This is the new Porsche 911. Yes, it looks like every Porsche 911, but this car represents a significant change. Late Sunday night, Porsche announced new versions of its 911 Carrera and Carrera S, which for the first time ever will feature turbocharged motors.
Lets get the confusing part out of the way first; Porsche has sold a turbocharged 911 since 1975 called rather inventively, the 911 Turbo. The 911 Turbo has always been the fastest, priciest and most luxurious 911 you could buy. The base model Carrera has never had a turbo engine.
Now, the Carrera and more powerful Carrera S will be turbocharged, but Porsche will still offer a top-of-the-line 911 Turbo. There is some precedent for this. Porsche’s small crossover, the Macan, comes in two flavors: The Macan S and the Macan Turbo, which both utilize turbos.
Oh, the joys of German car nomenclature. Don’t even get started on BMW.
Replacing the 3.4-liter flat-six engine in the Carrera and the 3.8 liter flat-six in the Carrera S is a 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged flat-six. Both the Carrera and Carrera S will see an increase of 20 hp to 370 hp and 420 hp, respectively. Each will have a decrease of 0.2 seconds in 0-60 mph acceleration and a healthy increase in top speed, with the Carrera S hitting an autobahn-ready 191 mph.
The nature of power delivery will change with turbocharging as well; in the previous Carrera and Carrera S, peak torque was reached at 5,600 rpm, meaning the engine had to be worked fairly hard to get the most out of it. Now, peak torque will be available at a very low 1,700 rpm, likely making the car feel much faster than the numbers indicate.
In an internal combustion engine, turbochargers use exhaust gas from the motor to spool up a turbine that sends more air back into the intake, thus increasing power. Traditionally, turbos were used to increase the performance of already fast cars, but a recent trend in the automotive industry is to put a smaller turbocharged engine in place of a larger non-turbocharged engine.
That small non-turbo engine will be more fuel efficient than its larger counterpart, but it won’t give up anything in performance. Sounds like a win-win, but it isn’t quite that simple.
With the increased performance and efficiency gained by turbocharging, the emotional character of an engine (throttle response, sound, high-revving nature) can be dulled somewhat. That sort of thing doesn’t matter in an SUV, but in a sports car those qualities are hugely important.
The 911 Carrera was defined by its naturally aspirated flat-six. Switching to turbocharging is indicative of the pressures all automakers are feeling in the quest for increased efficiency.
“Our normally aspirated engine is famous, but we have the challenge of regulations on fuel consumption and also challenges from competitors. It’s getting harder to get close to them with a normally aspirated engine,” said 911 Product Director Erhard Mossle, speaking to Autocar.
One gets the impression that this is something Porsche engineers had to do, not something they wanted to do.
Otherwise, the changes for this model are — in great 911 tradition — fairly minimal. Most significant is a new infotainment system that features support for multitouch gestures, Apple CarPlay, Google Earth and Google Street View. This should be a very welcome improvement over the outgoing system.
For the Carrera S, buyers will have the option of a sports exhaust, which moves the exhaust pipes to the center of the rear bumper to very sexy effect, and rear wheel steering, which reduces turning radius while increasing stability at speed.
Since it’s a Porsche, these won’t come cheap. The Carrera starts at $89,400 and the Carrera S at $103,400, and that’s before options. If you want a convertible, it’ll be $12,300.
The 911 is always in a tricky position because its fans tend to be purists, reacting negatively whenever Porsche modernizes the car. In many ways, the car hasn’t changed all that much since its introduction in 1964; it’s still a fairly small and light sports car, with its engine mounted behind the rear axle.
Significant changes like this will put 911 fans on edge, as has been the case with every major 911 update. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if turbocharging will have a negative effect on the 911 without driving it, so it’s best to reserve judgement.
It’s also important to note that Porsche has been on a critical winning streak as of late, so faith in its engineers wouldn’t be terribly misguided.