By Matt Fenster and Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen and I recently had the opportunity to sample Porsche’s latest offering of the iconic 911, the new, best yet 991. While taking my 997 in for routine service at Porsche of The Motor City, General Manager Wayne Youngblood offered us a 991 to drive while my car was being serviced. The opportunity to drive the 991 back to back with the 997 was too tempting to pass up. Wayne Youngblood and Jarett Hoffman met us with smiles and after checking my car in for service they handed us the keys to a black Carrera S with PDK.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, you can certainly feel that the cabin is larger than the previous generation’s interior; in fact the whole car is wider and longer than the 997. The dashboard and center console are well laid out and it is easy to figure out; Porsche once again upped the ante with the interior. The 997’s interior was a huge leap over the 996’s interior and the 991 makes another huge step over the 997.
Pulling out of the dealership, we had the PDK in full automatic mode; this car is very useable for daily driving. The 991 is more refined than the previous generation in typical Porsche fashion.. The 3.8L direct injection flat six pulls nicely and lets you dart around traffic at will. This car was equipped with Sport and Sport Plus features that made the engine mapping more responsive and the exhaust raspier (and more fun!).
We took I-696 East to I-94 East and got a good sense of how the car feels at highway speed. The car felt comfortable and well planted at speed. We exited at M-59 and put the car in manual mode where we could get a feel of the PDK’s paddle shifting. The engine blips when downshifting (no double clutching here!). This car has a lot of goodies and features that would take a few days of driving to figure out which I would surely volunteer for (you hear me Wayne?). It was now time to turn the wheel over to Michael.
In the previous paragraphs, Matt compared the new 991 to his 997. My reference point was my two generation old 996 cabriolet. The 991 is larger than a 996. It looks more modern, sleek and aggressive with its lower, wider stance, its bulging fenders and 20’ wheels and tires, yet it is still immediately identifiable as a 911.. Sitting in the driver’s seat is a totally new experience compared to my 996, with the exception of its decades old five dial guage cluster. The 991 interior is truly luxurious. The instrument panel, seats, steering wheel and door trim panels are very upscale. The rearward sloping console with shifter and a 4.6 inch color display monitor is much more Panamera or Carrera GT like. In short, I could be sitting in an upscale luxury sedan as likely as a high performance sports car. The other significant difference is the higher door sill and a more raked windshield. Although these styling cues make for a dramatic visual statement, visibility is somewhat reduced.
Driving the car was a joy, even though we had little opportunity to test its handling and cornering on twisty roads. With 100 more horsepower, direct injection and other refinements, the 991 accelerates dramatically more quickly than my 996. The sound out of the exhaust in sport mode while accelerating is fantastic. The tone goes from ocean liner quiet to fighter jet aggressive. Steering, the subject of much controversy since being switched to electronic, felt and performed as well as the traditional mechanical steering in my 996. The change was transparent to me.
The PDK automatic manual transmission operated flawlessly and was fun to drive, Upshifts and downshifts in manual mode were very quick and precise, and shifting can be performed with full power on. The PDK was also much more practical and enjoyable in urban grid lock. I felt, however, that the paddles should have been taller, like they are in a Ferrari F430. The PDK may be faster, easier to drive and, perhaps, more appropriate with the upscale GT nature of the 991, however, being an “old school guy”, I still prefer the manual transmission in my 996. A seven speed manual is available for the 991.
The high tech electronics on the 991 totally trump the basic nature of the 996. From the sound system to Porsche’s acronyms – PDK, PASM,PDCC, PCM, PTV, PDLS and much more, the new 911 is a much more technically advanced vehicle. The adjustable suspension which can be set to regular, sport and sport plus was great fun, although I must say that the ride quality in my 996 appears to be better that the 991 in either of its sports modes.
In summary, Porsche has taken the next logical step in this best yet 911.. Matt felt that the 991 was perhaps a little to refined for his taste, and that the 997 may be a better balance of refinement and performance. Given the road conditions, we didn’t push the car too hard (some of you know Matt’s history!), however, we are sure the car will excel in the twistees and on the track. Plus, we can’t wait to see what the 991 Turbo and GT3 will be like.