The roads were sodden and the tyres cool and hard, but the fact of the matter was so clear to see that none of that really registered: the most basic 992-generation 911 Carrera I'd yet driven, the first non-S version at that, was also by a long way the best. Until I'd tested this Aventurine Green Carrera, uprated only with bigger wheels because the smaller ones aren't yet available plus a sports exhaust, I'd thought of the eighth 911 in the dynasty as crushingly effective and enormously capable, but short on the thing that had for decades separated Porsche's sports car from the rest of the pack.
I'd tested numerous versions of the higher-spec Carrera S, in England and Wales and even in Greece during the Cabriolet launch, cars with four-wheel drive and others with two, and in every case I found a car that was more capable than any 911 before it, but engaging only when flogged half to death. That was never supposed to be the 911 way. And this very basic Carrera proved it needn't be the way, because even in foul conditions the car was sweet to drive at any speed, and engaging, and a joy just to operate.
I could feel the grip down the side of the car in corners. The steering was not only pin-sharp but also talkative, giving a clear sense of how hard the front axle was likely to bite. I found myself driving a 911 that as well as being very capable was also, in the finest 911 tradition, truly interactive. The highest complement I can pay the car is to say it felt like a 911.
An essay could be written on why that might be the case, but I'll boil it down to two points instead. The first is that the Carrera feels more road-focused than the Carrera S, which will no doubt have been tuned with at least half an eye on track driving. You can feel that from behind the wheel: the Carrera is more expressive, rising and falling a little over crests and compressions, and rolling more markedly in corners. That means it feels alive without you having to drive so hard the tyres might peel away from their rims. The second point is rear-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars, or more specifically this particular car's defiant rejection of them.
Simplicity has always been key with the 911. I understand the theory behind Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (the trick anti-roll bars that can keep the body flat in corners without crippling the ride quality) but I have never driven a Porsche and thought it was improved by them. Killing body roll might well keep a sports car better keyed into the road, but it also slaughters the thing that allows the driver to feel in any way in tune with the car.
The rest of the 911 Carrera package is just about beyond reproach. The twin-turbo flat-six is about as good as forced induction performance engines come, with razor sharp throttle response, really good torque through the mid-range and plenty of energy right at the top end. With the optional sports exhaust there's even a rich a tuneful soundtrack, the kind you so rarely hear from a turbocharged engine. Neither 385hp nor 332lb ft of torque look especially impressive nowadays, but out on the road you don't long for any more than that.
Porsche hasn't yet confirmed it will ever offer a manual transmission in the 992 Carrera (though we know the Carrera S will soon get one). It would be a tremendous shame if the simpler 911 isn't soon offered with the simpler gearbox, because all of the sweetness and interaction of the car would be amplified even further by the engagement you add with a third pedal and a stick. That said, the PDK 'box does work brilliantly well, both in manual mode and auto.
I think this 911 interior is the best one yet, with a first-rate infotainment system, high-quality materials, fit and finish like a Boca do Lobo sideboard and even some design flair, rather than just stern-faced functionality. With good cabin space, plenty of refinement, all the convenience and safety kit you could ever need and even good fuel economy in normal driving, the 911 remains the consummate everyday sports car.
And now, with the less powerful engine, none of the optional chassis hardware (that actually contributes nothing to the driving experience) and a more intuitive manner on the road, the 911 Carrera is the consummate driver's car as well.
SPECIFICATION - PORSCHE 911 CARRERA
Engine 2981cc, flat-six, twin-turbo
Transmission Eight-speed dual-clutch, RWD
Power 385hp @ 6500rpm
Torque 332lb ft @ 1950-5000rpm
0-62mph 4.2 secs
Top speed 182mph
Kerb weight 1505kg