Porsche 911 Carrera

Meet the new 911 – baseball cap not essential

Price: £71,449
Engine capacity: 3.4-litre flat-six
Power output (hp @ rpm): 350 @ 7400
Top speed (mph): 178
0-62 mph (seconds): 4.6
Fuel economy (mph): 34.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 194

Every few years Porsche unveils an "all-new" 911, and every few years wealthy buyers snap it up in their droves while car nuts without £70,000 burning a hole in their pockets are left playing spot-the-difference with last year's model. Fast and expensive, the 911 has always been a rich man's plaything. And while its critics claim it doesn't look anything like a supercar, is incredibly impractical, totally unaffordable and its front end jiggles around like mad, they are shouted down by the hordes of baseball-cap wearing men in their fifties who flock to Porsche dealerships to pay serious cash to be seen bombing around in one.

My test model (the latest entry-level 911) came over Easter, the week that its creator Ferdinand Porsche died. The engineer and grandson of Porsche's founder designed its long, sloping roof, sleek bonnet and front-engine layout in the early 1960s. Before taking it for a blast I held up a picture of his first design (then called the 901) next to the car's current incarnation. Not much has really changed. For Porsche, it is a case of if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The exterior design is much the same as the most recent model it replaces. Only the most observant would notice the new concept-car inspired rear lights or the extra 100mm between the front and rear axles (this makes the inside surprisingly spacious). Inside, the Cayenne/Panamera-inspired sloping centre console remains but the build quality has improved and there's extra headroom. It is, perhaps, a little poorly equipped at base level, where £70k doesn't even buy you heated seats or Bluetooth for you mobile – Porsche charges £558 for the latter.

Out on the long straights and tight bends of Norfolk's rural roads over the Easter weekend its 3.4-litre engine (down from 3.6 in the model it replaces and with lower emissions and fuel consumption) still pushes out 350bhp and is blindingly fast. The throttle response is immediate and brutal, the brakes brilliant and the front-end grip and control much improved.

The ride is firm – too firm, probably, for most everyday use without Porsche's expensive additional damping system – and the auto gearbox can be a little lost in normal mode, but hit the sports button and the handling is precise. Yes, it bucks and weaves a little at times thanks to its rear-engine weight distribution, but that's part of the fun and you'll be amazed at how quickly you feel able to get on the power out of the corners, or how late you are happy to brake.

A major change is the new electric power steering, which has supposedly taken feeling away from the ride. Only the most pure of purists will be aggravated about this. And while it is true you can get rear-wheel drive fun at half the price (Nissan 370z or Toyota GT86), nothing quite offers the sheer throttle-hoofing buzz of a 911. Just leave the baseball cap at home.

The competition

The new Jaguar F-Type, launched next year, will be a big challenger, as will the £25k Toyota GT86. Traditional rivals include the pricey but fantastic Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the good-looking Audi R8.

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