Porsche 911 Carrera S: Track Tested

MISSION, BC – Here’s something you won’t find in Forza: this racetrack is patched, heaved, soaking-wet and strewn with debris. Unforgiving concrete barriers loom at every corner, eager to make your acquaintance; it’s the kinda place you want to be piloting a rally-scarred Subaru – not, for instance, a 400hp, $146,000 Porsche 911.

Fret not, this new 911 is nothing like its challenging, spontaneously end-swapping ancestors. It’s got a wider front track for greater bite on turn-in. The wheelbase is stretched by a full four inches, further reducing the pendulum effect of that rear-mounted engine. The body is now composed almost entirely of aluminum and is considerably lightened, despite the size increase. Quite frankly, it’s a cinch to drive fast.

In 1990, you might have jumped into your 911 and needed only to let the air-cooled engine warm up before roaring off to fling yourself backwards into the tree-line. This new car requires some pre-flight button-pushing. Dual-clutch PDK gearbox into manual. “Sport +” mode? Ooh, let’s have a little of that. Sports exhaust? That one too. Suspension set to maximum attack – now, about that four hundred horsepower …

The 911’s new 3.8L direct-injection flat-six engine doesn’t feel much different from the old one, but let the revs climb past 4500 rpm and the car takes on an urgency that carries through to redline. This is a fast car, fast like you expect a modern Porsche to be. Better yet, it shrugs off the transitioning surfaces of this Khandahar-grade race-course with a confident sure-footedness. Paint scrapes and black marks become a blur as the concrete barriers flash past a hair away – but who cares? This thing’s as unflappable as Walter Röhrl.

Still, a day’s blitzkrieg can really wear a fella out. Swapping point-to-pass racetrack traffic for stop-and-go fast-lane cloggers, it’s time to transform this 911 from racer to tourer. Everything turned up to eleven now gets dialled back to, say, two or so. The PDK now climbs through the gears like an economy-minded Audi, road-noise is a distant hum, and when traffic actually halts, the 911’s start-stop system turns off the engine – what is this, a 400-horse Prius?

It’s a machine for every occasion; an iPad loaded up with an app for every possible eventuality. And yet, while the sensible side of me realizes that this is the best, most capable, comfortable and rapid 911 ever, there’s still a tiny sliver of nostalgia for that twitchier, louder, less-competent past. Must be a death-wish or something.

2012 911 Carrera S
Base MSRP: $110,000
As Tested: $146,000

This is a test