On the face of it, the '16 Porsche 911 Carrera has had a very minor nip and tuck. Keen fanboys will spot the new four-point daytime running lights up front, the same motif in the brake lamps of the restyled rear lights, and vertical (instead of horizontal) louvers in the new engine cover at the back. Oh, and the door handles are new. Inside you'll find a cabin largely unchanged, save for a lovely new steering wheel and more modern touchscreen infotainment system. More on those later; back to that restyled engine lid.
Or more to the point, what's under the new vertically inclined cooling vanes. Porsche aficionados can breathe a sigh of relief; there's still a flat-six gas engine hung out over the rear axle. But devotees of the gloriously naturally aspirated Carrera engine may struggle for air when they discover how this new boxer unit does its breathing, as it now features two turbochargers. Not only that, but both the 911 Carrera and Carrera S share the same core 3.0L engine, doing away with the traditional cubic inches differentiation between the two models. Should we fret?
First up, the raw numbers: Both cars get a 20hp hike in power and a 44-lb-ft jump in maximum torque, so the entry-level model makes 370 hp and 331 lb-ft, while the Carrera S has 420 hp and 368 lb-ft at its disposal. Seemingly modest increases given the addition of the turbos, in spite of the reduced engine capacity, right? But they don't tell the full story at all. Those peak torque figures are now available all the way from 1,700 to 5,000 rpm, which means the standard car has, for example, 96 lb-ft more torque at 2,000 rpm than before, while the Carrera S makes 125 lb-ft more than its predecessor at the same engine speed. And even from the passenger seat during a brief few laps of the Hockenheimring, it's clear that there's more meat to the midrange of the new models, especially in the S.
There are few hardware differences in the engine bay between the Carrera and Carrera S. The latter's turbochargers feature slightly larger compressors, the engine management system is reprogrammed, and there's a different exhaust system, while maximum boost pressure is up from 13 psi in the standard car to 16 psi in the S. Both cars use the same new engine block and cylinder heads, and though direct injection of the fuel is utilized by the current Carrera models, now the high-pressure injector is mounted centrally in the newly designed combustion chamber. This greatly enhances combustion efficiency, to the benefit of emissions and economy. It also reduces so-called "wall-wetting" of the cylinder walls with raw fuel, improving long-term durability. The injectors, made by Continental, are fed by metal fuel rails held at 3,626 psi by a cam-driven fuel pump on each cylinder head.
As before, Porsche uses its VarioCam Plus system on the inlet camshaft, varying valve lift and duration throughout the engine speed and load range. New, though, is variable timing control on the exhaust side. This further enhances efficiency and is claimed to assist with response at low revs—something the new engine will be scrutinized for in comparison to the naturally aspirated unit of old. It was impossible to appreciate engine response from the passenger seat, but Porsche revealed a graph showing distance travelled versus time taken in a standing start (without using Launch Control) for the new models versus the old, and they make appreciable gains, even from standstill.
One of the biggest challenges facing Porsche's engineers that were tasked with installing a new twin-turbocharged engine in the rear of the existing 911 body was air management. The 911 Turbo itself has a wider body and a different airflow system to the Carreras, but Porsche didn't want to widen the entry-level models, which explains the moderately new look of the engine cover. Combustion air is fed from the middle of the vent ahead of the rear spoiler and ducted down to the turbocharger inlets on each side. The compressed air is then reduced in temperature in intercoolers mounted behind the wheel arches before entering the inlet manifold. Cooling air for the intercoolers is provided from a separate section of the louvered engine lid above.
That may have been one of the technical challenges of the installation, but to satisfy enthusiasts of the brand, we suspect Porsche's engineers lost more sleep over how to make the turbocharged engine sound as good as the outgoing naturally aspirated one. The outcome is three distinct exhaust systems and a "sound duct" to channel engine noise to the cabin. The 911 Carrera has two oval tailpipes, while the Carrera S appears to have four outlets. This system also features switchable exhaust flaps with a button on the center console to manually override the automatic opening. First impressions suggest that the standard exhaust in normal mode is quieter than before (to the benefit of cruising refinement), but in the Sport mode it's as evocative as it has ever been, sounding just like a flat-six, more so as revs increase toward the 7,500-rpm rev limiter. The final exhaust system we experienced is the sport exhaust option, distinguished by two round dual outlets exiting in the middle. This is well worth the outlay, as it sounds sensational.
