What we’ve learnt from the Porsche 991: driver experience
This week we’ve been piloting the superb 991 Carrera 2 GTS around Ireland’s simply magnificent Wild Atlantic Way. Aside from taking advantage of some of the very best driving roads in Europe, we’ve done this as part of our in-depth look at the latest generation of Porsche 911, which is due to be replaced in September after four years in showrooms.
Key developments to the 991 are evident in both its performance and chassis over older versions, which we studied earlier in the week, but the truth is there’s a plethora of other revisions to the 991 platform worthy of our comment. So, we’ve picked out the five most notable changes and looked at what effect they’ve made to that all-important driver experience.
There’s no denying the switch to DFI engines produces a different note to the M97 and M96 units before it, but hidden in the 991’s armour is a neat sound symposer, which feeds that glorious flat six resonance directly into the cabin. It’s a small touch but a useful one, as there’s no way the driver won’t feel anything but invigorated by the heightened note of a hard-working flat six behind him. That said, it can make for a noisy cabin at times as the inevitable rolling tyre noise will also receptive to your ears, but that’s always been a trait of later 911s – plus you’re running a sports car with huge 20-inch diameter rubber with a side profile of only 35, so what did you expect?
These have been much improved ever since the 996 in terms of placement, bringing all five iconic dials within the radius of the steering wheel, neatly doing away with that sloppy smattering of various clocks and gauges right across the driver’s side of the dashboard on air-cooled variants. A further evolution to the 991-generation of 911 has seen the introduction of a digital-only fourth pod. Twenty years ago a full dial was dedicated to telling the time in analogue format, don’t forget, but now the driver is spoilt with a plethora of screens to flick between – and all from the same dial – including, directions, a 3D map, TPM (if optioned), torque distribution (on 4WD 911s), plus detailed vehicle stats including journey time and MPG. Like it or not, it brings out the tech geek in all of us – and the wealth of information constantly available to the driver only aids the Porsche 911’s USP as an intelligent car for the intelligent driver.
3. Seating position
The driver’s throne has evolved substantially in the 911’s 52 years of existence. What was once a fuzzy one-person bench is now an ergonomically refined seat with fully adjustable support for your legs, and lower and upper back. Even better, its positioning is lower than ever, placing your centre of gravity lower in the car. The steering wheel is nice and close, and the gear shifter is similarly well placed just a couple of inches away from that wheel. Much thought has clearly gone into creating a utopian seating position for the keen sports car driver, and the result is emphatic: a seat in a 991 is by far the best seat in the entire Porsche fraternity.
4. Centre Console
It was pretty controversial at first, but four years on we’re warming to the Panamera-style centre console housing the ‘Sport’ and other options buttons. Sure, it puts to bed any lingering thoughts of the 911 being a tight, almost claustrophobic motoring experience, but extra space garnered from the chunky console running between the two front seats actually accentuates a degree of refinement that the 911’s interior has always lacked. In fact, the 991’s cockpit is perhaps the first 911 interior that can truly be described as lavish, and there’s no doubt the Teutonic console aids this, with all requisite buttons now much easier to prod when on the move. Thanks to that console, our days of trying to wrangle our fingers awkwardly around the gear shifter in trying to locate the PASM button are long gone, and we’re very happy about that fact.
Our only gripe? The handbrake is gone, replaced by an air brake with an on/off toggle that’s housed on the dashboard just above your right knee (in a RHD car).
As you can tell, we’re huge fans of the Porsche 991 here at Total 911. However, our outright enthusiasm for the latest-generation of Zuffenhausen’s flagship sportscar deteriorates rapidly when popping the decklid and peering at the bland plastic void staring back at us. Yes, that’s right: with the latest Porsche 911, you’ll have to get on your hands and knees and look under the rear bumper to have any hope of glimpsing the famous flat six engine that powers it.
This move to cover the engine is as bizarre as it is heartbreaking. Officials have told us it’s all to do with sound deadening, but most press cars we pilot come with the optional (and superb) Sports exhaust option, plus there’s the small matter of that internal sound symposer to counter that statement.
Either way, part of the theatre of owning a legendary sports car like the Porsche 911 is being able to ogle at the powerplant that shoots you up the road at the prod of your right foot. Taking that away from the enthusiast remains nonsensical, even after four years of us trying to figure out good reasoning for it. As such, I personally welcome a call from any Zuffenhausen-based Porsche employee who can justify the decision to cover up one of the most beautifully crafted and universally popular engines ever to power a sports car.
So there you have it. The (lack of) engine sight is clearly a sore point, but the 991-generation is an exquisite sports car that’s proved a just and able development in the Porsche 911 story. Its very concept may have took a while for enthusiasts to accept in its entirety, but there’s no arguing against the fact that the 991 is the best generation of 911 yet. We’ll be sad to see its production cease.
What are your thoughts on the 991? Comment below or tweet us @Total911.