What Car? says...
Some things in life should be left as they are. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, for example, wouldn’t be the same without its tilt. The same applies to the iconic shape of the Porsche 911.
Under the skin, though, there have been loads of changes to Porsche’s rear-engined sports car over the years. This latest version is codenamed the 992 and you can choose from five turbocharged flat-six petrol engines.
The range kicks off with the 380bhp Carrera and Carrera T, and the 444bhp Carrera S, and even those versions offer serious performance. Then there's the Carrera GTS (Gran Turismo Sport), plus two Turbo-badged models that are among the fastest cars on the road. Indeed, the 641bhp Turbo S can do 0-62mph in a scarcely believable 2.8 seconds.
There are also Cabriolet and Targa versions, plus a hardcore 911 GT3 model. Further down the line, Porsche will offer two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions – including one with more than 600bhp and a top speed of almost 200mph.
We've tested the Porsche 911 for performance, practicality and more, and in this review we'll tell you how it compares against it's main rivals, including the Aston Martin Vantage, the Jaguar F-Type and the Mercedes-AMG GT.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The 'entry-level' Porsche 911 Carrera delivers crushing straight-line pace, getting from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds (4.5 seconds if you go for the equally powerful Carrera T with a manual gearbox).
With peak torque arriving at just 1900rpm, you might assume the 3.0-litre engine doesn’t like to be revved. However, unlike so many modern turbocharged engines that run out of puff higher up in the rev range, the 911’s flat-six is utterly relentless all the way to its relatively heady 7500rpm limiter.
Indeed, it's so quick it makes the more powerful Carrera S and GTS options seem somewhat unnecessary. They lower the 0-62mph time if you stick with the standard eight-speed PDK automatic gearbox – although the manual gearbox option will be more appealing if you value old-school interaction with the car.
The Carrera and Carrera S are both available with optional four-wheel drive (look out for the '4' badge), but traction is so good on rear-wheel-drive versions that the extra expense isn't really justified.
The Turbo and Turbo S are exclusively four-wheel drive and deliver brutal acceleration – the sort that'll really make your neck ache. Unless you're looking for ultimate bragging rights, the cheaper Carrera models make far more sense.
The GT3’s high-revving non-turbocharged engine offers a different experience – see our Porsche 911 GT3 review for more on that version.
Suspension and ride comfort
All 911s come with adaptive suspension (called PASM) as standard, which means you can effectively change the stiffness of the suspension to suit the type of driving you're doing.
In the Carrera and Carrera S, the regular setting only works well around town, where it takes the sting out of sharp-edged bumps and prevents you from being jostled around too much.
Out on the open road, you'll start to notice body control becoming surprisingly loose, with the car bucking and bouncing along any surface that isn't perfectly smooth. Switching to the firmer Sport setting stops this from happening and, to be frank, it's the setting we'd choose for most UK roads.
Thanks to the 911's beautifully weighted steering, which is communicative and incredibly accurate, you can push right to the limit of grip with total confidence – something that can’t be said of the Aston Martin Vantage or the Mercedes-AMG GT.
Rear-wheel-drive versions of the Carrera and Carrera S are slightly more rewarding (and considerably lighter) than four-wheel-drive models, including the Turbo and Turbo S. That's because when you're cornering really hard in a four-wheel-drive 911, the front wheels try to help claw you out of corners, giving the car a less natural balance. It's certainly effective, though.
What’s more, as long as you've switched the suspension to Sport mode, body control is exceptional. True, the mid-engined Audi R8 is even better in that respect, but it's also more expensive than Carrera versions of the 911 and a lot less practical.
Noise and vibration
When fitted with the optional sports exhaust, the 911 Carrera and Carrera GTS models make a full-blooded and thrilling howl when you put your foot down.
