The 2017 Porsche 911 begins a new era with a dramatic change. Remember when the 911 Turbo was basically a supercar? For 2017, it’s your basic 911. That’s right, the flat six engine now comes only one way, with a twin turbocharger.
Of course, there’s your base Porsche Turbo Carrera and your super Porsche Turbo S. Your 370-horsepower version or your 580-horsepower model. The difference between zero to sixty in 4.0 seconds, which is eye-poppingly quick; and zero to sixty in 2.8 seconds, which is unimaginably quick.
In between there’s a Carrera S that makes 420 horsepower and does that sprint in 3.7 seconds, in case you’re undecided on the issue of hooniganism. A new Sport Response mode is intended for track days, allowing 183 mph for the Carrera and 191 mph for the Carrera S.
But before you run for cover thinking the speed is out of your league, the Carrera only makes 20 more horsepower than it did last year when it was normally aspirated, because the engine has been downsized from 3.4 liters to 3.0. It’s really about low-rev acceleration, as the turbo brings all the available torque down to 1700 rpm. So if the tractor on your farm breaks down, you can use your new Porsche, especially if you get it with all-wheel drive.
The standard transmission is a 7-speed manual gearbox, but the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic manual, which Porsche calls PDK and was developed from their racing cars, is available and comes with the higher performance models like the Turbo S. Which remains at 3.8 liters, and whose 580 horsepower is 40 more than last year.
Fuel mileage in the Porsche Turbo is laughable, not because it’s low (in fact it’s impressive for the power, with the Turbo S mpg higher than a Corvette or Nissan GTR) but because, really, who cares? The base model with the manual transmission gets an EPA-rated 23 miles per gallon Combined. Who cares, true, but it’s high enough that you can brag that at least you’re not being an environmental hoonigan. From your driveway, point the finger at your neighbor’s pickup truck.
As for safety, everyone cares. The 911 hasn’t and won’t be crash-tested, but it’s safe to say that between the structure and standard safety equipment, few worries in a crash. The real issue is how likely you are to crash it, by careless or carried-away driving.
There are no less than 14 models of Porsche 911, starting with the Carrera Coupe ($89,400) and running to the Cabriolet Turbo S ($200,400). You can get it in coupe, convertible or Targa, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, 3.0-liter engine or 3.8-liter, manual gearbox or PDK twin-clutch automatic. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
The main thing is the options. For just one example, you can get heated seats in the premium package, which aren’t standard. You can add options to a package, for example the LED headlamps (xenon headlamps are standard). You can get your seatbelt buckles wrapped in leather. If you want your key fob painted the same color as your car, you can spend $530. There’s an option that raises the front axle to keep the nose of your Porsche from scraping driveways, if you can remember to use it. If you want the most for track days, there are carbon-ceramic brakes for $8520.
Porsche has been brilliant in keeping alive the upside-down bathtub design from the 1950s, but nowadays the 911 can’t compare in beauty to a Jaguar F-Type, to name just one of many gorgeous competitors.
The refresh of the design of the 2017 Porsche 911 is as slight as can be. The most significant exterior change is with the air intakes on the engine hood. It looks wider and lower, thanks to horizontal elements. New boomerang 3D taillamps are taken from the four-seat Porsche Panamera.
The cabin in the base Carrera offers an instrument cluster that might be seen as classic Porsche, with a tachometer that dominates; but the panel is modernized by a 4.6-inch multi-function display that’s bright and informative. Even more modern, there’s a standard 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, navigation, and Bluetooth. Other standard features include a rearview camera, power seats, eight-speaker sound system, and Alcantara headliner. For $695 you can get the panel swathed in carbon-fiber or brushed aluminum.
The fit and finish is excellent, but there’s very little storage, with small door pockets and not much room in the center console bin. The trunk in front is surprisingly roomy, but still only suited for soft luggage like duffels.
The front seats are comfortable, supportive, and provide good legroom. The 911 is technically called a 2+2, so there are rear seats, sort of, but for realistic purposes they are to fold down and use for small gear bags or parcels. There is zero legroom in the rear.
It’s relatively quiet in the cabin, although the 3.8-liter engine makes more noise than the 3.0-liter.
The base twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter flat six that makes 370 horsepower also brings 331 pound-feet of torque, from 1700 rpm to 5500 rpm, an exceptional range. This flexibility makes it easy to drive around town. The Carrera S that makes 420 hp and brings 368 lb-ft. There is no turbo lag, thanks to a system that keeps the turbos spinning with a small amount of pressure, no more than 2 psi.
The 580-horsepower Turbo S blasts away from a start so fast it’s scary. The steering is nicely weighted and natural, as the ratio varies with speed. It stays flat in the corners thanks to active anti-roll bars, as it reaches fantastically high lateral loads without breaking loose on its 20-inch Pirelli P Zero tires. Thank heavens for its good stability control.
The Turbo S is meant for track days, with limits that exceed all drivers except racedrivers. So we strongly suggest finding a driving instructor or coach at the track; they are available from your local club, and usually good; at the least, you’ll learn some things you need to know.
For example, the brakes; the standard steel rotors provide a good feel, but the $8500 carbon-ceramic brakes offer so much stopping power that the braking points for corners is deep beyond belief. Our own hot laps were with the guidance of a three-time Le Mans winner, and without him we never would have even approached the limit of braking. The carbon-ceramic brakes reduce fade, also, so you can run consecutive laps without overheating them.
Another option that’s great on the track is the Sport Chrono package. For $1920 it adds dynamic engine mounts, launch control in the PDK or rev-matching downshifts in the manual, special stability software, and driving modes that come from the 918 Spyder.
How much money do you have? If you just want a Porsche 911 to drive around, faster than you ever need to go, the standard Carrera is just fine. The new 2017 engine is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter, so you can say you have a Porsche Turbo without mentioning it’s the base model.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.