by Ian Kuah
Ahead of the official driving launch for the , Porsche invited us to the Hockenheimring for a technical briefing and passenger ride.
The choice of venue was no surprise as the 911 has always been a daily driver with track smarts. First, the engineers talked us through the various features of the new car with cutaways and slides. Then to prove the 992's dynamic prowess we were invited to a ride shotgun with their chassis development engineers on track.
The pilot for my hot laps around Hockenheim Club Circuit was Daniel Lepschi, the engineer in charge of driving dynamics for the new 911, known internally as the 992. Daniel explained that we would do four laps of the Club Circuit, and then adjourn to the paddock for a demonstration of the new Wet mode.
During the briefing we were told that the 992 laps the Nürburgring in 7:25 min, which is five seconds quicker than the outgoing 991. While this five-second advantage is not as big as some new 911 variants models have scored over their predecessors, the fact is that the modest 20-hp power boost has to overcome a significant weight increase of 110 lb and then some.
I asked Daniel how many seconds are down to the new Pirelli tires. “About two seconds, with the rest coming from the improved power, suspension, and aerodynamics,” he replied.
I had dropped my window so I could hear the exhaust note when Daniel started the engine. In Normal mode this sounded distinctly flat six but also rather muted. He then switched to Sport mode, and with the flaps now fully open the exhaust note changed in both character and volume, becoming satisfyingly louder and more basso profundo in character.
As we exited the pit lane onto the track Daniel nailed the throttle and the 992 lunged forward, its fat rear tires transferring every one of the turbocharged horses to the tarmac. “The wider tracks, suspension tuning, and bigger tires give the 992 even more progressive limit handling,” Daniel explained as we rocket towards the first bend.
The first corner after the pit lane goes right and Daniel made full use of the PCCB stoppers and trail braking to obtain maximum bite at the front axle and rotate the car into the turn. I noted the high lateral g-forces as well as the relatively low roll angle through this bend, and then he straightened up and we rocketed down the straight towards the next turn.
With the PSM switched off he showed just how sideways the 992 could be held with deft throttle and corrective steering lock applied. This deliberately-induced power oversteer felt very progressive, with the tail instantly coming back on command. This bit of hooning showed how adjustable and stable the 992 chassis is on the limit and beyond.
Leaving the famous 180-degree Sachs Kurve in third gear and quickly taking fourth Daniel then held a steady throttle on the short straight to the entry threshold of the long double apex right-hand Opel Kurve. Throttle moderation here respects the camber change, which can otherwise throw you off line and destabilise the car during the transition.
Back on the pit straight with the taps fully open again, the 440-hp Carrera S felt almost as fast in a straight line as the 500-hp naturally aspirated GT3, which is stronger at the top end. This is because the 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat six has both more perceived and actual low crankshaft speed energy to shove it out of bends, as well as its own free-revving spirit that takes it to the 7,500 rpm cut-out.
You can feel the rear spoiler doing its bit to improve stability under hard braking. The rear spoiler deploys over 0.3g of braking force to its maximum angle of attack, and the extra downforce over the rear axle helps to reduce forward weight transfer.
By allowing the big rear tires to play a greater role during retardation, this additional downforce at the rear shortens the braking distance from 62 mph by just over three feet, and from 124 mph by nearly ten feet. While that does not sound like much in absolute terms it can mean the difference between a near miss and a collision.
After three more fast laps we turned off the track into the pit lane, but the dynamic demonstration was far from over. Porsche are very proud of the ‘Wet’ mode in the Driving Mode menu, and the next part of Daniel’s demonstration would illustrate the worth of this new feature on a wetted down section of the paddock area.
So how does a driver know when to engage Wet mode for maximum assistance in slippery conditions? Thanks to acoustic sensors in the rear of the front wheel arches that detect the sound of water being sprayed at them, the on-board computer will flag a warning on the instrument cluster to ‘suggest’ engaging Wet mode.
The next step is down to the driver. If the recommendation is accepted engaging Wet mode will reign in the throttle and gearbox responses while the chassis stabilization systems operate at a heightened level. This is a worthwhile feature even for an experienced driver who might be tired and not fully alert on a dark, wet winter’s night for instance.
Incidentally, for those who like to indulge in sideways driving, the 992 Carrera 4S has enhanced cooling for its front differential so that overheating during prolonged drifting sessions is no longer an issue.
While at first glance the 992 might appear to be just another incremental evolution in design terms, the significant strides forward in styling, interior, engine, chassis, and driver assistance systems fully justify its billing as an all-new model. More than ever the new Porsche 911 stands tall as the best all-round sportscar in its class.