Alternatively, for those moments when you’re not in the mood, you can turn the volume down to ensure that the engine never gets too boomy or intrusive. The Turbo models are loud but don't sound as tuneful. For the ultimate-sounding 911, the GT3 is the one to go for, with its howling engine sound and loud exhaust note.
The 911 isn’t an especially refined choice for covering lots of miles. You'll hear wind whistle from around the frameless side windows at motorway speeds and the wide tyres generate a lot of noise over coarse surfaces. Consider the BMW M8 if you're looking for a more agreeable long-distance cruiser.
The eight-speed PDK auto gearbox shifts extremely quickly and surprisingly smoothly. The optional seven-speed manual gearbox on the Carrera T, S and GTS is one of the best fitted to any sports car, while the six-speed version on the GT3 requires more effort but is rewarding all the same.
Strengths Brilliant handling; great engines; comfortable ride
Weaknesses Lots of road noise
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Most people will be able to find a driving position that suits them using the Porsche 911's entry-level seats, which have four-way electric adjustment.
We'd still recommend forking out for the 14-way electric sports seats (standard on the Turbo), or even better the 18-way Adaptive Sports Seats Plus (standard on the Turbo S), both of which bring adjustable lumbar support and a memory function.
You sit close to the floor, which gives the 911 a suitably hunkered-down feel from behind the steering wheel, and the pedals are perfectly positioned.
The speedo and rev counter are directly in your line of sight and easy to read at a glance, but you might find some other instruments, including the fuel gauge, are obscured by the steering wheel. The air-con controls are rather fiddly, too.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Driving a sports car usually involves making serious visibility sacrifices, but the 911 is surprisingly easy to see out of.
Forward visibility is excellent, thanks to slim windscreen pillars. Those distinctive bulges around the tops of the headlights give you a clear idea of where the front wheels are, too, making the 911 easier to manoeuvre than the Jaguar F-Type and the Mercedes-AMG GT.
Even rear visibility isn't too bad, thanks to a deep rear window allowing you to place the back of the car accurately when reversing. Plus, front and rear parking sensors come as standard, with a reversing camera fitted to the Turbo and Turbo S, and optional on lesser variants.
The biggest object obstructing your view out will be the roll cage that comes fitted behind the front seats with the optional Club Sport Package on the GT3.
Sat nav and infotainment
Porsche has acquired a reputation for being stingy with the amount of kit it fits to its cars, but the 911 comes with all the infotainment essentials.
The 10.9in touchscreen included in the price is quick to respond to prods and is placed within easy reach of the driver and their passenger.
True, being a touchscreen means it can still be a little distracting to use on the move, but it’s one of the best systems of its kind and comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring as standard.
You also get an eight-speaker stereo and a DAB digital radio. If you’re a bit of an audiophile, it’s worth considering the Bose and Burmester sound systems (the Burmester one is particularly impressive). The Turbo and Turbo S get the Bose system as standard.
Most of the buttons and switches in the 911 are well damped and the dashboard and other fixtures feel reassuringly sturdy. Compared with the Aston Martin Vantage and the Mercedes-AMG GT, the 911 has a suitably impressive interior.
It doesn't feel quite as rock solid inside as the Audi R8 though, and you might think the interior looks a bit plain unless you delve into the extensive personalisation options list.
Strengths Good infotainment system; comfortable seats and driving position; visibility is better than rivals
Weaknesses Audi R8 build quality is slightly better; interior can be a bit bland without options
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Porsche 911 driver's seat slides back a long way, and there’s a decent amount of head room in the front – even for tall adults.
The centre console, which fences off the driver from their passenger, is quite wide but is also padded, so it's not uncomfortable to rest your left knee against.
A passenger isn't quite as well catered for when it comes to storage space. The glovebox is deep but quite narrow, making it hard to fit more than a few documents inside, while the door bins are on the small side. You get two cup-holders, though, along with a shallow storage area under the central armrest for a wallet or phone.
