CALISTOGA, California — We already discovered that the addition of turbos in the new 2017 Porsche 911 Carreras hasn’t demolished the classic 911 experience. But on our second outing in the car, we found that what you like and how you get your 911 from the factory truly determine the success of this car.
Through Northern California’s lush mountain forests we drove: a Carrera 4S with almost every option except carbon-ceramic brakes, a Carrera 4S Cabriolet equipped equally, and a base Carrera 2 with a seven-speed manual with barely any extra equipment other than a sport steering wheel and sport exhaust. Even though each is based on the same platform, the three cars drove remarkably different; the level of enjoyment you experience depends on how you spec your car.
As we discovered during our previous drive of the new 911s last November, you have nothing to fear from the turbocharged engines. You never want for more power from the 3.0-liter flat-six cylinder, with the standard Carrera developing 370 hp and the Carrera S developing 420 hp. Either figure is plenty for the nimble chassis. Adding to the horsepower bump—20 over the previous model—and in the great tradition of the company’s normally aspirated engines, Porsche engineered the turbocharged version to rev to 7,500 rpm. This is unnecessary, though, due to the power and torque peaking at 5,000 rpm. When asked why the company chose to allow the engines to continue to rev, the answer came almost in unison from the engine designer, the head of Porsche’s sports car program, and the North American CEO said, “Because it’s more fun that way.” This was met with much applause as it signals a company that understands emotion as well as the bottom line, even though most 911 buyers will spend $15,000-$20,000 on options, a huge profit center.
In the quest to eliminate lag and develop a more linear torque and power curve, Porsche developed an anti-lag system that keeps the twin compressors spun and ready for throttle application. This system, on PDK-equipped cars, works in conjunction with the car’s transmission to also produce better gas mileage by disengaging the transmission when coasting. When driving, though, this disengagement and anti-lag spooling can at first be disconcerting: You watch the tachometer needle fall to almost zero rpm when you lift your foot off the gas, then jump back up to 2,000-3,500 rpm in a fraction of a second when you get back on it. You wonder at first if the engine turned off, or if you perhaps did something to upset it.
One thing we noticed—and this is more of a personal preference—is the array of engineered pops and crackles from the optional sports exhaust, which was on every car we drove. Lay on the gas and give a slight lift and you’re met with the same three pops you created the last time you lifted. Gas, lift, pop, pop, pop. Gas, lift, pop, pop, pop. It sounds pre-recorded as if played on a loop, exactly the same every single time. When questioned about the fictitious sounding overrun, Porsche’s engineers stated that, like the Jaguar F-Type and its maniacal exhaust, small droplets of unburnt fuel are dropped into the exhaust system not only to engineer the 911’s soundtrack, but also to keep the catalytic converters hot and emissions down. At one point, our driving partner deemed our complaints about the disingenuous pops as hilarious—and proceeded to accelerate and lift repeatedly for a straight 5 minutes. Maddening.
The 911’s chassis is as usual sublime, and its road manners are as wonderful as you’d expect from Porsche and the 911. However, the loud cabin at speeds above 30 mph is exasperating. Road noise booms inside and reverberates throughout the car. It’s far less prevalent when driving on well-kept pavement, but on pockmarked stretches the experience becomes incongruent with the car’s price. It’s understandable that Porsche wants to save weight for better performance, but a Carrera 4S with thousands of dollars’ worth of options is now a grand touring car deserving of a quieter cabin, and road noise like this is unacceptable.
Much of the car’s interior carries over from the 991.1 911 Carrera, with only a few new touches to update it. Chiefly, the infotainment center now has a flush-mounted screen with capacitive touch capabilities that make it easier to go through the car’s systems. Pairing your phone is extremely easy, yet it was slightly difficult to find where the Bluetooth source button was when trying to queue up music from our phone. Everything feels soft and luxurious to the touch, even the cheaper plastics in the standard Carrera.
With thousands of combinations possible and 200-plus options available throughout the 911 range, owners are able to tailor their 911 to suit their own enjoyment. Want a neon green Carrera 4S with a stick and carbon-ceramic brakes but without the four-wheel steering? Done. Want a base Carrera with absolutely nothing? Even better. While the starting point is the same, the end product when fitted with whatever combination of options you choose, whether that includes adaptive suspension, Porsche’s Sport Chrono package, or one of the other wide variety of options available, make for unique experiences.
To that point, driving the Carrera 4S and standard Carrera 2 back-to-back was eye opening, a bit like those choose-your-own-adventure stories from the ’80s: Porsche gives you the story’s framework and develops the options, but you choose how it all ends. The standard Carrera felt quite different from its fully optioned 4S sibling; the standard car with the seven-speed manual transmission with almost no options was perfection distilled. Even though it didn’t have as much horsepower as the S or the four-wheel steering system that keeps everything inline, the simpler car had a greater sense of driver involvement. The 4S, on the other hand, is no underachiever. It and its two-wheel drive S sibling are almost supercar fast as you lay into the gas pedal and run through the PDK’s gears, achieving preposterous speeds on confined stretches of pavement. It’s a good tool if you want to humiliate your friends at a track day, and then drive home without a care in the world.
Porsche’s engineers, conversely, don’t have the luxury of a stress-free existence. That they have allowed this new turbocharged 911 to remain a pinnacle of the sports-car world and retained its heritage is a testament to them. Changing an icon so drastically isn’t for the timid, but the execution here met and arguably exceeded the challenge without flinching.
2017 Porsche 911 Carrera & Carrera S Specifications
|Price:||$90,395 (Carrera); $104,395 (Carrera S)|
|Engine:||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6/370 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 331 lb-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm (Carrera); 420 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 368 lb-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm (Carrera S)|
|Transmission:||7-speed manual; 7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Layout:||2-door, 4-passenger, rear-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA Mileage:||25/30 city/highway|
|L x W x H:||177.1 x 71.2 x 51.0 in|
|Weight:||3,175 (Carrera) 3,175-3,219 lb (Carrera S)|
|0-60 MPH:||4.0-4.4 sec (Carrera); 3.7-4.1 sec (Carrera S)|
|Top Speed:||182-183 mph (Carrera); 190-191 mph (Carrera S)|