The Carrera and Carrera S are the only models updated to the new 991 basis thus far--the Cabrio, Turbo, GT3, and other variants are yet to come. Changes for 2012 include a wider front track for better grip, a slightly longer wheelbase that increases high-speed stability, a new electric power steering system, a seven-speed manual transmission, a re-tuned seven-speed PDK transmission, and a new base engine, plus upgrades to the Carrera S's engine.
The base engine, a 3.4-liter flat six, packs 350 horsepower thanks to direct injection and a free-revving nature. The Carrera S sticks with a 3.8-liter six good for 400 horsepower. Either can be paired with either the seven-speed manual or the PDK transmissions. With the PDK, the Carrera gets to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, while the Carrera S does it in 4.1 seconds.
Add the Sport Chrono package, which adds launch control, and you'll take another 0.2 seconds off either car's 0-60 mph run. Top speeds clock in at 179 mph and 188 mph respectively. The PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) system, optional on base and standard on S models, offers dynamic suspension response to the road and driving conditions through a series of settings from Comfort to Sport Plus.
Porsche's advanced Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) is also available on the S model. The PDCC system adjusts the car's roll stiffness through the use of anti-roll bars. The Sport Chrono package is also available on the base Carrera--and as the name indicates, a key element of the package is a stopwatch on the dash that ties into the car's computer to enable lap timing and other functions.
Handling is excellent, with less of the 911's historical tail-wagging antics and slightly more understeer despite the wider front track. Losing 100 pounds from the previous 911, the 2012 model feels nimble, easy-to-place, and is stunning on the brakes. Our one quibble with the new 911's package is the electronic power steering, which, while the best implementation of EPS we've driven, still comes up short of traditional hydraulic systems in terms of feel and communication.