Auckland seems to be the favourite city as its 1.6 million residents account for a third of the island nation’s population of 5 million.
In addition to a vibrant cosmopolitan feel, the modern city with a cool and pleasant climate is clean and home to the 328m Sky Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere.
The telecommunications tower has become an icon with more than 400,000 tourists visiting its observation deck yearly to catch a bird’s eyeview of Auckland.
The Sky Tower also seems a fitting backdrop for another icon, the all-new Porsche 911 sports car whose motoring legacy goes back to 1963.
In total, Porsche has produced more than a million units of the 911 since its debut until the end of October last year.
Now in its eighth generation, the new model which is also known internally as 992, is more refined, powerful and yet instantly identifiable as a 911.
Without deviating much from the original 911 design DNA, Porsche however had added some new styling interpretations to tell it apart from the previous model.
Reprising the familiar bug-eyed front with new LED headlights, the latest 911 retains the same wheelbase but is 20mm longer and 45mm wider, giving it a sleeker and hunkered appearance.
The bonnet now has a distinctive recess in the centre, a styling once used in earlier 911 models.
The active air intake flaps at the front lower bumper can open or close to improve cooling and aerodynamics.
Wheel arches are bolder for a more muscular appearance and the new 911 gets 20-inch wheels at the front and 21-inch wheels at the rear.
Previously where the all-wheel drive 911 variant would get a wider rear section, now both the rear-wheel drive Carrera S and all-wheel drive Carrera 4S versions come in the same wide styling.
Aside from the rear badging giving away the variants’ identity, you can also easily tell them apart as the rear grille of the Carrera S comes with black louvres while those of the Carrera 4S are chromed.
Door handles are now more flush with the body panels and they electrically pop out when the car is unlocked.
The biggest exterior change is at the rear where the Porsche name is displayed in 3D lettering on a narrow ledge just under the horizontal light bar.
The rear spoiler which has a “clam-shell” design, is cleverly designed into the 911’s tail and is deployed electrically whenever the car needs more rear downforce.
Inside the all-leather interior, the 10.9-inch Porsche Communication Management (PCM) touchscreen takes centrestage, while the instrument panel now comes with an analogue tachometer in the centre and sandwiched by two electronic screens, which project two virtual gauges each to mimic the 911 series’ classic five-gauge layout.
For another classic feel, a row of five toggle switches are placed just below the PCM screen.
Another big change is that the large “attention-seeking” gearshifter in the previous model has been replaced with one that is way smaller and looks like a keyfob.
This new gearshifter is easier to use as you do not need to grab it - just curl your fingers to “hook” the shifter and pull back or push forward to select D or R from the default N.
The new 911 also comes standard with acoustics sensors in the front wheel housings to detect if the road is wet and slippery.
The car will then prompt the driver to switch drive mode to Wet where throttle response would be reined in with stability and traction controls set to higher sensitivity.
Also, if the car is driven above 90kph, the front air cooling flaps would be opened while the rear spoiler fully deployed to give maximum downforce to the rear axle to reduce oversteer.
Another optional feature is the electro-hydraulic lift system that raises the front axle by 40mm to clear unusually high speed bumps and multi-level car parks with steep ramps.
Output from the bi-turbo 3.0-litre flat-six rear mounted engine is now up by 30PS to 450PS with torque also higher by 30Nm to 530Nm compared with the older model.
New upgrades include bigger turbochargers with symmetrical layout, electrically control wastegate valves, revised charge air cooling system and piezo injectors.
The Carrera S can do the 0-100kph sprint in 3.7 seconds and the Carrera 4S in 3.6 seconds, much quicker than the previous generation’s 4.0 seconds.
Add the optional Sport Chrono Package with overboost function and both variants will reduce their 0-100kph sprint times by 0.2 second.
We got both variants for our 120km drive from Auckland to Brick Bay and back.
Our first car was the Carrera 4S which also has the optional rear-wheel steering.
At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels, making tight U-turns easy especially on urban roads.
When driven faster, the rear wheels will turn in the same direction with the front ones for better driving stability and fluidity especially when lane changing.
At fast sweeping turns, we could feel the rear-wheel steering system gently loosening up the car’s tail so we do not get the usual howls of rear tyres fighting to maintain grip found in cars with fixed-angle rear wheels.
With 450PS and 530Nm of torque, the Carrera 4S is an adrenaline-infused ride whose instant and yet refined acceleration easily puts a grin on your face.
The eight-speed dual clutch transmission upshifts seamlessly so as not to interrupt the car’s rapid momentum.
The flap-controlled exhaust system can be set to deliver an intoxicating burble and increase driving pleasure.
Even with the suspension set at firm, the ride still feels comfortable when driven on New Zealand’s country roads.
Shocks from going over bumps and potholes are easily absorbed without ruffling the ride.
The well-padded and supportive seats contributed to ride comfort beside providing a luxurious feel.
Steering is pin-sharp and high-speed tight corners can be taken with barely noticeable body roll, thus elevating driving confidence.
At high speeds, the Carrera 4S is well-planted and stable even over undulating stretches.
We later changed to the Carrera S and found there were differences in the persona of both cars.
Overall, both variants returned a similar level of ride comfort and emotive soundtrack.
But the steering of the Carrera S was not as taut as that of the Carrera 4S, making it more enjoyable and effortless to manoeuvre.
We can only assume this was because the Carrera S had a lighter front set-up and power was not sent to the front wheels to influence the steering feel.
Also, the Carrera S felt more eager to go, giving an impression it’s the quicker sprinter even though the specification sheet showed the Carrera 4S had a 0.1 second faster 0-100kph dash.
We could conclude that the all-wheel drive system of the Carrera 4S managed to put down the 450PS from the engine to the tarmac more efficiently, thus giving it more push and composure.
In our view, the Carrera S with its bit of brashness was more fun to drive, while the Carrera 4S felt safer and more grounded.
However, both variants would not disappoint anyone looking for a luxury high-performance everyday car.
With more bang and poise, well-heeled 911 fans are sure to be knocking on the door of local Porsche distributor Sime Darby Auto Performance to make booking enquiries ahead of its arrival.