Porsche Cars Australia boss Michael Winkler just said to me that the 991 represents an enormous leap forward over the outgoing and already brilliant 997 model. “Think of the leap from 993 to 996 and then double it,” boasted a supremely confident Winkler. In the near decade I’ve known Winkler, I’ve never seen him give in to hyperbole.
Despite this confidence, and a very positive review from our own Ash Westerman in the current issue of Wheels (on sale now), I am nervous about driving the new 991 911 (isn’t that a recipe for dyslexic meltdown).
Like every motoring journo and car enthusiast, I have a top ten of cars I’ve driven, and the current iteration of this ever-changing list is dominated by 997 911s (see below). I’m curious to see if the 991 will crack that top ten. But I’m nervous because the 991 has switched to electric assistance for the power steering. I’ve driven plenty of cars ruined by electric assist but am yet to drive one improved by it.
A chatty, writhing steering wheel is a 911 trait and one I’m hoping hasn’t been engineered out of the 911. Why did Porsche make the switch? It saves 0.1L/100km. Say that again, 0.1L/100km. If you look at that tiny number relative to the 500 or so 911s Porsche will sell in Australia next year, and assuming the national average kilometres of 13,700km (in truth, 911s cover significantly fewer kilometres) the switch to electric steering will save 6850 litres of fuel (13.7 litres per car annually). That’s the yearly consumption of five gently-driven V6 Commodores.
Perhaps this math explains why there’s a persistent rumour that Porsche’s Motorsport department will retain hydraulic steering assistance for the upcoming GT3, GT2 and RS models - they build only a few thousand of these models and they get driven for fewer kilometres than the mainstream 911s (albeit driven harder).
All this highlights the enormous pressure car makers are under from environmental regulations. Porsche is willing (or forced) to potentially corrupt a major brand trait for such a tiny number.
Tomorrow I head to Santa Barbara for the international launch of the 991 Carrera S. Only then will I know if and where the new 911 slots into the list below.
- Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 (997.2)
- Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
- Porsche 911 Carrera GTS (997.2)
- Ferrari 458 Italia
- Porsche 911 GT2 (997.1)
- Porsche 911 GT3 (997.2)
- BMW E46 M3
- BMW E39 M5
- Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
- BMW E39 530i
Note that just a single turbocharged car (the GT2) makes my list. The top ten of Peter Robinson’s excellent Top Fifty featured just two turbo cars (Audi’s Ur Quattro and the Ferrari F40).
Check out our gallery: Robbo's Greatest Cars of All Time