But why go to all this effort to ensure a turbocharged engine retains the personality of a naturally aspirated one for a modest improvement in performance? Efficiency, of course. In Europe, there's a lot of focus on emissions of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, which is directly related to burning of a fossil fuel. Hence, the lower the fuel consumption, the lower the level of CO2 it emits. Arguably, sports car owners, for the most part, don't really worry about such things, but the carmakers are being forced by world governments to reduce fleet averages, and this is Porsche's way of doing it. The result? Roughly a 12 percent improvement across the new 911 Carrera lineup on the New European Drive Cycle (NEDC). The EPA figures have yet to be released, but expect similar improvements.
The most efficient versions are those fitted with the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, which accounts for 90 percent of sales worldwide, though there's still a seven-speed manual option. Both of these transmissions have been revised for the new car. There's a new dual-mass flywheel with a centrifugal pendulum for a start. This reduces vibration at low revs and high load, which enables the car to comfortably hold a higher gear at low engine speeds—to the benefit of economy. In a further bid to cut unnecessary consumption, the PDK transmission features a two-mode coasting function, putting the engine into idle or switching it off completely when on the move and the conditions allow. The stop-start system also kicks in earlier now, before the car comes to a full stop. Probably of more importance to most buyers will be the sensible change of the gear lever orientation inside. It's now tapped forward for a downshift and backward for an upshift.
Of course, those who like to take control of the transmission for themselves will likely use the tactile paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. That leather rimmed wheel is worth a mention as the '16 911 Carrera gains a gorgeous new item that is, we think, the perfect thickness and perfectly round. It's clearly inspired by that in the 918 Spyder and can be specified in a smaller diameter (down from 14.76 to 14.17 inches) as a cost option. If the Sport Chrono Package is also selected, then the new wheel features a rotary switch, allowing quick selection of Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, or Individual. There's also a Sport Response button in the center, which "pre-conditions" the drivetrain for 20 seconds of maximum acceleration—useful for when you're preparing to overtake a dawdling RV on a twisty road or an M3 on a back straight.
The Carrera models now come with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) as standard, adaptive damping with a broader range of operation than the previous optional system. It brings with it a 10mm reduction in the ride height—to the benefit of stance and center of gravity—and it's complemented by other subtle but effective chassis tweaks. For example, there are now rebound buffer springs at each corner, while the main springs and antiroll bars have been further tweaked. On top of all that, the rear tires are half an inch wider than before at 11.5 inches.
From the driver's perspective, there's a new PSM Sport mode in the Porsche Stability Management software, allowing much more yaw and slip at the rear axle. But if you get too carried away on track, there are larger brakes with 16 to 17 percent more brake pad area, gripping thicker and taller rotors. The PCCB ceramic brake option now comes directly from the 911 Turbo.
Another new optional extra is rear axle steering. Electro-mechanical actuators on each side replace the control arms and can steer the rear wheels by up to 2 degrees. Below 30 mph, the rear wheels are turned in the opposite direction to the fronts, giving the 911 more agility and reducing its turning circle. At higher speeds, the wheels turn in the same direction, enhancing stability and helping with quick lane-changing, for example. With this fitted, the front axle steering is altered to be 10 percent quicker as well, so it promises to make the car feel quite different.
Most probably, the majority of buyers, those who don't explore the outer limits of their rides, will be more interested to hear about the new infotainment system, labeled Porsche Communication Management (PCM). Though it retains the physical layout of the old system, and the buttons beneath, an all-new 7-inch touchscreen brings its bang up to date. It can interpret multi-touch gestures and even handwriting with your finger. The interface isn't all that's new, though, as it features an online navigation module, WiFi, and the option for Apple CarPlay. Google Earth and Google Streetview can be accessed seamlessly while Porsche Car Connect and Connect Plus are introduced to the 911 for the first time, allowing all manner of remotely controlled vehicle functions. The fanboys will love that. As—we suspect—we will when we get to drive the new Carrera later this year.