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Joined: 08 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 11:16 am    Post subject: Sunday Times drive the facelifted 2008 911 Carrera Reply with quote

Porsche’s designers have wisely made no visible differences to the 911. Perhaps they’d have been best off not changing it at all

When cars reach a certain age, manufacturers do a predictable thing. They’re not old enough to justify being replaced but sales are sliding as newer rivals come along; if you do nothing, soon they will be on the skids. The trick is to appear to produce a new car while in reality changing hardly anything at all. You design some new lights and bumpers because that way you can change its looks dramatically for little money. Then you reskin the interior and, voilà, maximum perceived change for minimum incurred cost. That is the game.

Unless, of course, you are Porsche and the car in question is the 911. Then what you do is change the way it looks not at all and instead spend four years designing two brand-new and no doubt hideously expensive engines to replace two already brilliant ones that appeared in no need of replacing. And, just to make sure no one notices, you decide to give these new engines the same 3.6 and 3.8 litre capacities as the old ones. Then you spend even more time fitting an all-new braking system no one’s going to see either and quietly fine-tuning the suspension.

As an approach, it is subtle to the point of invisibility and admirable in its engineering purity. Whether it will prove commercially sensible – when Porsche’s UK sales have tumbled by more than 20% so far this year – remains to be seen.

As you’d expect, both engines are more powerful than before and, thanks in no small part to direct fuel injection, use less fuel and emit less CO2 as well. But if you really want to extract maximum efficiency from the new power plants, you need to spend a further £2,338 on the other little toy Porsche has been working on – a seven-speed semi-automatic transmission. This works in the same way as the direct-shift gearbox (DSG) you can fit to something as humble as a Volkswagen Golf – it uses two clutches: one to engage the gear you’re in; the other to preengage the one you’re going to need next. So when you request the next gear with the press of a paddle (or the push of a gearlever), it arrives pretty much immediately.

What’s clever about Porsche’s application of the technology, called PDK, is that the seventh gear acts like an old-fashioned overdrive, so that at a 75mph cruise it shows just 2000rpm on the clock – with Porsche’s old automatic gearbox, it would do just 50mph at those revs. The result is a 13% improvement in fuel consumption and a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions, meaning that if you buy your 911 with the smaller engine and the trick gearbox, it avoids band G vehicle excise duty.

So much for the theory. On the road the new engines lose no time in pressing their credentials on you. In fact the smaller, cheaper motor is now so strong that there seems little point in spending the extra on the 3.8 litre S version, which is only a little faster (0.2sec to 60mph) but a lot more expensive (£70,360 versus £63,070). Instead buy the S for its standard active suspension system, which in its soft setting makes the 911 a sensationally comfortable place to pass many high-speed hours.

The advantages of the new PDK gearbox are clear to see too: leave it in automatic mode and it’s as smooth as a Mercedes limousine, but knock the lever into its manual plane and shift times are quicker than you’d ever manage by hand (though nothing like as fast as the shifts executed by the paddle-actuated manual gearboxes used by Ferrari).

And yet something less tangible but no less important has been lost with this new generation of 911. Those engines, for all their power, have less character than before. They are smoother than ever, but quieter and less interesting to listen to. Porsche has been making flat-six engines with an inimitable sound for 45 years, but these could have been engineered by BMW. And that’s not bad; just sad. Likewise the PDK may make the 911 quicker from point to point, but the paddles on and behind the steering wheel are dreadfully located and substantially remove the fun of changing gear. At least that is something you can opt out of.

Likewise, while those suspension modifications have made the Carrera quicker point to point, it now feels almost too easy. A 911 should always challenge its driver, if not to a duel to the death then at least to put in what he or she intends to get out of it. And here another essential part of the 911 spirit and its unique interaction with the driver has been diluted.

Make no mistake: I was much taken with this car, as I have been with most 911 coupés that have come my way over the years. I’d love to live with a basic, manual Carrera, particularly now that the cabin’s unfathomable switchgear has been fixed. Also Porsche is to be applauded for not taking the easy option of a cosmetic 911 update but instead trying to bring in changes that make a proper difference.

To many people these changes will be welcome: after all, a 911 that’s quicker, more comfortable, more frugal and less polluting doesn’t sound a bad thing, does it? Fact is, the 911 has grown up and I must accept I am in a minority who’d rather it hadn’t.

Vital statistics

Model Porsche 911 Carrera

Engine type 3614cc, six cylinders

Power / torque 345bhp @ 6500rpm / 288lb ft @ 4400rpm

Transmission Seven-speed semi-automatic

Fuel / CO2 29.4mpg (combined) / 225g/km

[b]Performance
0-62mph: 4.9sec / Top speed: 180mph

Price £63,070

Road tax band F (£210 for 12 months)

Verdict More capable but less characterful than before



Release date July 5

The opposition

Model Jaguar XK £60,995

For Looks good; superb blend of ride and handling; lively engine

Against Performance only adequate; small cabin

Model Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG £66,805

For Knockout power of huge V8 motor; decent room in the rear

Against Ageing design; awkward looks; expensive

Source: Andrew Frankel, Sunday Times
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:17 pm    Post subject: Re: The Sunday Times drive the facelifted 911 Carrera Reply with quote

Andrew Frankel's review in the Sunday Times is interesting as it outlines the affect of market forces on an already fabulous car.

I cannot get up to the 997 level yet, but even if I could, I have to say the ride of the basic flat 6 996 is so engaging as to make it not a necessity, only a luxury. Of course, if it was Maxie's 997 I would have little hesitation in suggesting that it is a better looking car..

