3.8-liter displacement, but receives the same high-rpm breathing help and experiences the same rev bumps to make 15 more horsepower and 15 more lb-ft of torque than before, for totals of 400 and 325, respectively.
Either engine can be combined with a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or a seven-speed manual, the latter an industry first. Surprisingly, the seven-speed stick isn't at all confusing to use: a clever solenioid-based lockout prevents access to the seventh-gear gate unless you've already engaged fifth or sixth. And thanks to a strong spring that returns the shifter positively to the three-four gate, multiple-gear downshifts out of seventh gear are no problem. And those downshifts are surprisingly unnecessary: it's a long gear (70 mph is approximately 2000 rpm) but the 3.8's ample low-end torque means it'll climb significant grades at highway speeds.
As before, the PDK transmission provides seamless acceleration and follows driver's commands obediently via steering-wheel mounted shift paddles. The paddles are conventionally operated, meaning a tug at the right paddle requests an upshift; the left paddle is used for downshifts. Our pre-production PDK occasionally clunked into gear, but we suspect all the bugs will be sorted by the time the 911 hits dealers. No matter how good the PDK, our first choice for any 911 would be the stick shift, anyway: it's a pleasure to use, with light, accurate throws. And though the long-travel pedal is heavy and offset too far to the right, the clutch itself engages progressively and positively. Add in immediate throttle response, and, like the 997, the calibration of the manual transmission is one of the best parts of this Porsche.
The reason for a new set of transmissions is that the 911 has a revised powertrain layout. The rear wheels have been positioned approximately three inches closer to the engine, helping allow a nearly four-inch wheelbase stretch. The longer wheelbase was created for a number of reasons, including better ride quality, additional passenger compartment space, and for something Porsche's engineers referred to as "future powertrain needs." That could, of course, include a hybrid system. Remember, 911 platforms are used for a long time: the 997 was a small evolution of the 996's chassis, which was used for a total of thirteen model years. And with strict fuel economy regulations looming, Porsche might have no choice but to build a hybrid 911 in the future.
Don't worry about that for the time being.
Smartly, Porsche didn't extend the 991's body as much as it did the wheelbase (length is up by only an inch), meaning shorter overhangs. That means the 996/997's propensity to scrape the front end everywhere is greatly diminished. For the record, it also means that the 911's famously unusable rear seats remain famously unusable. At least for human-sized beings.
It's clear that reducing weight was a key mission in the development of the 991, and that extends from the use of aluminum in the body to tiny things like the front cooling fans, which are now 2 lb lighter. Overall, the 911 lost something like 90 lb. That, of course, combined with more power, a wider track, and a lower roof is a recipe for better performance.
And we haven't gotten to the spicy stuff yet: twenty-inch wheels, active engine mounts, active roll stabilization and adaptive suspension are all options-and they were all on the 911 we drove. To call the new car a quantum leap in vehicle dynamics is an understatement. The ride is smoother than many luxury cars, but there are no wasted body motions. Body roll has been all but completely eliminated, and brake dive and squat are fractions of what they were before. The 991 will understeer if you ask it to; it'll oversteer if you ask it to, but if left to its own devices, it remains neutral. This is something no 911 has ever done.
Grade changes, camber changes, throttle changes-nothing upsets the 991. It turns in with the immediacy of a mid-engine car, puts power down with the traction of a four-wheel-drive car, and reacts with the gentleness of a front-engine, rear-wheel drive car. Quick directional changes induce no drama, and never, ever, does the steering feel nervous.
And this is exactly why the purists are going to be upset.
The 911 doesn't drive like other 911s. You never, ever feel the engine's weight move the back end around. The front end doesn't bob, heave, or wander. And when you're cruising down a road, the steering wheel doesn't dance in your hand.
Oh, the steering is perfectly accurate, and its weighting is just like old 911's. Driven in anger, it starts to transmit information about the road surface -- but whereas the last 911's steering screamed at you, this one barely whispers.