The 911’s sloping roof and tight rear knee room mean its back seats are really only suitable for kids or very small adults – and even then only for short distances. You're better off using the space to throw coats, bags and other odds and ends into.
In the spirit of weight-saving, the GT3 and the Carrera T don't come with rear seats, although if you order a Carrera T, you can opt to have them added back in for free. Conversely, you can choose to have them removed as part of the lightweight package on the four-seater Carrera GTS.
In contrast, the 911's main rivals don't have rear seats at all.
Seat folding and flexibility
The rear seats split and fold down flat, allowing you to carry surprisingly long loads without much fuss – although getting them in might be a bit of a faff.
It's worth noting that unless you specify the optional full electric adjustment on the Carrera and Carrera S, you have to return the front seats to their original position manually after you've moved them forward to allow access to the rear seats.
The 132-litre main luggage area, which is in the nose of the car, is big enough to stow a carry-on suitcase, a soft weekend holdall or a few shopping bags.
It's certainly better than nothing, but you do get more boot space in front-engined sports cars, such as the Jaguar F-Type and the Mercedes-AMG GT.
Strengths Lots of front space; useful folding rear seats
Weaknesses Not much rear space; less boot space than some rivals
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S both undercut arguably more exclusive rivals including the Aston Martin Vantage and the Audi R8 by a fairly hefty margin. Those versions of the 911 still look pretty pricey next to the Jaguar F-Type and the 911's stablemate, the Porsche 718 Cayman.
The Turbo, Turbo S and GT3 versions are vastly more expensive still, although when you consider the performance they offer, they're actually pretty well priced compared with more exotic alternatives from the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren.
Don't expect great fuel economy with any 911. We saw indicated figures of around 34mpg in the GTS after a long motorway run, but tumbled as soon as we used the engine’s performance. You will get plenty of your money back when you decide to sell, though: 911s hold their value very well against depreciation.
Equipment, options and extras
While you’d be fine going for the entry-level 911 Carrera, we’d step up to the Carrera T. It doesn’t cost all that much more but comes with some extra kit and gives you access to the seven-speed manual gearbox. The Carrera T comes as a two-seater as standard, so you might want to add the rear seats (at no extra cost), and we’d suggest adding the reversing camera.
As you go higher up the model range, you get more standard equipment, but even if you choose the range-topping Turbo S, you'll almost certainly want to tick a few option boxes. The GTS is worth considering if you want the best balance of performance and kit, plus a wealth of options to choose from.
You get a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty, which includes three years’ European breakdown cover.
Safety and security
You get plenty of airbags and a sophisticated stability control system in the 911, and the front passenger seat features Isofix child-seat mounting points. It’s just a pity you have to pay extra for blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.
An engine immobiliser and an alarm are fitted as standard, but if you want more protection you can pay for Porsche’s vehicle tracking system, which makes it possible to trace stolen vehicles across most of Europe.
Strengths Much cheaper than rivals; holds value very well
Weaknesses You’ll want to add options to all versions; expensive next to the brilliant Porsche 718 Cayman
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Yes, depending on which version you go for. All 911s are on the firm side, but the less performance-focused models are supple enough to take the sting out of potholes. As you might expect, the racier versions are firmer, compromising comfort for performance.
The entry-level Carrera is the cheapest way of getting into a 911, and a fine thing it is too. We’d step up the Carrera T, though, because it doesn’t cost much more but gets more equipment.
Yes. For a sports car the 911 is surprisingly comfortable, even on long drives. There are more practical (and quieter) cars out there, but the 911 is still a brilliant partner no matter how much you drive each day.
The 911’s engine is at the rear of the car so the boot is at the front. At 132 litres, it’s not huge, but it’s big enough to take a carry-on suitcase or a few shopping bags. As a bonus, the 911’s small rear seats can be folded flat to form a load platform.
|RRP price range||£99,275 - £183,260|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||23.5 - 28|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£7,178 / £13,364|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£14,356 / £26,729|