Goodwood Test: 2021 Porsche 911 Carrera Review
The Porsche 911 formula is almost certainly familiar to you. The 911 is a sportscar with its engine at the back rather than in the middle or the front, and depending on the exact model it can be had with rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, four seats or two, an automatic or a manual gearbox. But because there are so many different 911s, like the 911 Turbo S or the GT3 or the GT3 RS or the GT2 RS, Targa, GTS, Carrera 4 and so on, it’s very easy to forget about the 911 Carrera, the first rung on the 911 ladder. So to stop the 911 Carrera from being left out, we thought it would be fun to get behind the wheel and figure out if getting the keys to the least expensive 911 money can buy would be a poor decision – it might not be the fastest or the most expensive, but surely it’ll still be good to drive?
- In no way feels underpowered
- Huge range of abilities
- Gearbox is fast and smooth
We don't like
- It's heavier than the 991 911 Carrera
- You can't have a manual with the Carrera, only the Carrera S
- Plastic rear trim over the engine feels cheap
Nearly sixty years after Porsche unveiled the very first 911, the current 992 generation 911 is still instantly recognisable as a 911. It would be easy to say Porsche’s designers are some of the laziest in the world, but trying to design an all new car every few years that needs to have the most up-to-date technology, be more aerodynamic, adhere to all the various safety requirements it needs to and to be built of the latest materials while also still being a 911 cannot be easy – the 992’s body, for example, is made entirely of aluminium for the very first time.
Although some have said the rear light bar that extends across the 992’s rear end is, well, ugly, it’s a very pretty car to my eyes. Yes, the veined engine cover feels very cheap, and the 992 has grown in every way compared to the previous 991 911 (it’s 2cm longer, 4.4cm wider, half a centimetre taller and 55kg heavier), but it’s still a 911 and it still looks good.
Performance and Handling
What’s good is that extra size and mass hasn’t stopped the 992 from feeling like a 911. Sure, you won’t have to work for the performance in the same way you would with an early air-cooled car, and with the refinement of a modern 911 there’s no question that some of the quirks of older 911s have been pushed out. But with progress and more refinement has come change, and with change the 911 Carrera is a more complete and accessible car than ever before.
The engine is a 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged flat-six with 380PS (279kW) and 450Nm (333lb ft) of torque. It’s a delightful engine, the has a classic 911 howl towards the top of the rev range and, thanks to those turbos, has some serious low-end punch. Off the line it’ll hit 62mph in 4.2 seconds and eventually it’ll top 182mph. Whichever way you look at it, the 992 Carrera is fast car.
Paired to that engine is a new eight-speed PDK double-clutch gearbox (the 991 had a seven-speed PDK ‘box), and it is superb. When in automatic mode it is unobtrusively smooth, and when you want to change gears yourself with the paddles behind the wheel the response is superb. That said, you cannot have a Carrera with a manual gearbox – you’ll need to buy a Carrera S to be granted that choice. A great shame, in my opinion, as surely the Carrera is about doing things simply, and what could be simpler than three pedals and a stick?
To drive, any fears that the 992’s size would lead it to feel cumbersome erode as soon as you start to string a few corners together. It is bigger, yes, and it doesn’t feel like an overly light car, but everything about it is approachable, predictable and easy to enjoy. What’s more, should you want to throw some bags in the boot and head off on a 1,000-mile road trip, I’m in no doubt you’d get out at the other end without feeling like the springs and shock absorbers would rather your teeth had rattled out.
Porsche is very good at nailing the details. Take the driving position, for example, which is spot on – there’s plenty of adjustability in the seat and the wheel, not forgetting plenty of space to get comfortable. The instrument cluster, too, is lovely, with a nice analogue tachometer front and centre and a small display for the speed and gear incorporated within, and two digital displays on either side of that, with one large and one smaller ‘dial’ apiece. Every button or switch has a nice weight to it, too. Essentially, what could have been simplified without being done so for the sake of it has been pared back. The result is a cabin that feels thoroughly well thought out but not barren. One change that some will likely not like is the new, slightly stubby gear lever which, unlike the lever of previous automatic 911s, cannot be used to change gear. All that’ll mean is that we can’t live out our 911-RSR-sequential-‘box-on-the-Nordschleife fantasies. On a practical and admittedly somewhat irrelevant point, it’ll mean that should you get crossed up in a supremely well executed slide you’re unlikely to be able to change up a gear.
Technology and Features
One reason for the 992’s extra mass over the 991 is all of the tech that’s been crammed in. There’s collision warning and emergency braking assist, an optional night vision system, adaptive cruise control and so on, and for the very first time a ‘wet mode’ that tweaks the traction and stability control as well as the throttle response. As well as the part-digital instrument cluster there’s a 10.9-inch central display, too, from which you can access navigation, a DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and all manner of interesting general car settings and displays. What’s handy is that because there are small displays either side of the tach, you can have the aforementioned very Porsche looking dials in digital form if you want to, or you can see a map or glance at a night vision display or G-meter. There’s a lot more to play with in the 992 without it being distracting.
Top-tier 911s are more often than not very, very good fun – there’s a reason why GT3s and the like pull such praise. Rest assured, however, that the 911 in its most basic form is as good as you’d expect it to be, and there’s nothing basic about it. It isn’t just more refined and easier to use on a day to day basis than any other Carrera before it, but it offers up more performance than the fastest 911s a decade ago would only just surpass.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six
385PS (283kW) @ 6,500rpm
450Nm (333lb ft) @ 1,950-5,000rpm
Eight-speed double-clutch gearbox, rear-wheel-drive
£82,793 (£90,891 as tested)
Reviewed by Seán Ward