For the 2017 model year, the Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S both get turbocharged engines, representing a fundamental change for this iconic sports car. Buried under the newsworthiness of the new engine, however, is the abundance of other updates that make the 2017 911 an even more impressive performance machine and a more livable everyday type of car. It's truly one of the finest automobiles on sale today.
What Is It?
The 2017 Porsche 911 is a 2+2 sports car available in coupe and convertible (Cabriolet) body styles, each of which is available in Carrera and Carrera S trim levels. It's powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged flat-6 engine with varying degrees of power. The all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 and 4S as well as the unique Targa 4 and Targa 4S body style receive the same updates for 2017.
Pricing starts at $90,395 for the Carrera coupe, with the Carrera S coupe starting at $104,395. The Cabriolet version of each costs an extra $12,300, while the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 and 4S add $6,900. It hits dealerships in March 2016.
What's New Under the Hood?
Nothing. The cargo area under the hood remains the same as before.
How About Changes to the Engine Compartment Out Back?
The rear-mounted engine in the Porsche 911 receives the most fundamental change since adopting liquid cooling in the late 1990s. It remains a horizontally opposed six-cylinder, but its displacement has been reduced to 3.0 liters for both the Carrera and Carrera S and it's now fitted with a pair of turbochargers. The result for both models is 20 extra horsepower, 44 extra pound-feet of torque and better fuel economy.
The base Carrera is rated at 365 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, while the Carrera S produces 414 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The difference in power is the result of the S model's modified turbocharger compressors, a different exhaust and distinct engine management tuning.
Turbocharging has fundamentally changed the 911 Carrera's character. Gone is the quintessential and arguably uncouth clatter of the outgoing flat-6 engines at low speeds, replaced with a much smoother sound punctuated by the unmistakable whoosh of the turbochargers. The low-rpm power delivery itself is also smoother and torque-rich, as its torque is delivered from as low as 1,700 rpm up to 5,000 rpm.
This is not a BMW or AMG Mercedes type of performance turbo engine. Nor is it akin to the outrageous 911 Turbo. Instead, its power, and indeed the turbochargers themselves, tends to explode forth in the midrange (say, between 2,500 and 3,500 rpm), maintaining some semblance of the traditional 911 driving experience.
This is ultimately driven home when you let the engine wail up to its 7,500-rpm redline. You get the same sonorous sounds and instant response expected of past 911s, with the former augmented further by the optional sport exhaust (identified by the twin, centrally mounted oval ports) that makes the noises that much more hair-raising. A sound duct also pipes engine noises into the cabin, though Porsche is quick to point out that those noises are not embellished or even faked as in other performance cars.
In terms of performance, Porsche estimates a 0-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds for the Carrera coupe with the PDK automatic, and 3.9 seconds for the like-equipped Carrera S coupe. Opting for the seven-speed traditional manual or the Cabriolet adds a few tenths to the stopwatch, but either way this type of performance isn't far off the pace of more exotic sports cars like the Audi R8 and Mercedes-AMG GT. EPA-estimated fuel economy has not been released, but is said to be 12 percent more efficient than before.
Are There Upgrades to the Transmissions?
The seven-speed manual has adopted a two-disc clutch that allows for a lighter effort while still being capable of handling the engine's significant torque loads. As a result, the 911 has gone from having one of the heaviest clutches on the market, and therefore one of the least friendly to deal with in traffic, to one of the easiest without taking away from its performance capability or driver engagement.
The addition of a dual-mass flywheel for 2017 also dampens drivetrain vibrations at low rpm, allowing you to more frequently drive in higher, more efficient gears if so desired. The shifter itself remains a benchmark for its perfect placement, precision and effort.
If the occasional slog through traffic had previously dissuaded you from getting the manual in favor of the PDK automatic transmission, this update should make you seriously think twice.
If the everyday driving appeal of the PDK automatic remains, rest assured it's still the best of its kind. Whether stuck in traffic or blasting through gears on a mountain road, it works flawlessly. For 2017, it, too, gets the dual-mass flywheel, as well as a welcome realignment of its shifter pattern: Push for downshifts, pull for upshifts. Paddle shifter placement, design and response remain exemplary.
What Upgrades Were Made to the Suspension?
For 2017, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is standard, providing its adjustable ride characteristics to every 911. It has also received a few minor updates. The Normal setting has been moved toward the comfort end of the ride quality spectrum, resulting in a truly impressive ride for a sports car riding on 19- or 20-inch wheels. In fact, forget the sports car qualifier; this is a legitimately comfortable car, period. Even patches of shoddy pavement didn't send untoward spasms through the car and into our backsides.
