What does it take to make the 992 feel like a genuinely exciting 911? Well, 580hp and 480lb ft sound like a good start, at least on paper. A theory we can now put to the test, thanks to Litchfield's Stage 1 remap for the Carrera 4 S and a day playing out in the Brecon Beacons.
Suffice it to say, if there's magic in the 992 it's been well hidden thus far. Porsche is duty-bound by customer expectation and its own engineering culture to make any new generation of 911 faster, more technically advanced and more capable than the one that went before, but risks jumping the shark by going too far. We'll see if the balance toward a more mature vibe tips the other way when the inevitable Turbos and GT3s join the party, but it's clear from early impressions that a faster and more capable Carrera isn't necessarily a more satisfying one to drive, at least for traditionalists. Can more power corrupt such lofty ideals? One can hope.
Impressive dyno readings are fine but true number crunchers will be craving some authoritative performance stats to compare the standard car's already scorching 3.4-second 0-62 time and 190mph top speed with those of the Litchfield car. Hands up, this drive didn't provide opportunity for figuring so what follows is a more seat of the pants assessment on whether this is £1,194 worth spending on any new Carrera S or 4 S.
First up, a little clarification on the original news story promising 580hp from any new 992. At the time of writing the base 385hp Carrera version hadn't been launched and early indications suggested the 3.0-litre six had been electronically detuned in the name of range hierarchy. Turns out the Carrera actually runs smaller turbos and Litchfield hasn't yet had an opportunity to see what the new map will deliver on the base spec engine. Watch this space but for now we'll concentrate on the proven extra 130hp and 90lb ft available for the S-spec motor. Because in simple cash for horsepower terms it sounds like a no-brainer.
The Litchfield 991 Carrera T conversion driven previously was based around a more extensive package of upgrades to the ECU, exhaust system and suspension. This one, meanwhile, is a pure remap, the rest of the car left as Porsche intended. All the better to explore whether it's as sympathetic to the foundations. Or rather overwhelms them.
Safe to say, if any disquiet has been levelled at the S-spec 992's lack of pace it hasn't been high on the list of complaints. Larger turbos with electrically controlled wastegates, air filters swapping position with charge coolers for reduced intake temperatures, precise piezo fuel injection and numbers equivalent to the 991 GTS are all a good start, the revised architecture and components freeing the 3.0-litre's breathing for increased power, response and efficiency across the board. That Litchfield can release so much more without lifting a spanner is testament to the headroom engineered into the package, the gains dramatic at this stage mainly because Porsche is keeping its powder dry for future upgrades of its own.
Say what you like about 911s going turbo across the board but, if the regular C4 S punches hard, the Litchfield one lands haymakers with every flex of your foot. It may not have the linear loveliness of old-fashioned Porsche engines. But, by heck, another 130hp and the mid-range clout to leave atmospheric engines feeling gutless sweetens the pill.
The Sport Chrono on this car means an easy switch between modes, the Litchfield maps in each following similar power and torque curves to the standard ones. Just higher up the graph. Normal feels just that, Sport is probably about right for all-round fun while Sport Plus is the one to inspire expletives from your passengers, the Sport Response button there if you're feeling especially vindictive.
Porsche's stated aim when the 992 was unveiled was that it would be the most digital 911 to date, a boast likely to send a chill down the spine of purists everywhere. For better or worse it's delivered on that in the car's driving style, which is more a synthesised simulation of classic 911 driving traits than ever before. Convincingly done. But a long, long way from the richly detailed feedback of earlier generations.
Combined with that monumental kick of extra performance the uprated 992 feels more PlayStation car than the Nissans Litchfield is more commonly associated with, which is ironic given how often this criticism is (wrongly) thrown at GT-Rs. If all this sounds a bit worrying to traditional Porsche fans it'll make total sense for those coming to the new 911 from those GT-Rs, AMGs, F80-era M3s, fast Audis and other modern performance machinery. Straight-line heroes raised on heavily boosted horsepower are going to be suitably impressed, the Litchfield 992 delivering something comparable to 991 Turbo S pace straight out of the box. Which, again, looks like storming value.
Litchfield is helped by the quality of the base engine, but the way the stock characteristics of sharp throttle response, huge mid-range and top-end fury have been exaggerated still further is enough to leave you reeling. From low revs it feels strong but unashamedly turbocharged, there being a moment as the boost builds before a mighty eruption of acceleration that grows and grows to the kind of top-end crescendo you rarely encounter these days. Or you can summon a couple of snappy PDK downshifts and enjoy response that would put many naturally-aspirated zingers to shame, paired with the kind of kick up the backside only a heavily boosted turbo motor can deliver. Truly the best of both worlds and a thrilling riposte to those who accuse modern engines of being dull and one-dimensional. Howsoever contrived, it makes a good noise too.
There's good news for those who get their kicks in the corners too, the extra power asking questions of the Carrera chassis not posed by the standard output. True, a heavily optioned 992 is very different animal from a base spec one so it's hard to compare like with like. And this particular one has four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, PDCC active anti-roll and Sport Chrono among its add-ons. It's still a relatively numb driving experience, the extra track at the front end delivering more grip, if not feel. It's a more neutral 911 than any that's gone before but it still has a whiff of that traditional light front, heavy rear balance and all that comes with it, good and bad.
A two-wheel drive Carrera S with this amount of power to the rear only would likely be a very different beast and something we'd love to try. But even with power going to all four wheels it's now got the grunt to alter its attitude on the throttle, even with everything on. It takes a confident right foot early in the corner but, even on a dry road, it will rotate subtly on the throttle into a sustained all-wheel drive, four-wheel drift. A bit like a GT-R, in fact. Put it this way, if you're a repeat Litchfield customer making the switch to Porsche you're going to feel right at home, albeit in surroundings that feel 10 years ahead of the game rather than a decade behind.
There will no doubt be debate over the wisdom of aftermarket power bumps for cars fresh out of dealerships, vehicles with warranties, lease deals and the rest to consider. Iain Litchfield knows his game, stands by his work and is satisfied there is a healthy enough margin in the transmission and other components to cope with the extra power. The upgrade can also be removed as easily as it can be installed, should that be your wish. Real world caveats aside, if you're looking to light the fire in that new 992, this Litchfield upgrade would seem as close to a no-brainer as it's possible to get.
SPECIFICATION - LITCHFIELD PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 4 S STAGE 1 (992)
Engine: 2,981cc, twin-turbo flat-six
Transmission: 8-speed PDK auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 580@6,775rpm
Torque (lb ft): 480@5,800rpm
0-62mph: <3.6 seconds*
Top speed: >190mph*
Weight: 1,640kg* (EU with driver, before options)
MPG: 25.7-27.2mpg (combined NEDC equivalent)
Price: Base car from £98,418, Stage 1 conversion £1,194 installed, including VAT
*Figures for standard car, pre-conversion