Porsche doesn't typically give out the 911 as a long-term test car. It doesn't really need to. The point of a long-term test car from the manufacturer's perspective is continued coverage of the ownership experience, and the 911 doesn't really need that. People generally know what they're getting, and there's rarely a requirement to change anyone's mind because long-term reviews are invariably written by car journalists, who tend to have a deep and covetous affection for the 911. That makes it something of a zero-sum game for Porsche. It's like a gecko telling you sunshine is nice.
So let me tell you what was nice about being stuck with a new 911 Carrera for three months. Firstly, it did rather help sweeten the lockdown pill. Being told that the time you have to spend with something very agreeable will not quickly come to an end is pleasing whatever the quantity or value of that thing is. In this case it was a 911 Carrera in Aventurine Green Metallic with a Black and Island Green two-tone leather interior worth £90,891. I've had worse phone calls.
I had time to consider the rightness of Porsche's colour choices because opportunities to drive the car were obviously limited to begin with. And consider it at length I did. In fact, I banged on about the difference between Aventurine Green and Agate Grey for so long that the other half discovered (to her dismay) that she too had an opinion about the difference between Aventurine Green and Agate Grey, and it differed from mine. No wonder the first few weeks flew by.
The truth is the car looked annoyingly good parked right where it was. Annoying because it's difficult to quantify what's visually satisfying about the 911 after umpteen generations. In the final analysis it looks quintessentially like a sports car, and a reassuringly expensive one at that. The two-tone interior kept its end up. I don't consider myself a fan of the 992's makeover; it has too many screens and too little a gear lever. And the interchangeable cup holder/cubbyhole isn't an ideal place for my elbow. But I liked getting into the Carrera just as much as I liked looking at it from the window. Which is to say a lot.
Then I drove it and liked that too. Without subscribing to the luddite tendencies that apparently blight some 911 owners, I don't consider myself a fan of the 991/2 turbocharged era either; ideally I like a flat-six that breathes freely and noisily and leerily. The twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre unit feels like it has a 15-tog duvet wrapped round it. But this was not the normal wham-bam, ravish-me-please test and nor was it about speed or distance. For weeks I drove only to the supermarket or to somewhere very close by for a restorative stroll up through a meadow or up a hill. The fuel gauge moved like it was measuring an epoch.
I drove nowhere quickly at all. To do so seemed weirdly disrespectful. It should have been murder, and in something else it might have been. But two things promptly revealed themselves about the latest 911 Carrera. One, the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre unit is endlessly and infallibly drivable. The duvet, it turns out, is wrapped around an engine which is neither too large or too small, or too powerful or too puny, or too showy or too shy: it is precisely as generous and genuine and palpable as it needs to be. I never, ever tired of interacting with it, even when my interactions were about as weighty as a Parakeet's lunch.
Two, I never tired of interacting with it because Porsche has tuned the control surfaces with such wonderful care. Normally this attribute earns its spurs when things are occurring quickly and responsiveness is at a premium, but the hyper-short, slo-mo journeys dictated by lockdown slipped every exchange under the microscope. I snaffled pleasure from winding off lock after leaving a car park. I wore thinner soled trainers so I could better toe the Carrera up to a heady 30mph. I looked forward to getting in it all day, and then consciously drew out our time together like a last supper.
A 991 GT3, I'm sure, would not have accommodated the coronavirus mindset so agreeably. Perhaps the latest 992 Turbo might have done, but there would still be that ludicrous-speed stockpile of torque lying in wait. The Carrera didn't require 590lb ft or 650hp to show me a good time. And that much was true even as lockdown eased slightly and journeys further afield became viable. I pressed on a bit, wallowing in freedom and the swoosh of more serious airflow, but 385hp never seemed lacking or obviosly a lower-powered option. For the road, it felt ample. It felt right.
Tellingly, I don't think I pushed the button marked 'Sport' for another fortnight. And it was only when Porsche called to enquire about their missing press car that I endeavoured to hit the other one with a coil spring on it. I half hoped that it would break the spell and I could wave the Carrera off safe in the knowledge that I wouldn't miss it in the new normal. But it didn't; the car just became leaner and swifter and cleverer in its damping. True, the turbocharged flat-six doesn't ever go totally berserk at 6,500rpm, but it doesn't really need to. The rear-drive 911 around it is already doing everything to an understated, over-engineered tee. It might be the most rounded car I've driven this year, and I'd urge anyone currently considering a new Carrera not to overlook the cheapest version you can buy. Said the gecko.
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