At the same time, Porsche has moved the Sport and Sport+ settings even farther over to the firm side of things for improved handling. There is definitely no confusing the Normal and Sport suspension settings in the 2017 911, which is a very good thing indeed.
The ride height has also been lowered by almost half an inch, lowering the center of gravity for better stability while cornering (it goes down an additional half inch with the optional Sport Suspension). With that in mind, the 911 is now offered with a front axle lift system (a $2,590 option) that raises the front end up by 1.5 inches to help it clear steep driveways.
How Good Is the Steering?
There are those who lament the switch from hydraulic to electric power steering during the 911's 2012 redesign, robbing the car of its superlative road feel and driver feedback. This does not change for 2017, but it remains significantly better than most, with consistent, appropriate weighting and commendable feedback that instills abundant confidence and encourages you to find excuses not to drive straight.
There is, however, the newly optional active rear-wheel steering on the Carrera S that was previously only used on the 911 Turbo and GT3 models. It improves maneuverability and stability by adding up to 2.8 degrees of rear-wheel steering angle in either the opposite or same direction as the front wheels, depending on the speed.
This feature proved its worth in abundance during our test-drive up and down an impossibly tight European mountain road filled with countless hairpin turns and far-too-close-for-comfort widths. Maneuverability is clearly improved (the turning circle is reduced by around a foot and a half) and the car in general manages to feel smaller. At the same time, high-speed stability is also improved, but as there was no Autobahn on our route, it was hard to detect any differences in the already resolutely stable 911.
What Other Mechanical Changes Were Made?
The brakes have been upgraded with larger four-piston calipers up front and thicker discs. There are also larger pads on both models, with the Carrera S now sharing those of the 911 Turbo. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes are also the same units used on the Turbo.
There are also new steering wheel designs for 2017 that are excellent and now feature a dial for switching among the Normal, Sport, Sport+ and Individual driving modes.
Does It Still Look Like a 911?
Of course it still looks like a 911, but there were changes both fashionable and functional made for 2017. Up front, the turn signal strips are pleasantly thinner, the headlights have been tweaked, horizontal character lines have been added forward of the hood and the grilles have been reshaped to include shutters that open and close for improved aerodynamics.
There are bigger changes around back. Besides the reshaped LED taillamps and new exhaust ports, changes were made to accommodate the new turbocharged engines. The rear grille now features longitudinally placed slats that help guide air to the engine and turbochargers, while vents aft of the wheels are needed for the intercooler exhausts.
What's New Inside?
The key update inside for 2017 is the revised Porsche Communications Management system (PCM), which is now standard on every 911, along with the previously optional rearview camera.
The PCM's new 7-inch touchscreen now responds to swiping and pinching gestures as well as being capable of recognizing finger-written number and letter inputs to the standard navigation system. That, too, has been further upgraded with enhanced search capability that quickly recognizes word fragments or previously entered destinations, along with online search functions made possible with the also-standard WiFi connectivity. The system can also recommend multiple routes and allows the driver to add waypoints, therefore eliminating many of the advantages of smartphone-based navigation systems. Speaking of which, the new PCM is Apple CarPlay compatible, but Android Auto is not yet available.
The multitude of buttons clustered below the PCM screen and running down the center console remain. Once again, many will find this setup cluttered and overwhelming, while others will appreciate being able to accomplish tasks quickly with a single button or toggle once they know where they all are.
Otherwise, this is the same superlative 911 interior that boasts phenomenal construction and materials, made even finer with optional extended leather. The seats are truly sublime in terms of comfort and support, although opting for $2,320 "14-way" power front seats is recommended, as the standard seats' only power adjustments are for the seatback and two-way height adjustment (versus four-way).
The Cabriolet also remains one of the least compromised convertibles on the market thanks to its front cargo compartment that loses none of the coupe's capacity. The power-operated wind deflector is also ingeniously effective.
What Other Cars Should Be Considered?
Given the 911's wide range of performance and prices as well as its different body styles, there are a variety of other performance cars to which one can compare. There is the more flamboyant but less practical and precise Jaguar F-Type, as well as the more exotic Audi R8 and Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe, whose price tags suddenly make the 911 seem like a bargain. On the other end of the price spectrum is the mighty Chevrolet Corvette.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
The 2017 Porsche 911 is one of the world's finest automobiles, period. Its ability to be one of the most engaging, capable and flat-out fun cars to drive is balanced by the fact that it's also comfortable, luxurious, friendly to drive, easy to see out of and surprisingly practical.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
There are other cars in this price range that offer a greater degree of exclusivity.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.