What's to blame? Electric power steering. Porsche says that the EPS system weighs about as much as the old hydraulic system, and that it contributes to a one-third-MPG fuel savings. Clearly that's not sufficient reason to abandon the old hydraulic pump and lines, especially since the 911 was already the lightest and most fuel efficient vehicle in its class.
Poke the engineers long enough, and they'll admit that they received complaints about the 997's steering being too nervous. It transmitted too much, they say. Specifically, too much vibration and too many "disruptions." Those disruptions -- to the vehicle's path, presumably -- are bad engineering. They are old-fashioned and needed to be removed. Or at least that's what the engineers believed.
Uh oh, now we're having a Lost In Translation moment. What the engineers are calling "bad engineering" we refer to as "on-center steering feel." Not only do we think of it as a good thing, it was indeed the best thing about the last 911, at least when it was driven on the road. No other steering on earth felt so alive, so connected. Frankly, the steering was the reason we loved the 997 so much-and it set the 911 apart from all of its competition, especially the Audi R8.
It turns out that German customers complained about the steering. And we do understand that: the 997 was a nervous scamp at autobahn speeds. You can drive an R8 at 180 mph and not break a sweat-the 997's tail wagged back and forth constantly, and you felt every millimeter of movement in the steering wheel.
We don't have autobahns in the U.S. and after Porsche got through a huge presentation explaining that the U.S. market is "easily the most important market for the 911," we were pretty surprised that they engineered out our very favorite part of the 911.
There are plenty of other cars on the road that can cruise at 70 mph effortlessly -- the world didn't need another one of those. At our pathetically slow highway speeds, we need everything we can get to make driving fun -- crazy steering feel, an engaging manual transmission, and a car that's perhaps a little bit flawed.
If you've ever driven a Porsche 911, you'll immediately know that the 991 is different. In quantifiable terms, it's leaps and bounds better than any previous 911. It sounds even better, it rides even better, it feels even better, it's even more comfortable, better equipped, and it's far better looking. But if you adored the drive in that 911 because it was a car unlike any other -- because it constantly reminded you that it wanted to kill you, even if it never was going to -- you'll know why the 911 is a better car, but it's not a better 911.
Porsche 911 Carrera S Front Left View
It looks familiar. It sounds familiar. It is definitely a 911. But unlike the 997, which was a cleverly cost-conscious metamorphosis of the 996, the 2012 Porsche 911, code name 991, is an all-new car. Its body, which now uses aluminum for the doors, fenders, and engine- and luggage-compartment covers, features a much more modern, cab-forward design. The new interior is inspired by six generations of 911s but also takes cues from the Cayenne and the Panamera. In addition, the engineers have prepared a new evolution of boxer engines, the world's first seven-speed manual transmission, and a chassis with a bigger footprint that creates a more confident stance for Porsche's icon.
Porsche 911 Carrera S Rear View
"The 991 takes a step ahead in all key areas," states chief engineer August Achleitner, a twenty-eight-year Porsche veteran who has been involved with every 911 since the 1990-94 964-series.
"The new model is even better balanced, even more compliant, even more untouchable," claims Walter Roehrl, multiple rally champion now involved with Porsche development. Both men will be demonstrating the new 911, while we ride along to get our first taste of the latest Porsche.
Still fit as a fiddle at age sixty-four, Roehrl is an eerily fast yet incredibly smooth driver. Despite the light drizzle, the lanky Bavarian establishes what felt like a new speed record on the sleepy Nockalm pass, which is dotted with 90-degree hairpins, blind crests, and pupil-widening sweepers. It was on this very road that Ferry Porsche and senior designer Karl Rabe put their type 356 roadster through its paces back in the late 1940s.
Seemingly immune to g-force, oncoming traffic and wayward cattle, Walter keeps talking while tap-dancing on the pedals and twirling the wheel. "There! Follow the nose of the car. See? It turns in like a swoosh. And it sticks, sticks, sticks. No more understeer. Incredible. All that tugging and pulling is gone. This 911 no longer fights its driver. Instead, it follows the line like a ruler, stays flat as a Dover sole, and is so well balanced you would never believe the engine sits aft of the rear axle."
