Launch Drive: New Porsche 911 range at Kyalami
Flat out through the wider first kink of Kyalami in a new Porsche 911 and perhaps more importantly the throttle stays pinned well beyond the point where the older track would have peeled up and left. New Kyalami’s extended straight to 900m means that in a 2016 Porsche 911 Turbo you can be doing 230km/h before braking at the 150-metre boards. Brake later and generous runoff will penalise you only by cropping the apexes leading up to critical turns Crowthorne and Barbeque – a fair trade.
But I digress because although this is a monumental occasion for Porsche and for Kyalami, today’s emphasis has been tilted slightly towards the new Porsche 911 range. Kyalami just helps reward the car’s brilliance. You can watch a video on the construction of Kyalami here.
The international launch of the updated Porsche 911 in South Africa introduces sweeping changes around the brand’s future commitment to turbo technology. Now this is a thorny issue for some but there wasn’t a second when it even entered my mind and not once did I hear other journalists feel the need to dredge up the topic. Job done.
Porsche has managed to turn a potentially enormous fear into a comparatively natural transition through several ways. The noise… deep and voluminous without the chatty hiss of blow-off valves, instead pressure is fed back into the system rather than expelled. Linear power delivery still encourages the full use of the rev range rather than a short-lived thump followed by a nervous moment of oversteer or worse, traction control.
While these attributes are entrenched hallmarks of the Porsche 911, the fitment of a turbo induction throughout the range presents several features that just wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Aside from an overboost function good for 50Nm, Porsche’s Dynamic Boost echoes the technology borrowed directly from its motorsport division and is perhaps the single biggest breakthrough since variable valve technology. Keeping the throttle valve open, Dynamic Boost maintains turbo pressure even when the driver momentarily lifts off the throttle – down Kyalami’s Mineshaft for instance.
Another feature borne out of the switch to turbo power is the Sport Response Button mounted conveniently on the steering wheel. Engaging it overrides the four driving modes (Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual) and conditions the gearbox and engine for optimal performance for 25 seconds, and there’s no apparent limit to how many times it can be used.
Re-establishing the hierarchy, Porsche 911 Turbo S obliterates the 100km/h in 2.9 seconds – the first 911 under 3 seconds – thanks to a retuned 3.8-litre flat six that now produces 432kW and 750Nm. By comparison, Porsche 911 Turbo needs 3.0 seconds from a detuned output of 402kW and 710Nm.
With Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and 4S making their own significant steps forward, Porsche has done well to restore enough daylight between its forced-induction models. Fitted with the 3.0-litre flat six, Carrera 4 muscles out 275kW, 450Nm and Carrera 4S does 313kW, 500Nm to flatten the 100km/h sprint in 4.1 seconds and 3.8 seconds respectively. The Targa version, suffering mild effects of its weight, takes slightly longer with sprint times of 4.3 seconds and 4.0 seconds.
Resting on chassis revisions that Porsche didn’t go into too much detail on (other than to highlight the optional four-wheel steering) is a sharper exterior but one that still fits within the 911 style guide. Front and rear lights incorporate a new detailed design, simplified door handles are now integrated into the bodywork, air slots have been widened to meet demands of the turbo and 20-inch alloys come in a variety of spoke designs. Front and rear active aerodynamics flare outwards at speeds over 120km/h but can be adjusted manually if you prefer the more aggressive road presence.
From behind the 360mm diameter wheel – a size that you feel Porsche settled on after many hours of research and consumer clinics – Kyalami’s challenging nature suddenly feels deceptively warm and friendly. Brilliant chassis and aero grip from the new Porsche 911 paired with feelsome brakes and predictable power delivery provide this sense of security. Others cars would be fighting against electronics but because the 911 is so evenly balanced, the way it pieces together a fast lap is truly phenomenal for a car that’s just as at home on the road.
It is here on the road where you’ll notice improvements to an area where Porsche has traditionally never cared much for. Porsche has held off on modern concessions like navigation (with Google Maps and Street View) along with optional Lane Departure Warning longer than most but functions like full smartphone app integration and WiFi are now certainly on level terms. However siding with Apple CarPlay is somewhat risky given the number of Android users.
Even with South Africa’s volatile exchange rate we expect the latest Porsche 911 to once again struggle to meet demand. Extensive changes make each model significantly better than the version before and anyone who drove the predecessor will know that is no easy achievement.