You could natter on endlessly about how the 2012 Porsche 911 is or isn't like the Ur-911s of yore, but after the gin has run dry and the first rays of sunlight are glinting off the ocean, you'd be no closer to understanding what the 991 really is.
Instead, it's far more informative to approach the 2012 911 as its own entity. Why? Because, simply put, it's a brilliant car, not in just one aspect, but several. Driving to work? Take the 911. Driving the canyons? Take the 911. Hitting the track? Take the 911. Picking up the kids? Well, they'd better be short-legged.
There are many subtle changes, and a few not so subtle, for the newest car to wear the 911 badge. It's longer (by 100 mm), more powerful (by 5-15 hp in Carrera and Carrera S trims, respectively), lighter (by 88 or more pounds) and, on the inside, much more like the rest of the Porsche range than its predecessor. There's even a seven-speed manual gearbox to match the tweaked seven-speed PDK.
The real story with the 991 is what it's like to drive; at the root, that's what all 911s are really about, after all, and it's clearly what this car was about from the earliest stages of design.
We just spent a day with the 991 (and its predecessors) at the global launch event in Santa Barbara, courtesy of Porsche. After thrashing the car on a high-speed autocross course and throughout the surrounding hill country, we feel like we've come to know the car's essential character, and it's at once familiar and fresh. A worthy upgrade to the 911 legacy.
In a nutshell, the 911 is an agile, relatively light, powerful, and easily-placed sports car. It's shockingly quick in Carrera S trim with the PDK transmission, thanks in part to the easy-as-pie launch control, and the Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), and even traction control have such high limits that they'll never interfere with good driving--though they do make it essentially impossible to drift. It's just about exactly what you'd expect and want from a 911.