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Image 1 of 16
29 Aug, 2019 2:30pm Antony Ingram
The Carrera is the cheapest Porsche 911 you can buy, but is it the best?
The hardcore GT3 models might generate all the headlines, but it’s the cheaper models the Porsche 911 range that have always been the go-to variants for sports car buyers. And as performance has risen ever upwards with each new generation, the basic 911 Carrera looks like something of a sweet spot, already offering all the performance you’d ever need.
Porsche launched its latest 992-generation 911 with the Carrera S earlier this year, but now we’ve got behind the wheel of that entry-level Carrera for the first time. We use the term ‘entry-level’ loosely, as this is still a 380bhp sports car capable of 182mph flat out.
Like the 911 Carrera S, the regular Carrera gets a 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six, but in this format it develops a little less power than its stablemate. It’s 64bhp down on the Carrera S, while torque drops by 80Nm to 450Nm. Still, it’s not a car you’d describe as slow: 0-62mph takes 4.2 seconds – just half a second down on its bigger brother.
It’s not available with a manual transmission just yet, so the only option for now is an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch auto sending power to the rear wheels. As standard, those wheels are 19 inches up front and 20 inches behind, though our test car was inevitably wearing a larger 20-inch (front) and 21-inch (rear) set, as well as a host of other features.
Our own car included carbon ceramic brakes, the Sport Chrono package, a sports exhaust, and 18-way adaptive sports seats, drawing the Carrera much closer to a Carrera S both on specification and price. As few fundamentally change the character of the car, you can consider them niceties rather than essentials.[gallery:2]
We’re already familiar with the 992’s cabin, and that’s no bad thing; it’s a clean and modern design, but one in which buyers of previous-generation 911s should feel at home. A large central display is a notable inclusion in this generation, as is the redesigned central rev counter in the instrument cluster, flanked by a brace of additional screens.
From the driving position to the excellent visibility and high-quality feel, there’s very little to complain about. You could spend hours behind the wheel without any discomfort, and once again, Porsche offers enough options to personalise virtually every aspect to your individual tastes. You’d still think twice about squeezing anyone but very small children in the rear seats, but the front luggage area is as deep and usable as ever.
With the dual-clutch gearbox, the car itself is very usable too. There’s some heft to the steering to remind you it’s a sports car rather than a grand tourer, and an ever-present grumble from the exhaust as the PDK quickly shuffles up the gears for low-rev cruising.
It can be a little clumsy changing down as you call for more acceleration, so if you want to go anywhere in a hurry, you’re better off clicking the dial around to Sport or Sport Plus and pushing the manual button behind the gear selector stub. Do so and the Carrera finally starts to feel like a proper sports car, surging forward with each movement of the throttle and revving enthusiastically, if not quite as tunefully as past Carreras.
Without driving the two side-by-side or whipping out the stopwatch, you’d struggle to notice any performance deficit to the Carrera S, either. With a similarly insistent surge of power from low revs, the basic 911 displays little trouble spinning to the red line.[gallery:4]
Despite the larger wheels, the Carrera rides maturely, and the stiff structure gives it an unruffled feel over bumps, too. Like 911s of old there’s a healthy dose of tyre roar at higher speeds, however.
On twistier roads it all feels a tad too grown-up at first, with little steering feel and a lack of driver involvement. Push harder though and those traditional 911 characteristics start to filter through, from tireless brakes to progressive, well-weighted steering. There’s plenty of grip as well, and the car feels at its best with a slow-in, fast-out cornering technique, getting the nose turned into a corner before howling out the other side – the car squatting on its haunches to give you fantastic traction.
If there’s a problem, it’s that you do have to be driving quite quickly before those classic 911 qualities reveal themselves – faster than you might wish to travel on the road. We suspect the Carrera might be at its best on those smaller wheels and narrower tyres.
It already feels close enough to the Carrera S on the road, but it’d get even closer to hitting that 911 sweet spot at sensible road-going speeds, too.
4.5 Porsche 911 buyers often upgrade to the Carrera S as a matter of course, but there’s still a lot to be said for the basic Carrera. The entry-level model is hugely fast and very capable, even if it doesn’t feel quite as involving to drive as its predecessor.
- Model: Porsche 911 Carrera
- Price: £82,793
- Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol
- Power/torque: 380bhp/450Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
- 0-62mph/Top speed: 4.2 seconds/182mph
- Economy/CO2: 28.5mpg/226g/km
- On sale: Now