In terms of performance, though, the sound and the kick of acceleration across the range - but especially above 4000 revs, in the 996 is pretty remarkable given that it is a naturally aspirated engine. There is a purity about the experience which, true to the review, is a kind of battle. As he says:

"A 911 should always challenge its driver, if not to a duel to the death then at least to put in what he or she intends to get out of it.".

Driving this car is always exciting, and occasionally interesting (the tail end went for a walk in the wet the other morning, quickly put to rights, but I was wiser for having a little bite taken out of my confidence..). This is what is so exciting about it. It is the primal experience of playing with fire and knowing you could get burnt that makes me want to do it in the first place.. and IMO part of this essential experience is doing it in a car that has very few bells and whistles. Granted it's not an Elise, nor is it a Bentley Continental, but it is a good balance of great dials, twiddly bits and Porsche embossed shiny kit, coupled with planted on the road, dead set performance, that makes it dangerously addictive. My petrol fund ran out ages ago. It now runs on adrenaline...

It may not be a 997 or a GT3/Turbo but I have had little problem keeping up with the 911UK Top Guns.. not because my 996 is the same power (because it isn't) but because I'm too busy grinning from ear to ear to worry about it. Be it 996 or 997 we've had loads of fun trying this out - Maxie's first Cannonball run blasting the locals with the true note of clarity that is Porsche sports exhausts being one instance, and most particularly amusing when 20 911's drove at exactly 30 mph past the rozzer with his speedgun......
Bandit

All the extra kit is useful in the new car, ipod attach, satnav, cruise etc but doesn't it also add weight and soften / pamper the basic nature of the car?

What thoughts from those who have had both 996-997, naturally aspirated versus Turbo and injections..?

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Henry - what an eloquent piece of writing that is! Have you tried writing a column for any papers? I applied once to the Sunday Telegraph as they invite you to take a car out (at their expense) as long as you write up about it aftewards. I'm still waiting for them to get back to me...... Dont know

I've always maintained a car is only as good as its driver; will only go as fast as its driver wants it to go, will only corner as well as the driver wants it to corner and will only brake as effectively as the driver wants it to brake. Indeed you had no problem in keeping up with the fastest of the pack and even I admired the likes of Rallyeman in his Tippy 993; however hard I tried to get away from him, he just simply stuck like glue onto my back bumper.

I don't find my 997 much quicker than my previous 996; sure it's 3.8L plays 3.6L, it's 355bhp plays 320bhp, it's (more importantly than bhp) 295 lbft plays 273 lbft but it's also lugging around an extra 35kg. It's only the in-gear acceleration that one can possibly sense any difference at all in terms of performance alone. However, if we are talking about refinement, NVH, roadholding, braking, aesthetics etc then I will argue it's worlds apart from a 996 but that would be normal as Porsche engineers have and will always try to improve on these things. If they didn't then where's the progress? I eagerly await the 991 series.

Totally agree with Henry's observation regarding extra kit weighing down the car somewhat. However we have the counter-measures in the form of the GT3 etc if we ever thought we are being pampered a little too much. Interestingly though, my 4S (at 1475kg) weighs 20kg less than the previous incarnation of 4S. The 997 Gen I GT3 I believe takes it under the 1400kg barrier (?)

I would love to have a drive of the latest Gen II 4S to mark out differences between this and my own however I find myself more and more drawn to a 997TT........

~ Maxie
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maxie wrote:

I don't find my 997 much quicker than my previous 996; sure it's 3.8L plays 3.6L, it's 355bhp plays 320bhp, it's (more importantly than bhp) 295 lbft plays 273 lbft but it's also lugging around an extra 35kg. It's only the in-gear acceleration that one can possibly sense any difference at all in terms of performance alone. However, if we are talking about refinement, NVH, roadholding, braking, aesthetics etc then I will argue it's worlds apart from a 996 but that would be normal as Porsche engineers have and will always try to improve on these things. If they didn't then where's the progress? I eagerly await the 991 series.


Could you not only fill the petrol tank half-way, then it would weigh the same?
 
  
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GT4 wrote:
Could you not only fill the petrol tank half-way, then it would weigh the same?


No.

~ Maxie
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was a trick question, the answer was actually "Yes".
 
  
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GT4 wrote:
It was a trick question, the answer was actually "Yes".


I know.

~ Maxie Wink
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, I see what you did there with no italics or smilie in your "No" answer, you told a joke with a straight face. thumbsup

Generally that doesn't work with one word delivery, but we're getting there.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sure.

~ Maxie
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Confused
 
  
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 11, 2010 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would love to have a drive of the latest Gen II 4S to mark out differences between this and my own however I find myself more and more drawn to a 997TT........

~ Maxie[/quote]

Thanks for your comprehensive reply Maxie, really interesting.. I would love to try a 997. The Gen II 4S is a beautiful car, but how much difference is there between this and your beautiful 997?

I agree that the GT3 is a serious bit of kit. The only problem is functionality. Am I correct in thinking that typically the GT3 comes with roll cage? When I first looked to bring a performance car into the fold the brief was difficult as I have two car mad young sprogs, and I needed something that could accommodate them as well. The beauty of the 911 is this overall functionality. I wouldn't say I use it to go to the shops, nor to do the school run, but put it this way, weekends to Brighton or Hever Castle just became a lot more interesting (not to mention weekends with the misses..)! Sitting them within a roll cage or over even harder suspension probably wouldn't work for them...even if I'd love it to bits.

But what is this 997TT??! How perceptible is the turbo is the 911, and how much more feedback would you get with a Twin Turbo..!? That sounds like a primal experience that I would like to get in on, but whether the kids could get in there as well is a mystery - roll cage or back seats?

SO sorry to be missing the Cannonball 2 mate, thank you so much for organising it. I will be back for more fun very soon.

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