Driver change. Roehrl steps out, Achleitner hops in. The steering wheel whirs into position at the push of a button. He adjusts the new eighteen-way adaptive sport seat, which has adjustable side bolsters, heating and ventilation, extendable cushions, and multidirectional lumbar supports. My hope that Achleitner will select a more leisurely pace is squashed the instant he takes off, revving to 7500 rpm in first and second gears and using every inch of suspiciously slippery blacktop through the fast sweepers that lead to the summit. "The wider front track makes all the difference," claims the chief engineer. "It rivets the front end to the tarmac, eliminates any trace of nervousness, and enhances stability and confidence. The longer wheelbase helps, too. The 991 simply feels more grown-up, more competent, more sure-footed. Those who regularly push the car to the limit may appreciate special equipment packages that further enhance braking, cornering and roadholding."
Extras on our lime-gold metallic Carrera S include carbon-ceramic brakes, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus with dynamic torque distribution via a side-to-side differential lock, active dampers with a lower sport suspension, twenty-inch wheels, magnetorheological engine mounts, and PDCC active roll compensation. This system employs hydraulic extension elements that split the antiroll bars to reduce unwanted body movements, flatten the ride, and enhance roll stiffness. Which of these options are must-haves? Roehrl and Achleitner look at each other, mutually search for words, and eventually agree that even the no-frills base 911 should satisfy most needs.
A lot of controversy accompanied the gestation of the new electric power steering that debuts here. It is lighter and more efficient than the previous hydraulic system, but does it provide the same quality of feedback and response? "Early on in the development process, we had problems on low-friction surfaces," recalls Roehrl, who drove the car near the Arctic Circle and on the Nuerburgring. "The phenomenon was called snap-over, and it only showed at the limit when ultrafast corrections were required. But engineering quickly fixed it, and the fix was later backed up by various software updates. Although the new steering may face an acceptance problem among some Porsche purists, in my view it is superior to a conventional rack. In critical situations it can support the driver, for example, by enhancing the self-centering motion or the directional stability on split-friction surfaces." Extra money buys Power Steering Plus, which can adjust power assistance at speeds below 30 mph and in particular during parking maneuvers.
Our roller-coaster drive through the most picturesque parts of Styria, Carinthia, Salzburg, and Tyrol put the new 911 through a continually changing set of paces. On the narrow and winding toll road that leads to the top of the Malta valley, the Porsche impressed with newfound maneuverability. Up and down the challenging Katschberg, we relished the extra torque in combination with the higher rev limit, as well as the more powerful brakes that benefit from bigger cooling ducts, lighter discs, and six-piston front calipers.
On paper, the 400-hp new 911 Carrera S is only a blink of an eye faster than last year's 385-hp 997. At 4.3 seconds, the PDK-equipped version accelerates to 62 mph 0.2 second quicker than the model it replaces. In terms of top speed -- 188 mph versus 186 mph -- it's basically a dead heat. In real life, however, there is much more between these two siblings than the numbers suggest. In direct comparison to our best-of-the-old 911 GTS chase car, for instance, the new 991 was lighter on its feet, more agile, more stable, and more homogenous overall. But what exactly are the elements that make the difference? Chief engineer Achleitner: "Depending on specification, we took out between 30 and 45 kilos [66 to 99 pounds] in weight, and it shows. In addition, we extended the wheelbase, widened the track, lowered the suspension in two steps by up to 20 millimeters [0.8 inch], and modified the proportions. These measures permit higher cornering speeds, help to speed up turn-in, and allow only a relatively small measure of understeer and oversteer." It seems as if the days of tricky-handling 911s are over.
Porsche 911 Carrera S Front Left Side View
Since Austria has embraced the mobile radar trap, Roehrl was careful before he put his foot down and let the car fly. In the 911, part throttle is by no means a joyless anticlimax. Thanks to a variety of new fuel-saving techniques (including automatic stop/start), it is actually fun to squeeze extra miles out of the 16.9-gallon tank. Perhaps the most intriguing is the free-wheeling mechanism, which decouples engine and transmission. To summon it, you can either lift off -- but not quickly -- or select the highest available ratio via the upshift paddle. In response, the engine speed drops to idle and the gear indicator displays the ratio in which the journey is going to continue.
