Porsche 911 2016 -

First Drive

Porsche 911 Carrera, front action
Porsche 911 Carrera, side static
Porsche 911 Carrera, rear action
Porsche 911 Carrera, boot
Porsche 911 Carrera, sat nav
Porsche 911 Carrera, above action
Porsche 911 Carrera S, front action
Porsche 911 Carrera S, rear action
Porsche 911 Carrera S, dashboard
Porsche 911, cockpit detail
Porsche 911 Turbo S, front action
Porsche 911 Turbo S, dash detail
Porsche 911 Turbo S, side action
Porsche 911 Turbo S, rear action
Porsche 911 Turbo S, rear lid
Porsche 911 Cabriolet, rear action
Porsche 911 Targa, full front action
Porsche 911 Targa, side action
Porsche 911, driving shot
Porsche 911 Carrera, static castle

PORSCHE has played an amazing long game with its 911 range, for more than 50 years keeping things the same - but different.

It's a hard trick to pull off; maintaining the essence of a car that defines your brand yet keeping it up to date at the same time.

Many have tried but few have succeeded like Porsche and the 911 - still the most practical high performance machine you can buy, so long as you can find £76,412 for the least expensive of today's range.

Happily that's enough to show how the latest bunch of 911s (which top out at more than £150,000) have lost much of what once made them so compelling, yet cleverly replaced old technology with gleaming new solutions to today's motoring world.

So, in the not too distant 911 past we've ditched air cooling for engines kept tempered by water and thrown out steering without power assistance, then with hydraulic help, for today's electrically controlled system.

Now comes the biggest change in two decades with the introduction of turbochargers across the entire 911 range - no longer reserved for the most powerful beasts in the stable.

It's what everyone is doing these days as it means smaller, less polluting engines but more power too, so even the entry level 911 Carrera Coupe has 370 horsepower and easily enough performance to thrill at the push of its throttle pedal - 183mph and 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds.

That power (upped by 20 horses in the £85,857 Carrera S Coupe) is delivered from a flat six 3.0 litre engine, down from the 3.4 or 3.8 litres of the just superceded range. Truly, less is more.

You might say that 'less' continues to mark out the 911 from its competitors, in a very positive way. It's simply smaller than them where it counts in real world driving away from the race track - on our crowded roads.

Narrower by inches than something like a Bentley Continental or the new Ford Mustang (both driven immediately before the 911s) it feels so wieldy and modest when you're approaching a corner with sight-limiting hedges, for instance.

Comfortable too, with a ride that stays on the cushioned side of firm even when confronted by some of the awful surfaces that now pass for a British A and B road.

The big change at the rear of the car is marked by subtle restyling of what remains the classic 911 shape - which mixes aerodynamic lines with a decent boot at the front and a couple of rear seats big enough for kiddies to safely appreciate the delights of the car.

Look hard and you'll spot new headlights and door handles, automatic cooling flaps at the front that allow air into the radiators when needed and a new look to the air intake on the bonnet (at the back, of course on a 911). Ride height is fractionally lowered too and there's a rear spoiler that moves to the position it deems best for your speed.

Inside is a cockpit so plush and well finished it looks a world away from 911s of even a couple of generations ago you will now find standard across the range a new Porsche Communication Management system with a touchscreen is as easy to operate as a smartphone and offering new Porsche Car Connect features.

They include traffic information in real time, Google Earth and Google Street View. The system can be networked with a smartphone, thus providing access to many more apps, explains Porsche.

Little time to appreciate this in-car cleverness with the entire range to play with at the Porsche Experience Centre on the edge of the Northamptonshire's grand prix circuit and the place where new Porsche owners (or likely prospects) can hone their skills.

Your 911 can come in three shapes; trad coupe or a Targa with fixed roll bar behind the driver or the full roof-off Cabriolet. Under the bonnet, at the top of the 911 pile sits the £145,773 911 Turbo S coupe, still with the old 3.8 litre engine and still, with 580 horsepower a car that goes incredibly quickly yet purrs like a contented kitten when not provoked.

Many potential Porsche owners might be very happy indeed with the half-price 911 in comparison. It feels as far from an entry level 'cheapie' as you could ever imagine.

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