Fourth-gear, 180km/h slides tend to grab your attention and focus the mind. Especially so if they occur on your first flying lap of the morning. The 992-generation 911 C4S actually showed its hand on the very first corner after exiting the pits at The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia. The local launch stuck to the familiar format of follow the leader, with two journo-driven 992s trailing professional driver, and all around good bloke, Luke Youlden in a 991.2 GT3. Given the pedigree of Youlden (2017 Bathurst 1000 winner and The Bend outright lap record holder) and the 991 GT3 (7:12.7 Nurburgring lap time), the 992 and I have our work cut out for us.
But while there’s a gulf in driving talent between Youlden and I, you shouldn’t feel too sorry for the new Carrera S. It’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre flat six produces 331kW and 530Nm, and the C2S has recorded a 7:25 Nurburgring lap time on road-biased Dunlops. For now, the only transmission available is a new eight-speed PDK (up from seven) based on the unit in the Panamera. A seven-speed manual will be available later this year, as will a standard Carrera model.
I’m the second duckling behind the mother duck GT3 as we storm out of pit lane and onto the smooth but low-grip surface of Australia’s newest race track. Youlden is on it from the get go, and we all nail the brakes and peel into the tight right hander at the end of the straight. The yellow GT3 slices through and out the other side but the journo-drive 992 in front of me takes an attitude under brakes and slides all the way into the apex and beyond. My smirk is quickly replaced by a grimace of concentration as my 992 adopts a similar angle of attack and requires a good handful of lock to gather it up. A quick systems check confirms that the last layer of stability control is still in place as per the instruction. Okay then, the new eighth-generation 911 is just playful.
In stark contrast to this playful character, and further evidence of Porsche’s black magic in conjuring such a broad spread of abilities from the one car, on yesterday’s drive from Adelaide airport to Tailem Bend, the 992 revealed itself to be even more polished and civilised than the 991 that it replaces.
For the rest of the morning, we pound around The Bend’s 4.95km International Circuit pausing only to swap from C4S to C2S and back again, covering examples of each with and without the optional rear-wheel steering. As you’d expect, the rear-drive C2S feels more playful and even more lively in the rear compared to the C4S, but both exhibit more traditional 911 traits than recent generations (at least in the pressure-cooker environment of a circuit). Both models (more so the C2S) expect an adherence to the old-school 911 driving style. Sure, the front end is more forgiving and doesn’t require quite the same slow-in approach, but the lively rear end suggests that steady state throttle is the only approach to a fast corner.
This configuration of The Bend has two sequence of corners that fully test the chassis of a car and the skill and resolve of the driver. The first challenge is the very fast left hander at Turn Five and the second is the never-ending right-hand down-and-uphill complex through Seven, Eight and Nine (a bit like Miss-Hit-Miss at the Nurburgring). Youlden and fellow Supercar racer Dean Canto, had warned us that Five was not to be trifled with and it was critical to be on line and for the throttle and steering to be held with surgical steadiness. The first time through in the C4S I made one of the dumbest driving errors of my career by accidentally squeezing the upshift paddle at 180km/h, disrupting drive and pitching the Porsche into an ugly wobble. Thankfully the steering is beautifully resolved and telegraphs all the information that is required to fix such a situation, and the throttle responds crisply to send settling drive to the road.
After you’ve puckered through Turn Five, you’ve barely got time to release the seat fabric before the triple right hander is filling the screen. On a hot lap with Mark Webber yesterday arvo, this sequence is meant to be attacked in one bite of the steering with tiny nibbles this way and that to counter push and oversteer. It was a masterful display of controlled aggression and a concise demonstration of the elevated skills of the new 911.
This sequence is the highlight of each lap, but one I almost fear on the approach – I don’t know if I get better at it, but Youlden and Canto give us enough leash to attack faster and faster as the day progresses. Given the liveliness of the chassis, it’s imperative to have the 911 settled over the first crest, otherwise you’ll be a step behind for the remainder of the section. It is through here that the nuances of rear- or all-wheel drive is most obvious. Add to that the subset of handling traits from the optional rear steering and the 992 presents very different characters depending on model and options. Ultimately, the C2S with the optional rear-steer system delivers the biggest speeds and greatest precision, while the C4S feels less highly strung and friendlier. There’s a touch more clarity to the steering of the C2S, giving you increased confidence to lean on the front end. Fitted with rear-steer, the C2S settles into high-speed corners, digging into the road rather than merely gripping the surface.
The new 911 follows the lead of the 991 RS and models by staggering wheel diameters front to rear. The new C2S and C4S run 20-inch front alloys (wrapped in 245/35 ZR20 tyres) and 21-inch rears (305/30 ZR21). The drive generated is impressive in all models, but the C4S claws at the surface with a tenacity usually associated with a big T 911 Turbo.
On paper the engine appears the same as that of the outgoing GTS model, but lots of detail changes result in sharper low-rev response and a thundering mid-range. Then there’s a real hunger for revs as the tacho needle sprints beyond 5000rpm. Peak power arrives at a low-sounding 6500rpm but the flat six storms around to 7500 with such aggression that I stutter into the limiter a handful of times. There’s more aural character and fire to the engine as well, and the new entry-level 911 is crazily quick. When fitted with the Sport Chrono option, the C2S scampers to 100km/h in 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 308km/h. Despite the weight disadvantage of the all-wheel-drive hardware, the 1565kg C4S hits 100km/h in just 3.4 seconds, but the 1515kg C2S is 2km/h faster flat out.
For lap after lap, the new 911 reveals more information about its character, but there’s a feeling that we’ve just scratched the surface of this new-generation Porsche. We’re keen to spend more time with one on roads that we know well in order to place it within the pantheon on Porsches. Stay tuned. Jesse Taylor