2012 Porsche 911 First Drive Page 5

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Styled Like a 911

Despite growing in length (though it's identical in overall width--only the front track is wider than the 997) and getting a host of new exterior cues, there's no mistaking the 2012 991 as anything but a 911. The classic proportions hold true, even parked next to the iconic Club Sport (a fantastic museum example was at the event, and made available for drives).

The rear of the car is particularly attractive, with athletic haunches unmarred by huge tail lights. Instead, Porsche opted for almost concept car-like slashes of light, thin and modern while still plenty bright. Up front, LED daytime running lights accent the nose.

Overall, the main impression from the 991's exterior is one of elegant simplicity: rather than slapping on every possible vent, crease, character line, and bumper lip, the designers simply let the clean, flowing curves speak for themselves. It works, and it's a stark contrast to many competing sports cars.

Inside: A Luxurious GT

As much as the 911 is still small enough to be considered a sports car (it's almost four inches shorter in wheelbase than the Nissan 370Z and weighs in at under 3,300 pounds in S trim with the PDK, its interior is more grand tourer. Luxurious leather surfaces are everywhere, complemented by tasteful aluminum accents and quality-feeling plastic switchgear.

Unlike the Panamera's busy center console and stack, the 911 is much simpler, putting just the core controls to the driving experience, HVAC, and nav/audio at your finger tips; there's no sense of clutter.

The instrument panel is as it should be: tachometer front and center, other information off to the sides. The right-most gauge of the cluster displays a rotating series of information, including a very handy summary of the navigation system's directions, making it easy to stay on course even in unfamiliar territory.

Seating is comfortable whether equipped with standard seats or the pricey sport upgrade units, though the extra cash spent on the sport seats immediately earns its way on track. The standard seats are highly adjustable, but the trimmer, firmer sport seats also have adjustable upper and lower bolsters, making it possible to get a very snug fit to really hold the driver (and passenger) in place. That makes it much easier to focus on fine, controlled inputs, which is, as I've already noted, a key component to driving the 991 well.

The rear seat isn't spacious by any means, though with sub-six-footers up front, the back is usable by smaller adults; children would be fine. With anyone much past the six-foot mark in the front seats, however, the rear seats essentially become parcel shelves.

The front-mounted trunk is spacious, deeper than you'd expect and easily capable of holding two weekend bags--perfect for a touring vacation. There's no excess of in-cabin storage, but two pop-out cupholders do offer a place to put your road-going refreshments. They're more stable and secure than most other pop-out cupholders we've seen, but they won't be grabbing a Big Gulp securely any time soon. It's a nod in the direction of American habit, but far from a full concession.

At The End Of The Day

The 2012 Porsche 911 is, without question, an excellent car, and perhaps the most well-rounded dual purpose street/track car on sale. Only Cadillac's CTS-V approaches the daily-driver-turned-racer balance of the 991, but the 911 does it at a higher, more refined level on both accounts.

Starting at $84,100 for the Carrera and $96,400 for the Carrera S, it's not a purchase lightly made, but given its overall competence at whatever it chooses to do, the sensual styling, and the fact that it is, ultimately, a true 911 (and very possibly the best ever built), it's a purchase we'd like to make.


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