ROAD TEST: 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera

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The Porsche 911 has had over half a century to refine the formula of the most rounded sports car in the market. Making changes to it is not an easy task, but given the age of tightening emissions standards, change is a must. Like the rest of the industry, Porsche has moved with the times and has introduced turbocharging to most of the 911 range in place of its much-loved naturally-aspirated flat-6 engines. The change has resulted in a 911 range that, on paper at least, is more efficient, more flexible, and more powerful than ever. Whether it has resulted in a better 911 is the concern of many enthusiasts.

The 911 may have entered a new world from an engineering standpoint, but in terms of exterior design, it remains as faithful as ever to its past. Though recognizable in shape to its predecessors, there’s no doubt that the 911 has grown significantly over the years. This became especially apparent after having an opportunity to sit inside an older 964 generation 911, which felt significantly more intimate than my 991.2 Carrera test car. Though just as attractive and timeless, the greater size certainly nudges the 911 across the spectrum from sports car towards GT car.

A good solid drive down some twisty roads is all that it takes, however, to confirm that the thrill and intimacy is still there. The Carrera is able to control its body motions better than most, and remain nicely balanced through corners. Everything from the steering, to the pedals, to even the seat beneath your bottom, deliver this lovely sensory feedback that’s comparably numb in many competing sports cars. It’s an engaging car that prods you to push it harder, yet it can still coddle you just enough to make the daily commute enjoyable.

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Although there’s no denying the all-weather advantage of all-wheel drive or the ease of use of the PDK gearbox, the comparatively simple rear-wheel drive Carrera with the manual gearbox has its own appeal. Even with the high level of grip, the chassis still has an endearing playful nature to it that only rear-wheel drive can deliver. The 7-speed manual is a joy to use as well. The shifter has a light positive feel with a well-defined gate pattern. Despite driving through a fair amount of traffic, at no point did I feel fatigued by having to change gears the old fashion way. Going with the standard rear-wheel drive layout and manual gearbox also saves a bit of weight, 1430kg versus 1500kg, which is always a good thing.

Fans of the metallic howl and crisp response of Porsche’s naturally aspirated flat-6 engines may be skeptical, but the new 3.0L, twin-turbo flat-6 is one of the most impressive force-fed engines out there. The ample low-end torque gives the Carrera a level of flexibility and urgency that was largely absent in its free-breathing predecessor. The one undeniable letdown is that the naturally-aspirated unit’s fizzy aural symphony delivered in that last 1500rpm of the rev band is more or less gone. Instead, there’s now a bellowy rasp that builds towards the 6500prm power peak, and levels off up to the pleasingly high 7400rpm limiter. To maximize aural delight, it would be wise to spec the sport exhaust option.

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The sport exhaust was one of only a handful of options added onto my Carrera test car, which carries a base MSRP of $102,200. I also drove a feature-packed Carrera 4S, complete with a livelier engine tune, rapid-shifting PDK gearbox, and several traction and agility adding features such as Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Conrol (PDCC) with rear axle steering. As impressive as it was, at no point did I wish for anything more than the base Carrera. The interior feels appropriately upscale, the newly standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) offers a nice range of damping options, and the 7-speed manual gearbox is a joy to use.

Despite losing a bit of aural drama in its changeover to turbocharging, the Carrera models have improved in enough areas to maintain their status as some of the most rounded, talented sports cars money can buy. Other desirably options exist, such as the excellent Jaguar F-Type, but it’s no secret why so many continue to praise the 911 Carrera. For those seeking character and performance matched with flexibility and daily usability, it’s one of the finest.

For more details, please visit the Porsche Canada website.