Off the west coast of Africa are a chain of islands built up by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. They abruptly rise out of the sea to form the Canary Islands, a colony of Spain. We were in Tenerife, the largest of the islands with a picturesque mix of highway, mountain and rural roads. There could be no better car for the island’s numerous narrow and winding roads than the 2016 911 Carrera, Carrera S, and Carrera S Cabriolet.
Little exterior change
Though still a type 991, the 2016 model features some radical changes underneath, from the new, smaller twin-turbo engine to the optional rear wheel steering system, leading Porsche-philes to fondly call it the 991.2. With these improvements, it becomes obvious why Porsche had chosen such an unusual place to exhibit the new vehicle. The narrow roads, barely wide enough for one vehicle (and a squeeze for two side by side) were perfect for testing the rear wheel steering system. Tenerife’s radical elevation changes, from sea level all the up to nearly 2,400 meters would test the new forced induction engine’s ability to continually inhale air, even higher up in the atmosphere.
The new 911 can be identified by its new headlights, with stacked projectors inside the conventional oval housing. Lower on the front, the LED daytime running lights are housed in a narrower strip, serving as both park lights and indicators. Vents sit just under it with active flaps to adjust aerodynamics as the car accelerates.
Behind, the rear vents have been adjusted to improve airflow to the engine. tail lamps have been redesigned, while the reflectors have been pushed further outward to the corners. Exhaust pipes have been repositioned toward the center in the Carrera. They become quad pipes in the Carrera S. Finally, another pair of vents have been added on the corner for better engine ventilation.
Best of all, the changes apply not only to the Carrera and Carrera S model, but to the Cabriolet models as well. As such, there was a veritable menu of vehicles to choose from to take on the terrain of Tenerife.
Though the interior has received few changes, it’s nonetheless a welcoming cabin. The deep, well-bolstered seats and a sculpted steering wheel provided a wide range of power- assisted adjustment.
The most evident change is in the entertainment system, now equipped with Apple Car Play. This turns the home menu into the much more familiar rounded square icons of the average iPhone. Besides touch controls, it also recognizes multi-touch gestures. It also connects more readily to mobile phones, allowing streaming of music through the vehicle’s Bose sound system. Traffic and navigation is done through Google Earth and Google Street View, with a choice of the usual map or more photorealistic photos of the area. Finally, a downloadable app allows the owner connect to his car through the phone and check stats like its mileage, fuel level, tire pressure, or even forward directions to its navigation system.
Bold new powerplant
Yet comfort aside, it was the vehicle’s dynamics we were here to test. The new 911 is powered by a smaller 3.0-liter flat six, as opposed to the 3.8-liter of its predecessor. Though smaller, it’s armed with a turbo charger for each bank of 3, providing 370 hp in the Carrera and 420 hp Carrera S, both 20 hp more than their predecessors. Paired with a 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch automatic, the car can rocket to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, and 3.9 seconds in the S-model.
It’s all quite impressive on paper yet it’s in the drive where it begins to deliver in spades. Turn the Porsche-shaped key fob and the engine comes to life with a gentle rumble. At low speeds, there’s already plenty of grunt to move the vehicle forward. Step harder on the accelerator and it seems even more eager to climb rev.
The turbos have made the engine livelier, giving it life well below the 4,000 rpm mark where its predecessor had only begun to get excited. There’s a subtle turbo whine in the engine note too, but it’s barely heard over the increased aggression. Turbo lag is down to just milliseconds. Of course, that too is easily remedied by twisting the dial on the lower right of the wheel, changing the driving mode from Normal to Sport or Sport Plus. The result is sheer locomotive power on command, making any new Carrera feel like the predecessor Turbo model.
There must be a few Knight Rider fans in Porsche as a new “Sport Response Button” in the drive mode selector behaves much in the same way like the fictional “Turbo Boost” button. Pressing it pre-conditions the engine management and transmission for spontaneous response and maximum acceleration for 20 seconds once you step on the throttle — ideal for overtaking.
Up the mountain
As much as we were enjoying the thrust, the route wasn’t all long straights. Tenerife was peppered with winding back roads, squeezing in between banana plantations and tracing paths round rocky cliffs. In the afternoon, we found ourselves climbing up the slopes of Mt. Teide, up to the plateau and through Tedie National Park. Though much of the route was blessed with smooth asphalt, higher up, with fewer cars, the humidity and rocky road base had taken its toll on the lesser travelled roads.
Nonetheless, the chassis returned a relatively comfortable ride. Even more admirable was the way it maintained its composure over the bumpy curves at speed. This is thanks to PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) now being a standard feature on all Carrera models. Buttons on the center console can change damping to a more comfortable setting or stiffen it for better response and lower ride height by as much as ten millemeters. There's even an optional lift system that can raise the front to avoid any scraping on steep driveways.
Back to the sea
After our brief excursion to the peak, we found ourselves heading back to sea level to a custom track laid out by the organizers. This setup was to showcase the optional rear wheel steering system. Though available as an option only for the Carrera S, it allows the rear wheels to turn opposite the front (up to 2.8 degrees) at speeds below 50 km/h, and in the same direction as the front at speeds above 50 km/h. This makes for sharper U-turns and parking manoeuvres. At higher speeds, it significantly increases the speed of weight transfer and lessens the risk of the dreaded hammerhead effect (snap oversteer). It results in a vehicle that’s more eager to turn — totally surprising when felt for the first time (because it feels like the back is going to kick out), but more confidence inspiring over time (once you get used to it).
We capped our tour of Tenerife with a cruise on the island’s highways, in none other than a 911 Carrera S Cabriolet. Having hooned the car to our heart’s content earlier in the day, it was a welcome change to experience the Carrera at a more leisurely pace, governed by the adaptive cruise control. It's really entertaining to have the car maintain a set distance from the car infront, then downshift to catch up.
The two-day drive showed that, despite being a sports car on par with exotics like Ferraris and Lamborghinis, it's still very comfortable and enjoyable to drive leisurely. The adaptive suspension and comfort features make it an easy car to use on errands. At the same time, the many sports setting can instantly transform it into potent performer.
Best of all, the new, smooth-revving and rapid 3.0-liter twin turbo is already so quick, even in the base Carrera, there's little reason to even lust after the 911 Turbo.