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2016 Porsche 911 Carrera review

Facelifted Porsche 911 gets a smaller, turbocharged engine to improve emissions and boost performance. Has it lost any of its magic? We try it on UK roads for the first time to find out

Words ByWhat Car? Staff

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There are facelifts and then there are facelifts, and the one carried out on Porsche's 911 for 2016 is very much the more comprehensive kind.

There's a new bonnet design and new daytime running lights, plus and clever front air intakes which automatically open and close to aid aerodynamics. At the rear there are redesigned tail lights, more new vents and, if specified, a different central exhaust design. However, the real news is what Porsche has been working on beneath the 911's sleek exterior.

For the first time, the entry-level Carrera and next-tier Carrera S models get a smaller, 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six engine in a bid to still offer serious performance, but also be more environmentally friendly - an ever increasing concern for car makers. In fact, the new entry-level Carrera we're testing here actually has 20bhp more than its predecessor, along with an extra 44lb ft of low-rev pulling power.

The Carrera now gets from 0-62mph in less time (4.6sec with the standard manual gearbox) and has a higher top speed of 183mph but is also, officially, at least, cleaner and more frugal. Has our long-time five-star sports car lost its class-leading credentials in search of a greener future?

What is the 2016 Porsche 911 like to drive?

Let's start with the good news: the 911 remains an engaging, thrilling and hugely capable sports car.

Its new engine will take some getting used to for those accustomed to the iconic, rev-happy, naturally aspirated flat sixes that have occupied 911s for so long. Let's be clear, though, this new engine is still more than happy to rev to 7500rpm, and the way it transfers its power to the road remains truly outstanding. This is the 'slowest' 911, yes, but for most sports cars buyers it's more than rapid enough.

Where before the Carrera forced you to change down in search of more potency, this 3.0 is happy to pull harder from lower revs. That makes it easier to drive around town, and it's just plain quicker across the board. The glorious noise flat-six roar is still there, particularly so with our car's optional sports exhaust, although the Carrera doesn't scream quite as loudly as before when you rev its engine beyond 7000rpm, which is a bit of a shame.

Listen carefully and you can hear the 'whooshing' of the two turbos when you accelerate from low revs, but Porsche has done a great job of keeping most of the characteristics of a naturally aspirated engine. There's no sudden rush of acceleration as the turbochargers kick it, and beyond about 4000rpm the 911 builds revs in just as linear a fashion as it always did.

The 911's seven-speed manual gearbox has also been altered. Its shift is still as slick and precise as ever, but a new clutch brings a lighter pedal action for easier town driving. With more torque from lower down the rev range, third gear onwards has been made longer, which reduces how quickly the engine is spinning on the motorway. There's still plenty of road noise, though.

There's little change to the way the 911 handles, though. The steering is heavy but is judged perfectly in terms of consistency and speed. The front wheels always bite hard when asked to and the 911 settles superbly into tight bends without ever disrupting the communication from road surface to your hands on the wheel. Its now standard PASM adjustable dampers help with this, giving the 911 a 10mm lower ride height and a lower centre of gravity - along with the wider standard tyres.

Cars equipped with the optional Sports Chrono pack get a newly introduced rotary dial on the steering wheel, borrowed from Porsche's 918 hyper car, which can be used to flick through driving modes. Switching to Sport and then Sport Plus brings two stages of stiffer dampers and increased throttle response for an even more engaging drive.

The 911 has never been crashingly firm or uncomfortable, but it's more supple than ever thanks to the standard PASM suspension. It's no luxury limo, but is more than forgiving enough for an everyday car and actually rides remarkably well at motorway speeds.

What is the 2016 Porsche 911 like inside?

The driver is still treated to one of the very best sports car driving positions. The driver's seat is nicely supportive both at the base and back, and has a range of adjustment wide enough to suit even the very tall. Likewise, the steering wheel can be moved to sit at the perfect height and distance for most. The 911's raised central tunnel places the manual gearlever right where you want it.

Interior space is as before, which means there's still good head and leg room for adults up front and just enough storage in the glovebox, door pockets and under the central armrest to store smartphones and wallets. The 911s rear seats offer next to no leg room, but are handy for storing any bags that won't fit in the nose-mounted boot.

Cabin quality remains superb, with the 911's stitched leather dashboard sections, metallic highlights and nicely damped switchgear making it feel worth every bit of its near-£80,000 price. We still take issue with Porsche's fascia layout, though; there are just too many buttons lined up along the central tunnel.

The biggest news inside the cabin is the improvement of one of what was the last model's weakest features; its infotainment system. It has a new 7.0in screen that looks far better integrated with the dash, and its onscreen graphics are sharper, while it now responds to touch, swipe and pinch movements more promptly.

It also features far better smartphone integration, with Apple CarPlay and wi-fi supported for the first time. Sat-nav is standard and uses Google Maps, so will be instantly familiar to many. There are still eight menu shortcut buttons and two rotary dials.


Should I buy one?

This is a huge change for Porsche and the 911. As big as its decision to switch from air-cooled to water-cooled engines some time ago. Purists need not worry, because the 911 is still the benchmark sports car at this price point, and just as people came around to water-cooling, so too will they to the idea of a turbocharged Carrera.

There aren't many direct rivals to the 911 when comparing list prices, but if you're lucky enough to be researching sports cars at this sort of money, you may have a Jaguar F-Type R Coupe or Aston Martin V8 Vantage in mind. The new 911 is considerably better than both.

Sure, it isn't as loud or jaw-dropping to look at as either British rival, but the Porsche is more practical than both, much smarter inside, cleaner and more frugal, and its deft handling far surpasses any rival at this price.

What Car? says...

**

Rivals**

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Jaguar F-Type Coupe

Porsche 911 Carrera manual

Engine size

3.0-litre petrol

Price from

£76,412

Power

365bhp

Torque

332lb ft

0-62mph

4.6 seconds

Top speed

183mph

Fuel economy

34.0mpg

CO2

190g/km

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Review

Porsche 911

What Car? SaysRated 5 out of 5
Owners sayRated 5 out of 5

A fantastic sports car and one of the few you can live with every day. The Audi R8 might be more theatrical than the Turbo models, but the lower-end 911 models are world-class, and define the sports car category.