At the end of day one, the onboard computer readout indicated an average of 31.7 mpg. These numbers were influenced by slow-moving traffic from Stuttgart to Gmuend. The thirst increased quite a bit on day two, but despite Roehrl's habit of pushing the engine to its 7800-rpm fuel cutoff, there was no need for a second pit stop. Surprisingly, the elevated rev level does not seem to affect consumption. The 3.8-liter flat six needs 7400 rpm to dish up 400 hp, which compares to 385 hp at 6500 rpm for the old engine. Perhaps even more significant is the shape of the torque curve; it now peaks at 5600 rpm, where 325 lb-ft of torque is on tap. In the previous car, 4400 rpm was enough to produce 310 lb-ft. The same high rpm ceilings apply to the base Carrera engine, which has been downsized from 3.6 to 3.4 liters but nevertheless has gained 5 hp and a claimed sixteen percent in efficiency.
Roehrl and Achleitner whipped the new 911 through the historic hunting grounds with so much verve and ambition that Ferry Porsche would have been proud. Although the passenger seat was definitely the second-best place for this experience, I was able to learn a lot about the new car's many virtues and few vices. Perhaps the most significant dynamic asset is the almost total absence of understeer. The 997-series 911 would grab every opportunity to shy away from the apex. Only the very brave -- or stupid -- pushed the 997 into oversteer. Mastering the monster made you feel like a hero, but the 997 was never quite as quick as this incredibly balanced 991-series 911.
When we asked Roehrl to put in a couple of sideways stints, his face lit up and he instantly shifted down a gear or two. But we soon found out that this 911 is now a talented carver, no longer a casual slider. "This can't be true," he said. "Maybe I need first gear. No, we're running out of revs much too soon. Second then, perhaps, let's try again. Go, go, go! Still does not want to do it. Just does not want to do it. Maybe it's my driving style. I always need to have the car absolutely straight again at the exit of the bend. That's better now, much better. But I was expecting more attitude, much more attitude." It was not to be. According to Achleitner, tail-out mode is not only counterproductive, "it also is no longer part of the car's character the way it was in older 911s. The 991 is more communicative than its predecessors, but it is never tail-happy. It won't lose its temper, preferring to deliver rather than to show off. Don't forget, however, that this is only the first chapter of an even more complex story. Although there will be sharper and faster variations of the theme, accessibility remains a prime objective."
Of course, this Porsche is not devoid of flaws, but at this point it's difficult to decipher them. The front suspension of our example felt a bit stiffer than it should; Sport Plus again makes sense only on the racetrack, where its extreme calibration pays off; the stability control system still lacks a user-friendly in-between mode; there is no indicator to alert you that you are in coasting mode; and the long options list lacks any camera-based driver-assistance systems. In a nutshell, there is not much to complain about but plenty of reason to wax lyrical. After all, this 911 epitomizes the fine art of evolution. It is both trendsetting and tradition-conscious, and it is a promising sequel to one of the planet's greatest sports cars.
The Specs
On Sale:
February 2012
Price: $83,050/$97,350 (Carrera/Carrera S)
Engines: 3.4L H-6, 350 hp, 288 lb-ft; 3.6L H-6, 400 hp, 325 lb-ft
Drive: Rear- or 4-wheel
EPA mileage: 21/29 mpg (est.)
