There he stands, the new Porsche 911. He´s new but still looks like an old friend. The largely unpopular Boxster style headlights with integrated indicators have made way for the traditional round headlights, very reminiscent of the 993 at first sight.
The silhouette of the 911 hasn´t changed a lot in over 40 years but under the skin it certainly has. Compared with the preceding 996, 80 percent of all the parts have been changed.
The 997 model comes in two versionas. The base Carrera comes with 325bhp and the Carrera S with 355bhp. Visually the S is distinguished by bigger tyres and the two double exhausts.
My test car is a Porsche 911 Carrera with standard suspension and standard wheels (still hefty 8J x 18s with 235 / 40 ZR 18 tyres at the front and 10 x 18, 265 / 40 ZR 18 at the rear). The colour is seal grey and the car has a black leather interior.
Compared with previous models, the interior seems quite a lot higher in quality. The test car was supplied with the optional sport seats that are very comfortable on long distances and provide good support when cornering. The space in the front seats is enough even for tall people, but as usual the rear seats are only good for small children.
Up front the rev counter dominates. The instruments aren´t so interlocked any more and the analogue speedometer is now properly readable. In aadditional there is an integrated digital speedo. Come to think of it the dashboard is in fact very similar to that in the Cayenne.
The 3-spoke steering wheel has good grip, but hides the outside instruments, oil pressure and oil temperature.
The boot capacity has grown a little (5 litres) to 135 litres thanks in part to a Tirefit system instead of a spare wheel. More space is of course available if you fold down the rear seats.
The engine of the Porsche 997 Carrera was treated to light modifications (e.g. different motronic, exhaust and airbox) from the 996 and achieves 325bhp (239 kw) with a max. tourque of 273.8 ft-lb. (370 Nm) at 4,250 rpm. The acceleration 0 - 100 km/h (0 - 62 mph) is brisk at about 5 seconds.
Inside the sound is more noticable than on the 996 but it's not enough of a difference to annoy. A sports exhaust will be available from October if you fancy a different tune.
The consumption is given by Porsche in EWG-mix with 11.0 litre/100 km, but in practice you´ll find that you have to get on with 13 litre/100 km, under full power even with up to 18 litre/100 km.
The brakes are easy to handle and get a hard grip, even after a few hard braking sessions no fading is apparent. Onlookers noticed that the front of the car gets very close to the ground and you nearly think that it is going to hit the deck.
A Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) is available, but in everyday life the normal brakes are absolutely adequate. PCCB is recommendable if you are a regular visitor on the track - the problems with earlier GT2 about the durability should be past.
The 6 speed manual gearbox works well. The first 3 gears have received steel synchro rings with a carbon coating the from the GT3, but the throws between gears are a bit long for a sports car. A short shift kit is to be offered and should be available by the end of the year.
The electronic servo steering is exact, direct and adjusts itself according to speed of travel. The vehicle stays glued to the road even if you are driving at very high speed - the tenseness in the front is gone. The suspension is far more dynamic, sporty and tight, but without being uncomfortable and makes high speeds possible in curves without the car swaying to one side.
Only on bad roads in town (cobblestones) it is uncomfortable and sends bumps directly to the passengers, but this car feels much better on the motorway and on country roads than in town. The Porsche Stability Management PSM is now fitted as standard and was again modified. On the road you have to be involved in serious situations before it interferes.
In the sport mode of the optional Sport-Chrono-package even allows you drift slightly up to 70kph. For track days you can turn it off and it first interferes again when you brake very hard.
Compared to its predecessor, the 997 is a bit heavier with 25 kg more taking the total weight up to 1,395kg although this isn´t noticeable when driving. For the very sporty driver there will probably be a optimised 997 GT3 in the future...
Recommendable is the Bi-Xenon Lights, that shows the road far better. The navigation system (Becker) is also worth recommending as it calculates far quicker than the old system and it finds
an alternative route much quicker.
For the sporty driver the sport seats and the Sport-Chrono-package are worth a thought too. However the Porsche typical long option list gives you a lot more possibilities to individualise your car with other rims, carbon, leather etc. and raise the price by another few 10,000 Euro.
The production for this year is nearly sold out. The new Cabriolet is expected spring 2005.
Thanks to the Porsche Zentrum Willich (Germany) for the loan of the test car.