In late 2018, it’s time for a bit of reluctant praise to the automotive realm’s popular overachiever, the Porsche 911.
Intellectuals detest Tom Cruise. The combination of decades-long success in mainstream blockbuster movies, ridiculously good looks, as well as penchants for sofa jumping and sinister cults has seen to that.
Be that as it may, there is also a different side to Mr Cruise Mapother. The side that gave one Stanley Kubrick two years of Mr Cruise’s life at arguably the peak of the latter’s career. The side that gave cineastes Frank T J Mackey. The side that causes a 50-year old to attach himself to the outside of an airplane that’s actually about to take off, for real. Because Mr Cruise believes he owes his audience proper spectacle, rather than the pleasures of the green screen.
However, the always slightly too grinny actor and his perfect teeth make for a far better cinematic bogeyman than, for example, the late Paul Walker (an exceptionally wooden actor without any truly ‘serious’ role on his CV) on the basis of being alive and, above all else, so darn ambitious and successful.
Similarly, automotive connoisseurs ridicule the Porsche 911. The combination of a decades-long, uninterrupted bloodline and the overbearing devotion of aficionados this has entailed has seen to that.
And just as Thomas Cruise Mapother IV has shown to the world (or at least cinemagoers) with this summer’s Mission: Impossible flick that a sequel to a blockbuster movie franchise can constitute a pleasing piece of popcorn-friendly entertainment (if it is created with diligence, ambition and respect for its audience), the Porsche 911 illustrates why it remains the quintessential German sports car in the late autumn of 2018.
Just to put this Elfer into context, a look at the German (sports) car design of this day and age is inevitable. Even without going into specifics, a glance at the sportiest offerings from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz makes it abundantly clear that restraint, sobriety and sometimes just pleasing basic proportions are not considered Teutonic design traits anymore.
Against this background, the 992-generation Porsche 911 doesn’t so much constitute a breath of fresh air, as it acts as a reminder of the qualities of solid craftsmanship and conviction.
The conviction this 911 exudes is, admittedly, of the conservative kind. This is no car design intended to tear up rule books and rewrite them in highlighter pen. Instead, it brings the 911 formula up to date, without much in the way of fripperies – so far, so good. Or, in the context of aforementioned competition, a rather bold statement.
In essence, the 992 Elfer is not much else than a 991-generation car with flusher, more homogenous bodywork. Panel gaps are Piëch-pleasingly narrow, the typical haunches above the rear wheels are more harmoniously sculpted then before, the door handles have gained a slicker, minimalist appearance, while the bulging front wheel house is an unusual feature for a Porsche sports car.
What truly sets the 911 apart from its German competition though is its organised, consistent graphics. Whereas the 991-generation car’s frontal aspect never took on an entirely satisfactory appearance, the 992 contrasts the complexity of the light units and air vents with the simplicity of the darkened air intake and auxiliary light ‘unit’ that makes up the DRG. To some, the resultant outline appears too blocky and squat, but that is a decent price to be paid for a rare non-cacophonous solution to today’s aerodynamic and cooling requirements.
At the back, the story is quite similar. This may not be the most delicate of 911 derrières, but the surfacing is unquestionably Porsche plump without appearing flaccid. The graphics are also as applaudably simple as those at the front. The handling of the full-width rear light strip – a 1970’s Porsche styling feature that was rediscovered with the 991 and has since ‘inspired’ competitors, chiefly Audi, to try similar arrangements – is a wonderfully assured stylistic solution that’s perfectly in keeping with Porsche’s design ethos.
The original 911’s designer, F A ‘Butzi’ Porsche, who spent a brief, yet formative stint at HfG Ulm, would be rather more likely to approve of this single red strip of lights than the Audi R8’s absurd front apron, BMW Z4’s misbegotten headlights or Mercedes GT’s overwrought grilles.
The 992-generation Porsche 911’s is not the most exiting of car designs, but that isn’t what it’s supposed to be. Instead, it’s a competently executed evolution of a popular theme.
In that sense, this Porsche 911 is clearly no disruptor. Just as with this summer’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, its creators set out to add another facet to a much-loved principle. They needed to change enough to create an interest, yet not too much as to not alienate aficionados.
In either case, the result isn’t cynical mediocrity. It’s proper craftsmanship. Whether we like it or not.
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