Porsche 911 Carrera S First Drive

“Every little bit helps” is supermarket Tesco’s catchphrase but arguably it could now apply to Porsche. Previously so resolutely petrol-headed the go-faster German brand finally seems to have turned the environmental corner – flatly and with almost imperceptible body roll of course.

The brand now offers more fuel-efficient diesels and hybrids in bigger vehicles where it deems sensible, and is reducing the fuel consumption and emissions of its petrol-engined models significantly by ruthlessly pursuing its actually long-held held view that efficiency is a virtue in increasing motoring performance. Done right – as it has been in the new Porsche 911 Carrera S – some environmental benefits can also be gained and claimed.

Take the following evidence: Firstly, the new 911 is lighter in all guises than before – 40kg less in the 1415kg 911 Carrera S PDK tested – due to a body which is now almost 50% aluminium (a material much lighter than steel). And as all students of physics know, less weight means less energy required to move it. Thus, the same model’s economy and emissions have improved by 15% apiece to 32.5mpg and 205g/km.

These figures don’t mean much if you spend your life hooning around – easily and very enjoyably done of course – but what’s clever about the new 911 is that when there are no appropriate fast-driving roads in sight (which in reality is a lot of the time), it conserves energy so well. Stop/start cuts the engine when idling in traffic and is now standard on both manual and automatic versions. Regenerative braking converts unused kinetic energy when braking or decelerating into electrical energy to boost the starter battery. And then there’s a new ‘coasting’ facility – when driving downhill with the foot off the accelerator for instance – where the engine automatically defaults to idling mode rather than revving hard (while still allowing auxiliary functions like the water pump and aircon compressor to function). Even the wheels and tyres have been optimised with efficiency in mind, with a new weight-saving flow-forming wheel manufacturing process and new tyres that reduce rolling resistance by 7% compared to earlier versions. All details save fuel that would otherwise be wasted.

The efficiency ethos goes well beyond the car’s innards too. The exterior wing mirrors are now placed on the upper edge of the door rather than the triangle behind the A-pillar to benefit airflow and wind noise and aesthetically speaking, as head of design Michael Mauer, enthuses, “it also emphasises the car’s width and makes it look a little bit lower.” Bonus!

56mm longer overall with a 100mm increase in the wheelbase makes the car feel appreciably different than is usual between generations of this evolutionary design and also creates more room inside. The 911 now has the high quality centre console architecture of the Carrera GT, Panamera and Cayenne mk2 and banishes the sort of plasticky feel and scratchy metal effect paint finishes that shamed previous-generation 911 interiors. All plastic parts that look like metal are at least dipped in metal to be cold-touch, firm and are well fitted (besides solid metal controls would add needless weight).

Overall then, a great new 911, unbelievably great fun to drive – we were allowed to drive a host of old versions back-to-back to cross-reference our rose-tinted nostalgia – and ultimately worthy not only of Porsche’s performance heritage but also representative of a more sustainable thinking. At £71,449 for the Carrera and £81,242 for the Carrera S it’s too exclusive to change the world of mobility for good or bad, but if even high-profile sportscar brands can have a newly heightened eco conscience it’s a step in the right direction. As I said at the start, ‘every little helps’.

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