Porsche 911 coupe (2012 – ) expert review

By Jon Quirk, 20th February 2012

The verdict

When it comes to performance cars, Porsche has some serious game and this sixth generation ‘991’ Porsche 911 remains the benchmark for both car makers and customers. World’s best sports car isn’t a phrase the Auto Trader test team throws about liberally, but this could just be it.

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Expert rating:

4.4

Pros

  • The best all-round sports car on sale
  • GT-like ride quality and refinement
  • Easier to live with than ever

Cons

  • New 911 ubiquity is only a matter of time
  • Be prepared for high running costs
  • Er, that’s probably it

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Porsche 911 is not exactly a silhouette ripe for reinvention, but the differences for the 991 extend in subtler ways. The new model is 56mm longer (at 4491mm), 65mm wider (at 1873mm) and 11mm lower (at 1299mm) than the 997 it replaces, but the strong proportions remain. It features a new set of angular looking daytime-running LED headlights, the wing mirrors have been relocated into the doors and 20-inch alloys now come as standard on the Carrera S.

Our rating: 5

2. Interior

Desire is in the detail, from the front facia that gives a nod to the old five-dial layout, right through to the new 911-shaped key. The craftsmanship of a device like this matters as you’ll inevitably spend hours caressing it, watching it, flaunting it. It slots ever so neatly into the right side of the steering wheel and begins the frenetic, gargling start-up. The cabin architecture is clean to give a greater impression of space, the centre console is now very Panamera-like in function and feel, while the materials from the leather to the real aluminium fillets in the doors are as high in quality as we have seen. The vibe may still be one of purity, but it’s also one that’s intrinsically of luxury.

Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

If ever there was a brief for an everyday supercar, the Porsche 911 nails it. In the car park, it’s still relatively low key and compact so remains one of the easier sports cars to live with.  There’s a reasonable amount of load space up front where the front boot remains unchanged at 135-litres, while the longer wheelbase has afforded some extra cabin space that makes it easier than ever to access those apologetically small rear seats. And yet Porsche hasn’t forgotten the basics: the seats are well shaped and supportive but offer a near-perfect driving position, there’s little if any pedal offset while drivers of the optional PDK gearbox can now spec traditional wheel-mounted paddle shifters rather than Porsche’s ‘push to change up, pull to change down’ system. An invention the world had not been waiting for. Only the coffee cup holders provide a slight area of nervousness as once they’ve unfurled, rather beautifully from the dashboard, they do cause your beverage to hover precariously over a lot of those important electronic controls.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

Driving the Porsche 911 still has that memorable and beautiful balance of instinct and analysis when you want to push – it doesn’t bully the road into submission like a Nissan GT-R, but feels more fluid in working with the driver. Yet the longer wheelbase has also given this car more GT-like pretensions when you need to hit the motorway. Most pleasingly, the tiresome road noise that bothered generation after generation of 911 seems to have been eradicated, as does the weird nodding dog sensation you used to get from the bonnet at higher speeds. At lower speeds too, there’s a compliance and composure that would feel good in a family hatchback, never mind a high performance sports car. The new electro-mechanical steering may have (marginally) dialled back some of the communication levels but it’s still direct, well weighted, offers fine feedback and saves fuel. The car comes in both rear- and four-wheel drive formats, and both have incredible levels of grip and traction.

Our rating: 5

5. Performance

The models on sale initially are the Carrera, which now has a 3.4-litre flat-six engine producing 345bhp and 288lb ft of torque, and the Carrera S, which gets a revised 3.8-litre motor producing 394bhp and 325lb ft. The two models look almost identical, although Carreras have two exhaust pipes, while S variants get four. We tested The Carrera S with seven-speed PDK – a drive in the world’s first seven-speed manual gearbox will have to wait – which kicks like a thoroughbred as early as 3400rpm, and erupts into an urgent and unmistakable flat-six crescendo above 6500rpm. Peak power doesn’t hit until 7400rpm, so the car feels damn quick. 0-62mph takes 4.3 seconds but the time drops to 4.1secs if you spec the optional Sport Chrono Pack. Which, of course, you must.

Performance: 5

6. Running costs

How a 911 Carrera S can simultaneously pump out 394bhp while deliver 32.5mpg (combined) and emit just 205g/km (PDK) is pretty astounding. But don’t get too comfortable as servicing your Porsche 911 will not be cheap, and neither will the bills for insurance and tyres.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Both our strong owner review ratings, not to mention the fact 80 per cent of all global 911s sold since 964 are still on the road, is a pretty good indication that you are buying one of the most coveted as well as reliable sports cars in the business. You also get a two-year unlimited mileage warranty.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

All versions get twin front, side and curtain airbags as well as a sophisticated electronic stability control called Porsche Stability Management (PSM). Security Research Centre also scores it a maximum five-star rating for resisting drive-away theft.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

Climate control, alloy wheels and leather upholstery are standard though options like an upgraded stereo and new trim finishes can quickly become pricey.

Equipment: 4

10. Why buy?

Because the 991-series Porsche 911 looks set to be another classic in the making. It’s more complete than ever; faster, better riding, better handling, more usable and more refined. Seriously, where do we sign?

Our rating: 5

Expert review 4.4stars

  • Exterior5
  • Interior4
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling5
  • Performance5
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?5

Our recommendations

Driving the Porsche 911 still has that memorable and beautiful balance of instinct and analysis when you want to push