The mid-week long read: under pressure
Shaking down the new 911 before its imminent international unveil
After months of teaser images and the constant whir of the rumour mill, an all-new 911 is officially just around the corner. The eighth generation of the world’s most enduring sports car will go on sale at the beginning of 2019, and ahead of this looming line in the sand, our prototypes are going through rigorous final testing all over the world.
Fleets of pre-production prototypes are shuttling between climate zones with temperature differences of up to 85 degrees Celsius. They’re also enduring elevation changes of more than 4km, tackling the worst of major city traffic and setting new records on racetracks. After each and every challenge we throw at them, every component of every car must function just as reliably as it did at the outset.
“In addition to its outstanding performance, it’s the 911’s suitability for daily use that has always put it in a class of its own,” explains Andreas Pröbstle, Project Manager for the Complete Vehicle of the 911. “That’s why we test the vehicle under all conditions, and in every type of weather and region. The vehicles’ drivetrain must function as flawlessly as its fluids, systems, operating processes and displays – it’s the only way we can be certain that the vehicle is able to travel through all regions of the world without faults.”
The first phase of testing focuses on Porsche’s traditional core areas of expertise, such as the chassis and engine, which have been enhanced even further for the 992 to improve both performance and everyday usability. Additionally, there are function tests and stress tests for the entirely new operating concept in the cockpit, as well as the newly designed instruments and displays. The latest driver assistance systems and extended connectivity must also rise to the various challenges of our arduous testing marathon: Porsche Connect differs from country to country, so testing its operation and functions is very resource-intensive.
In hot countries such as the Gulf States or the USA’s notorious Death Valley, the air conditioning, thermal management and combustion behaviour need to pass functional tests in temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius. This means, for example, that the interior components must not expand and contract excessively or make noises when exposed to heat.
Conversely, in Finland’s minus 35 degrees, the test agenda focuses on areas such as cold start, heating and air conditioning, traction, handling and braking behaviour, as well as the response speed of the control systems that deal with driving dynamics. The winding and demanding roads of the European Arctic Circle offer up the ideal conditions for winter testing a sports car.
We haven’t stopped there, however. Complex endurance runs have seen the new 911 performing speed and distance tests over China’s roads and race tracks, modelling traffic structures typical for the country and proving that they can run reliably on enormously varied qualities of fuel. And what test of a Porsche would be complete without a trip to the Nürburgring? The 20.6km ‘Green Hell’ has for years been a vital part of our rigorous test and development programme, taking the 992’s engine, transmission, brakes and chassis to their limits and beyond.
Another happy place for our tireless development team is the Nardò Ring in northern Italy, where our test cars have been driving flat out for hours around the famous high-speed loop, allowing us to examine not only top speed but also essential engine cooling and high-speed handling characteristics.
An ability to perform equally well in all conditions is absolutely core to the 911 philosophy. So from Death Valley, which descends to around 90 metres below sea level, we moved on to Mount Evans in Colorado, reaching heights of 4,300 metres. The thin air of high altitude is an essential challenge for the fuel system and all-important turbochargers.
The final phase of testing is customer-oriented everyday driving, on public roads in cities and cross-country throughout Germany. This portion of testing sees significant mileage being covered, while complying with all the usual rules of the road, in order to ensure that the finished product is durable and suitable for daily use.
By the time testing is complete, our cars will have driven around three million kilometres. The next three million, we’re happy to say, are down to you.