First Drive: 2016 Porsche 911

First Drive: 2016 Porsche 911

Standing in the pit lane at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on Monday morning, I couldn’t help but think back in time to the people and events that have made this racetrack what it is. Its history lingers in the air like spent octane. True legends who strode the pits like the colossuses they were: Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Jacky Ickx, Alain Prost and our very own Sarel van der Merwe. Drivers revered as much today as they were in their prime.

A 55-year history that includes 18 F1 Grand Prix races and three motorcycle GPs. And who can ever forget the duels that took place during the legendary nine-hour endurance races every November and the battles between the likes of Jochen Mass and Ickx up against Derek Bell and Vern Schuppan in their Porsche 956s? But 2016 heralds a new dawn for Kyalami and what better way to christen a newly laid track than with the international launch for the new Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S along with the 911 Carrera 4 and Targa 4 –iconic vehicles if ever there were and with a history as rich and rewarding as the venue on which the world’s motoring media have descended.

While the new models still carry traditional traits of the 911, there are a number of significant changes made compared to the previous generation. Take the 911 Turbo and Turbo S as examples (available in both coupé and cabriolet versions). Their design is noticeably sharper, with a new front apron, side air blades and wider arches to help house impressive 20-inch wheels. The front lights also get a makeover, with LED headlights and daytime running lights as standard.

From the rear, connoisseurs will pick up on the new rear apron, tailpipes and three-dimensional taillights. Although the car does sit extremely low, which can be a nightmare when navigating low driveways and ramps, a new electrohydraulic system now makes it possible to lift the front end by 40mm at low speeds. It takes around five seconds to activate and is accessed by a button on the centre console. Another interesting new feature is post-collision braking — a system that is activated when an initial collision occurs to help avoid a secondary impact. This occurs even if drivers no longer have their foot on the brake pedal. Power across the range has also been hiked to alarming proportions.

The Turbo S, with its 3.8-litre, six- cylinder twin turbo engine, now has an extra 15kW, taking it to 427kW, while torque sits at a whopping 700Nm. What this equates to is a mind-blowing 0-100km time of 2.9 seconds (0.2 seconds faster than the previous model) and a top end speed of 330km/h. Again emphasising the advances car manufacturers around the world are making, fuel consumption on a combined cycle is a claimed economy-car-like 9.1 litres per 100km. A standard feature on all new 911 models is the newly developed Porsche communication management system, which includes online navigation, a seven-inch monitor and voice control.

Inside the 911 Turbo S you will find a new GT sports steering wheel that is home to the Sport Chrono package, incorporating four driving modes — normal, sport, sport+ and individual. Another introduction is a dynamic boost button for overtaking. Simply press the button and the response time to the turbo engine is minimised and before you can say “WTF”, you’ve overtaken six cars. This boost lasts for 20 seconds before resorting back to the original mode. The overall feeling of the interior, trimmed in leather, is one of class, with ample head- and legroom up front. Yes, there are two seats in the rear, but heaven help you if you are older than five and have to sit there. So how does the 911 Turbo S drive? Well, to steal a line from singer Meatloaf: ‘‘Like a bat out of hell.”

Strapped in, the PDK gearbox engaged and sport+ selected, it was time to explore the new Kyalami track in the Turbo S. There is superb weight distribution and with that low centre of gravity, you have a real race-car experience. The exhaust note is spot on and as you click down a gear or two with the paddle shifts when you enter a corner, the symphony playing out is addictive. Reducing your speed from over 200km/h to around 80km/h within metres takes some doing and the ceramic brake system is up to the task. Point it in the direction you want and it holds its line superbly. All the while, the handling is precise and the car has you marvelling at its hardcore performance. One thing is certain: these new 911 vehicles meet everything that Porsche stands for — performance, driving dynamics, fuel efficiency and everyday practicality. The Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S along with the 911 Carrera 4 and Targa 4 will be available in South Africa from April. Pricing still to be confirmed.

Bruce Fraser