2012 Porsche 911
2012 Porsche 911
As this magazine went to press, we had not yet driven the redesigned 911, but based on early reports and nearly half a century of history, we're willing to go on record predicting it will be very good. The new 911 promises its biggest gains yet in refinement and efficiency. The longer wheelbase all but irons out the rear-engined snappiness found in earlier 911s, and the already-posh interior gains a high-tech center console and optional eighteen-way power seats. A smaller-displacement base engine, a lighter body, automatic stop-start and freewheeling technologies, electric power steering, and a seven-speed manual transmission collectively improve efficiency by up to sixteen percent. Power improves by 5 hp on the Carrera model and 15 hp on the Carrera S. That added horsepower, combined with a weight reduction of between 65 and 100 pounds (depending on trim), yields minor improvements in acceleration to 60 mph, to 4.5 and 4.3 seconds, respectively. Based on Porsche's past model rollouts, we expect to see new base and S convertibles join the coupe this year. Those in search of a spicier 911 will still have some choices--sixteen of them actually--as the last-generation's Carrera 4 and 4S, Turbos, Targas, Black Editions, and GTS models all carry over to 2012, albeit in limited quantities. The GT3, GT2, and all their spin-offs are gone for now, unless you manage to snag a leftover 2011.
2012 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet Front Right View 4
Purists often argue that they don't see the point in the convertible version of a performance car, because cutting off the roof reduced structural rigidity, and the power-folding top usually adds weight. To which the proper response is, "So what?"

2012 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet

2013 Porsche 911 C2S And 2013 Nissan GT R H2h 3
Yes, we know: on paper, the Porsche 911 Carrera S and Nissan GT-R should not be competitive vehicles, considering that the GT-R makes 545 horsepower and the Carrera S makes a round 400. Still, the cars' sporting character and status as two of the hottest super coupes on the market made them prime candidates to go in front of Motor Trend's Head 2 Head lens.
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Front Three Quarter1
Porsche has taken a few visits to the Nürburgring recently – once with the new 2012 911 Carrera S and once with a prototype for the upcoming 918 Spyder hybrid supercar. And what do you know? Both cars put down pretty impressive lap times around the Green Hell.
2012 Gemballa GT Cabrio Front Three Quarter
German tuning house Gemballa has been in the business for some 30 years, and few of its creations inspire the word "restrained." But it looks like the engineers at Gemballa have exercised some restraint and tarted up the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet with just a few simple touches.
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Front Right View
Like seemingly everyone else in America, I went to see "The Avengers" on its opening weekend. Unlike most everyone else, I drove to the theater in a new Porsche 911 Carrera S. I don't think I could have gotten more attention had I walked into this Ypsilanti, Michigan, theater with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) on my arm. "Hey man, just so you know, I could totally beat you in my 2006 BMW M3," called a young man who had apparently elected to leave the Bimmer at home in favor of his mid-90s Chevrolet Lumina. Another gentleman jogged into the theater after me to ask if the red Porsche was, in fact, my car. This is all a bit unusual for a 911, which has always been something of a superhero in disguise. I've driven several last-generation 911s, including a pricey GTS model, and received not a lick of attention. This new model has a certain magnetism that I think goes beyond a few new details. It doesn't show in pictures, but the new car has dramatically modified, more muscular proportions. This comes at something of a cost in terms of authenticity. Whereas the previous car felt like an old car that's been modernized -- much like a Jeep Wrangler -- this car feels like a modern design that's been given lots of retro cues -- think the Chevrolet Camaro or Dodge Challenger.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

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2012 Porsche 911 Specifications

Quick Glance:
3.6L H6Engine
Fuel economy City:
18 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
25 MPG
345 hp @ 6500rpm
288 ft lb of torque @ 4400rpm
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control
  • Sunroof
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential (optional)
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • Radio
  • CD Player
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation
50,000 miles / 48 months
50,000 miles / 48 months
Unlimited miles / 144 months
50,000 miles / 48 months
Recall Date
Potential Units Affected

Recall Date
Potential Units Affected

NHTSA Rating Front Driver
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Front Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Overall
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rollover
Not Rated
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
IIHS Overall Side Crash
IIHS Best Pick
IIHS Rear Crash
IIHS Roof Strength

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5-Year Total Cost to Own For The 2012 Porsche 911

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Five Year Cost of Ownership: $61,507 What's This?
Value Rating: Excellent