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997 S Roadtest in today's Autocar--------


30 Sep 2004
Great article . The 997 S comes out with a 5 star rating and "best in coupe" class award.

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Has anyone here driven an S and a normal Carrera? Any comments on the differences?

Thanks, Simon

Migration info. Legacy thread was 18935

I drove the S last saturday and have got it again tomorrow. wrote some stuff in the thread 997 Test Drive. Will let you know about the Carrera - will be checking it out as well.

Migration info. Legacy thread was 18939



Porsche 911 Coupe 3.6 Carrera 2drTest Date 21 September 2004Price when new £58,380 The business. As usual



New 911 handles, rides and goes even better

Sitting, waiting in a lay-by so

mewhere just outside Oxford. Wondering what the new Porsche 911 will be like to drive. Wondering whether it will be a step forwards or backwards. Or maybe, even, a step sideways.My mind fizzes with anticipation. Will it look good in the metal? Will it steer like a 911? Will it sound like a 911? Of course it’ll stop like a 911. But will it feel like a 911? Will it intimidate like a 911?And then it appears, nose bobbing a little as photographer Stan Papior gives it a decent portion of vegetables around the far side of the roundabout at which we are to meet.I can’t make up my mind quite how to react to the ‘new’ 911 when it finally draws up alongside me, its exhaust system pinging as it cools. I’m so shocked I forget to say hello to its driver and just gawp at the car. Has he collected the wrong Porsche, I begin to wonder. I thought I’d been commissioned to write a story about driving the first ‘new’ 911 in the UK, yet Stan would appear to have turned up in an old 911 – a deliciously bright red example, I’ll grant you, but an old 911 all the same.Oh hang on, the nose is different, sort of. And so are the rear wheelarches. And the lights. And the door mirrors. But overall, well, it just looks so familiar. Question one, it seems, has already been answered. And if you don’t believe me, make your own mind up the first time you see one on the road – if indeed you clock that it’s a new one you’re looking at.What’s it like then?’ I ask Stanley. ‘Fast,’ he replies through a very big grin. Most of you will not have had the pleasure of our Stanley but, trust me, grins of this calibre are not often contained within his everyday repertoire. Which means it’s time for me to find out and for Stan to drive the Honda NSX I’ve just arrived in for the rest of today.A pull on the new door handle confirms immediately that, although the styling evolution may have stalled somewhat at Porsche, the engineering evolution has not. From the moment you touch the new 911 it feels, yes, like an old 911; but at the same time tougher and more durable than the 996. I always had the sneaking suspicion that the 996 was nowhere near as well built as it’s predecessors: the doors would never shut with quite the same thunk; the switchgear never felt as if it’d last forever; and the gearchange always felt light and (whisper it) even a tad notchy beside the 993’s. But all that has changed on the 997. Statically, this car feels every inch like the real deal. Like a genuine 911.Take the cabin. You climb in, realise how snugly you fit the seats and how Cayenne-like the centre console is, and also how much clearer the basic ergonomics are. Yet the overwhelming impression is that you’ve somehow been here before.This is no coincidence. This is Porsche admitting to a rare mistake. This is Porsche saying: ‘We got the 996 cabin wrong – slightly – because it didn’t really feel like a 911 inside. But don’t worry folks, because we’ve adjusted the settings, moved things around a bit (specifically the rev counter and the digital speedo) and now everything is – how you say – hunky-dory once more.’ So we’ll just ignore the exceedingly naff stopwatch on top of the dash for the time being – even Porsche can continuously make mistakes, after all.Key in the ignition (mounted on the right of the steering column, note), twist and, what was that? Blimey, it’s so smooth. So calm. Prod the throttle just to make sure it’s actually alive and, sure enough, there’s that sound. That same old chainsaw-in-cotton-wool rush as six horizontally opposed pistons (water-cooled, just as they were in the 996) begin to pump at one another. Same electric response to the throttle, too. No, make that an even better response to the throttle this time round. Yes, this is a 911. But it’s also a new kind of 911. A more refined 911.I dip the clutch and get ready to engage first gear and another minor realisation occurs: the pedal is way lighter than before, the gearlever far easier to manipulate around its gate. Changing gear in this car, you imagine, will not be much more taxing than it is in a Honda Civic.And so it proves. I pull away, listening carefully to the engine’s more muted yet still inimitable machinations, and move the lever easily into second and then third. And twig that never before has a 911 been so damn easy to drive. Soon, maybe, BSM will be buying these things.Half a mile up the road, having not yet gone above 30mph, it’s already obvious how much more comfortable this car is compared with any other to have worn the magic number. It rides so well it’s hard to believe it’ll actually handle when I start to throw it around. So perfectly matched are the springs of the seats to those of the suspension, and