New 911, New Zealand
Porsche Asia Pacific: Magnificent driving roads and irresistible scenery provide the ideal backdrop to get acquainted with the all-new 911.
The icon discovered
The Porsche icon is right at home in the country.
We recently gathered in Auckland, New Zealand, to meet the new Porsche 911, although in many ways the event felt more like an opportunity to reacquaint oneself with an old friend. Just half a year after making its international debut at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the eighth-generation 911 has touched down in New Zealand to introduce itself to the region, which is about as far as possible from Porsche’s corporate home of Stuttgart. With New Zealand freshly under the wing of Porsche Asia Pacific, it seemed the perfect opportunity to take the wheel of the new 911 and enjoy some Kiwi hospitality. For writers with telltale lines of experience ridged into their smiling faces, an up-close look at the Type 992 generation will bring up fond memories of the famed—and now highly collectable—air-cooled models. The new recesses in the hood, for example, recall the classic 911 models, while the LED strip that unites the tail lamps is a particularly evocative touch: it not only alludes to the most recent additions to the Porsche family but bears more than a faint resemblance to the progressive and distinctive strip of rear lights that graced the Type 993, the pinnacle of air-cooled 911s.
More familiarity inside: the ignition is on the left, and beneath a roof-like shroud, the new 911’s dashboard has a recessed operating level in black, dominated by a row of five classically Porsche instruments. The analogue rev counter of course occupies its nostalgic position in the middle. However, we descended on Auckland not for nostalgia’s sake but to discover the charms and abilities of the new 911. Kiwis are remarkably self-effacing, about both themselves and the condition of their roads, but the trek into hills north of Auckland proved their fears to be unfounded, at least where tarmac quality is concerned. True, much of the network seems interrupted by roadworks, but those continual improvements are surely why there was nary a pothole to be seen on the route, nor was there the sort of broken surface to trouble the new 911’s well-tuned suspension. If anything, the icon was in its element. Powerful, effortless acceleration from the new biturbo boxer engine made brisk, easy work of steep climbs, while the beautifully precise and perfectly weighted steering turned every hill pass into a delight. Switchbacks that might have troubled a less adroit car were pure joy in the 911.
Indeed, the rapid flow through corner after corner only validated the notion that each new 911 is a beautifully honed interpretation of the last. With the new 450-horsepower engine and dual-clutch, eight-speed automatic as well as the latest driver assistance systems—although we never got the chance to sample the unique Wet Mode driving system—we could only conclude the latest 911 combines exhilaration with pure engagement like never before. Fittingly, it would take something as absorbing as a 911 to divert a driver’s attention from New Zealand’s captivating landscape.
The South Island may be famed for the views, but not far out of Auckland the terrain is just as postcard perfect, at once irresistibly lush, sculpted, and verdant. After a quick lunch stop, we aimed the fleet of 911s back toward the heart of Auckland via a crowded but smoothly flowing highway. That provided drivers the opportunity to sample some of the car’s new features, such as adaptive cruise control, and to contemplate what a soothing machine the new 911 can be. Its supportive seats, ergonomic controls, and supple suspension meant that after long hours of spirited driving, we were left longing not for rest but for more time behind the wheel. Perhaps there is something about New Zealand that breeds eager drivers. In spite of its modest speed limits and a population of fewer than five million people, the country has always punched above its weight in motorsports, most recently with the success of Earl Bamber, the twenty-nine-year-old two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche. Notably, Bamber climbed the motorsport ladder with incredible speed after a remarkable series of campaigns in Porsches: He won the Carrera Cup Asia driver’s title in his debut season of 2013, as well as the season after. Only a year later, he reached the top step of the podium for the most gruelling endurance race on the planet, winning at Le Mans with the Porsche factory team in 2015 and 2017. The latter year also saw him become the World Endurance Champion. Could his younger brother, Will, be poised to repeat the same feats? This year the twenty-five-year-old takes the wheel of a 911 GT3 Cup for Team Porsche New Zealand in the Carrera Cup Asia, a team managed by Earl Bamber Motorsport and backed by the Official Porsche Centres of New Zealand. With a magnificent backdrop of beautiful roads and irresistible scenery, along with a motorsport spirit that is well and truly alive, Auckland might well have been the ideal place for a regional launch of the new 911. New Zealand may be eighteen thousand kilometers across the planet from Stuttgart, but in many ways the Porsche icon is right at home in the country.