Porsche launches latest 911

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The world’s most famous sports car evolves once again

New 911s are rare. According to Porsche, this is only the eighth time in 55 years it has launched one. How new is this ‘992’ version of the world’s greatest sports car? Well not entirely new, that’s for sure. For the last 30 years, 911 generations have come in pairs, the latter being very much an evolution of the former, before a genuinely all-new car is produced. So, much as the 993 was based on the 964, and the 997 very definitely the offspring of the 996, so work on the 992 started with the 991 it replaces.

Even so, nothing of any importance has been overlooked. The car launched at the Los Angeles Auto Show was the Carrera S model (standard, GTS, Turbo and other versions will follow) and while it looked like a smoother, sleeker version of its parent, every panel is different and, for the first time, made from aluminium. Even the structure beneath contains far more aluminium than before, a necessary move not just to keep weight under control, despite additional features, but also in anticipation of the mass that will be added by the hybrid version to be introduced around facelift time in 2022.

So while its 991 predecessor was a revolution in 911 terms with its drastically elongated wheelbase and electrically assisted steering, by comparison this is a fairly straightforward update of that now familiar theme. The engine in the Carrera S now has 444bhp instead of 414bhp, but that was the same output found in the old GTS. The car’s chief engineer August Achleitner – the self-styled ‘Mr 911’ – says 60 per cent of the engine is carried over from the previous car, including all its internals. But the car itself he estimates to share no more than 10-15 common parts with the 991.

Most striking is the interior, which has lost all its analogue dials save the central tachometer. In their place come high-definition TFT screens no different in concept to those already seen in the Panamera and Cayenne. They create a cleaner interior and a far more attractive look to the dashboard, but some will lament the way the dashboard view from the driving seat is now not at all dissimilar from that you get in a big Porsche SUV or saloon.

Naturally the suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres have all received some work (for the first time, a 911 now comes with different diameter wheels front to rear, 20in and 21in respectively in the case of the Carrera S), but perhaps the most significant change is in the PDK double-clutch gearbox, which for the first time now contains an eighth ratio.

Otherwise I guess what’s most notable is its phenomenal speed. The slowest version of the Carrera S – with just rear-wheel drive and lacking the Sport Chrono pack – needs just 3.7sec to hit 62mph from rest. A 4S with Sport Chrono can do it in 3.4sec, call it 3.3sec to 60mph. Which is just 0.1sec quicker than I went in a McLaren 25 years ago…

NEW FROM AUDI & MERC

Elsewhere at an increasingly influential Los Angeles Show, Audi wheeled out Robert Downey Jr to launch its new e-tron GT, a four-door sports saloon that shares many of its underpinnings with the similarly configured Porsche Taycan (formerly the Mission E). It comes with a 96kWh battery pack powering front and rear electric motors and a cumulative 582bhp catapults it to 62mph in 3.5sec. Top speed is within a whisker of 150mph.

Although shown in ‘concept’ form, the truth is the e-tron GT shown will differ very little from the car that goes into production next year. Minor cosmetic changes are likely to be the only compromises. Range will still be a limiting factor, especially considering the traditional long-distance roles of expensive Grand Tourers. The new WLTP testing protocol suggests a 248-mile range, which is probably quite realistic if you stick to the speed limit, but still nowhere near the 500 miles you’d routinely expect from a powerful diesel saloon. Audi hopes to counter this by giving the e-tron GT the ability to charge at 350kW, approximately 100 times more power than you’d typically get if you plugged it into a three-pin circuit at home. Which means that even with its massive batteries, another 200 miles range should be achievable in less than 20 minutes. All that’s needed now is a global infrastructure to make it happen.

Mercedes-Benz used the LA Show to exhibit a lightly refreshed range of its AMG GT Coupés and a new flagship model, the GT R Pro. So if the standard GT R is Benz’s answer to the Porsche 911GT3, the Pro is its GT3 RS. There’s no more power, but a revised aero pack and a completely revised suspension system allowing for a wide range of adjustments (carried out by the driver, without any tools). 

VW LOOKS TO FUTURE

You might think that, despite the Dieselgate debacle, Volkswagen was in pretty good shape. It has, after all, grown to become the world’s largest car manufacturer by overtaking Toyota, General Motors and Ford, which have all vied for the position in the past. And despite all the unexpected outgoings, it still managed to make £2 billion last year.

Its management, however, is to embark on a programme that will reduce employee numbers, slash model lines and cut costs. In Europe alone next year, 25 per cent of engine and gearbox variants will be deleted. It is not yet saying which car models will go, but if it has a diesel engine I’d not bet on it being around much longer.

Indeed, it might be that VW engines of all descriptions are not long for this world. Its head of strategy Michael Jost recently announced that the last new cars to be launched with internal combustion engines will be introduced in just seven years. Given model cycles are currently about six to seven years, this means that a dozen years from now, VW may be entering its last year or two of conventional engine production. This in turn means that a simply massive amount of money – many, many billions – will soon be added to that already being spent developing fully electric cars. If you want evidence that the automotive world is about to change in the most fundamental way since the invention of the car, you’ll find little stronger than this.

McLAREN 720S SPIDER

McLaren has unveiled the open version of its 720S Coupé. The 720S Spider comes with a carbon-fibre roof (glass is optional) that raises or lowers at speeds of up to 31mph in just 11sec. Despite losing its structural roof, McLaren says that no additional strengthening has been required, which is why the car is a trifling 48kg heavier than its sister and by some distance the lightest car in its class. McLaren says performance is also all-but unchanged, quoting a 0-124mph time of 7.9sec, a scant tenth off the coupé. The car is on sale now, priced from £237,000.