Starting prices for most premium cars really are just that. The ‘boggo’ spec is unlikely to give you everything you want, and by the time all your chosen gear is added, it’s likely many thousands of pounds will have been added. Just take ‘our’ Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio as an example - it has a £70,239 base price, but that’s risen to £79,045 thanks to extras like the £770 for the Misano Blue paint, £695 for the 20-inch wheels, and most heinously, £450 for red-painted brake calipers.
It’s the same deal for most stuff in the Porsche range. Yes, a 911 Carrera starts at a reasonable-sounding £82,795 (note - since this test that figure has gone up to £84,870), but it’s very easy to go on the configurator and push that figure to £90k and beyond. But on a mere glance, I can tell this particular example is a little different.
As a kick-off, it’s finished in solid Guards Red, which is one of only four colours Porsche will paint your 911 in without charging you extra. Secondly, it’s the first 992 I’ve seen that doesn’t have 20-inch front, 21-inch rear wheels. Instead, it has the standard 19/20-inch staggered combo.
And there it is, on the spec sheet - a piffling equipment list consisting of only four items. There’s a £464 reversing camera (something Porsche GB insists on fitting to all its press cars), auto-dimming interior/exterior mirrors for £387, four-way electric Sport Plus seats that cost £324, and a ‘GT’ steering wheel which is £194. To save you loading up a calculator, that’s a mere £1369 in options, giving a total price of £84,164. This, ladies and gents, must be one of the most basic 992 911s in the world.
Save for a slightly different toggle switch arrangement than the one I’m used to seeing in a 992 (we’ll get to that later), it certainly doesn’t feel pauper-spec on the inside. Far from it - there’s an abundance of plush-feeling materials, a suitably big infotainment system, and the usual customisable screens flanking the physical rev counter. Sitting in front of this is a chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel with some metal paddle shifters attached.
Yep, you still get a ‘PDK’ automatic gearbox. In fact, you have to, since Porsche has declined to give the standard Carrera a manual option just yet. This barebones 911 also has the ‘Porsche Active Suspension Management adaptive dampers. On these less than perfectly surfaced roads surrounding Anglesey Circuit, where we’ve come to try the new 911 GT3, the slackest setting gives the best trade-off between comfort and composure.
You can fiddle with the dampers via a dedicated toggle switch under the infotainment screen independently of the Sport and Wet mode, which are controlled via two similar buttons on this same cluster. On every other 992 I’ve driven the latter are accessed via a rotary control on the steering wheel, but you only get that if the Sport Chrono pack is specced. ‘Our’ 911 has nothing so fancy.
To drive, it’s, well, a 911. Obviously. But a 911 without any distracting and needless configurator flimflam. You can concentrate on the uniqueness of this package - the unusual feel of its rear-engined layout, the low range clatter and the mid-to-high-end howl of the flat-six, the absurdly good traction.
The 444bhp output and 3.7-second 0-62mph time of the Carrera S sounds impressive and all, but the 385bhp offered up here is more than enough on the road. It’s a far less frustrating amount of power to deploy, to the point where I’m happy to forgo the option of a manual found in the S if it means longer periods of wide-open throttle. In any case, the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a very good one, without the frustrating sense of disobedience you get with some modern automatics.
The steering remains a high point. The Carrera models haven’t quite bridged the feedback gap to hydraulic power-assisted systems in the way the more aggressively set up GT3 has, but this is easily one of the best electric setups out there. It feels natural, linear and near-perfectly weighted. This is what the 911 is about, not carbon fibre trim packages and £2576 Turbo wheelsets.
On that subject, those 19-inch front/20-inch rear Carrera wheels - the only factory-fitted set for the 992 in that size - are ideally suited to a 911. Some of the 20/21-inch options look a little oversized while also giving a more brittle edge to the ride. For the real world, you’re better off with more modest rims.
There’s only one thing I find myself wishing this 992 did have optioned, and that’s the sports exhaust system. Without it, the flat-six is just a little too muted. You find yourself waiting for high-RPM fireworks which never quite arrive. It’s one of the pricier options at just over £1,800, but hey, this could be offset by ditching the power seats (weight reduction bro, etc), and perhaps the GT steering wheel. I prefer the look of the standard, thinner-rimmed wheel anyway.
This basic-ish 992’s presence at the GT3 launch showed just how much breadth there is in the 911 range. Yes, the GT3 is sublime to drive, but also pretty full-on when you’re away from the track. In the right environment it’ll blow a lightly-optioned Carrera into the weeds, but the rest of the time, I think I’d rather be in the red one.