so soothing is the damping, you just don’t notice you’re riding across a road that is, by and large, dreadfully lumpy. The only giveaway is the tail spoiler of the NSX you’re following: it bobs violently up and down in front while you glide serenely over the same Tarmac.Then you notice the steering. Or more specifically, you notice that you haven’t noticed the steering. Haven’t yet thought to yourself: what lovely steering this car has. This is because, to begin with, you just aim the new 911 and it steers. It goes in the exact direction you want it to, without any particular sensation of doing so other than visual confirmation through the windscreen. Feel, you think to yourself, is missing from this car’s steering – even though it’s accurate to within one quarter of half a millimetre.The rear of the NSX squats a fraction in front and a clear thought begins to form: that this is the time to find the answers to the more important questions concerning the new 911. Namely, does it do the business when you need it to do the business? Or does it – because it is so much smoother and more refined than before at low speeds – fall apart when you need it to crystallise at high speed?It takes about eight seconds or just one decent fourth-gear corner to find out, and it goes something like this. From three figures you lean on the middle pedal hard and immediately lose 30mph, taking you down to a nice speed to turn in at. You turn in gently and the inside front tyre takes a great big bite at the apex while the outside front tyre takes all the load without a deflection. The body then rolls a fraction and settles on its suspension, and the dampers take a breath and allow the body to breathe beautifully with the road below. And then finally you realise that through the palms of your hands you can feel it: feel the steering; feel the tyres clawing at the Tarmac; feel the 911-ness going on beneath you.Soon afterwards you realise, too, that had you tried to take this same corner at the same speed in any previous generation of 911, you’d have been buried deep in the undergrowth right now, wondering what on earth you’d being trying to attempt. The new 911, you rapidly conclude, truly is quite a piece of work.And it doesn’t stop there. A little later, having driven for an hour or two down the M4, the quality of refinement becomes ever more apparent. Okay, there’s a fair bit of tyre roar from the fat Michelins (there always is on Porsches), but the sense of relaxation you experience is so strong you almost ignore the white noise emanating from the tyre treads. The seats are so well shaped, the Bose stereo of such high quality and the suspension so well resolved you can’t help but climb out amazed by this car’s character after a day behind the wheel. Never before – and I mean never – has a machine so successfully combined so many attributes under one roof. It is pure sports car, relaxing GT car and everything you can think of in between.At this point you should know that this is not the much-talked-about S model; this is your regular bread-and-butter 321bhp/273lb ft 911 Carrera on 18in wheels and standard suspension. The only options it has are the Bose stereo and ceramic brakes – the same as those fitted to the 996 Turbo and yours in this instance for a wincing £5349. Basic price £58,380. On-the-road price £64,497 with options.So does all this mean that the new 911 – better to drive, not to mention faster, more thoroughly built, much more refined and hugely more comfortable over any UK road – represents incredible value in 2004? Or has it, in fact, begun to get ideas above its station? Sixty five big ones will, after all, buy you a very fast TVR and a Peugeot 407 for the other 364 days of the year. Or it would buy you an extremely refined Jaguar XJ and a Renault Clio Renaultsport 182. Alternatively, you could have a Range Rover and change for the mother and father of all holidays. And a Daewoo Lacetti.To judge the new 911 by such humble standards, however, would be to judge it badly, because what it is is a stand-alone enigma. Always has been, always will be. In reality it’s far closer to being a cut-price Ferrari rival than a pricey alternative to a TVR. And the real killer (for Ferrari) is that it goes damn near as well, has almost as much brand cachet yet costs approximately half the price of the new F430.But in the end such comparisons are largely meaningless because, as ever, the 911 has no obvious set of rivals. Imitators, yes, but true competition, no. And what’s most important is that in every way but one it represents another major improvement over its ancestors. In many ways it is the finest 911 so far.Yet it’s also difficult not to wonder just how affected the 997 will be in the long run by its styling, which to these eyes is not what it could be. To these eyes it is what the 996 always should have been, and even today, when the shape is as fresh as it’ll ever be, it looks too samey to what’s gone before. In two years’ time it’s hard to see how that will have changed for the better.I hope I’m wrong. And a part of me hopes Porsche continues to make better and better 911s until the end of time. But maybe, just maybe, it could be time to call it a day; to move on and design something genuinely new which carries a different number from the one we know and love. Otherwise someone, somewhere, might just accuse Porsche of running out of good ideas.

Steve Sutcliffe

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