Road Test




When a new car appears these days, ‘mainstream’ motoring magazines tend either to lash it as an absolute dog or hail it as the best news since the invention of the zipped fly. Shades of grey are rare in the hellzapoppin’ world of modern motoring journalism. Readers seeking information must sometimes be confused.

For once, with the new Porsche 911 launched last autumn, the hyperbole of the positive variety was entirely justified. This really is the Great Leap Forward, or in some senses backward. By that I don’t mean terminal understeer or wild lift-off oversteer (traits which have been eradicated).

With the notable exception of the Carrera Club Sport of 1987, Porsche’s rear-engined cars have behaved increasingly as if a Product Liability lawyer were chairing engineering meetings. With the lightweight Carrera RS of three years ago, he had clearly been garrotted, but so had all vestiges of good sense. In the 1989 Carrera 2, Porsche set out to improve the 911 from the ground up, but the result was disappointing. At last, with


the new Carrera, you can have a 911 that responds safely, but which is also fun to drive. Only. the name is muddled the ‘2’ has been dropped, though the forthcoming four-wheel-drive version will be called Carrera 4.

Most people like the new shape: the hint of muscularity in front and rear wings replaces the slab-sided 1960s look, making the 911 modern yet instantly recognisable. The temptation to adopt the ugly flip-over lights of the 968/928 was resisted.

Zuffenhausen’s air-cooled flat-six produces one of motoring’s few instantly recognisable tones. The latest incarnation is more refined than ever, still aurally exciting, if lacking the blood-curdling thrill of some earlier examples.

Even the 911 has come under the scrutiny of specialists in ‘NVH’ (Noise, Vibration and Harshness). Much of the clonking and whirring has been eliminated, but this is still by no means a quiet car. Transmission whine is particularly intrusive at a comfortable, near-legal cruising speed. Consequently, but for the need to preserve one’s licence, one might as well drive the car at speeds for which it was designed. .-1— ‘ • ’11. — . ..-

With a kerb weight of 3020 lb, the latest Carrera is 44 lb heavier than its immediate predecessor, reflecting the universal law that we all gain weight with age: the original 911 of 1965 was more than 700 lb lighter. However, increases in power over that period have lifted the power/weight ratio from 125 lb/ton to 202. Peak power is 272 bhp at 6100 rpm. Although maximum torque (252 lb ft) occurs at 5000 rpm, the majority is available from far lower in the range.

The early two-litre 911 struggled to break 8.5 sec for 0-60 mph. A brutal start in the latest, 3.6-litre model nearly cracks that in under five seconds. Likewise, top speed has climbed from barely 130 mph to a claimed (and credible) 168. The new Carrera has a higher top speed than the Carrera 2, but is marginally slower in outright acceleration. However, the new gearbox allows improved mid-range performance.

If you drove today’s car behind a harddriven ’65 911, the driver ahead would do well to better 21 mpg, while you could expect something like 25. Pull out and head off into the distance, and you could expect to burn fuel at the rate of just under 20.