Trying, with every fibre in our being, to avoid the hackneyed phrase 'all the 911 you could ever need', we sample the 'base' specification of the latest 992 Porsche 911 and come away absolutely astounded by just how devastatingly good it is in every single regard.
In the metal
There's nothing to distinguish the 385hp Carrera from the 450hp S derivative, visually speaking, so it remains a glorious thing to behold. Stick a set of Carrera S 20-inch front, 21-inch rear optional wheels on it and even without the Sport Design pack that alters the look of the rear bumper/number plate arrangement, the 992 shape is really coming into its own already. It's a marvellously pure piece of automotive sculpture that suits both loud and brash or demure and sedate colours equally well.
Same goes for the gorgeous cabin, which feels like a significant step up from that of a 991, what with its sumptuous materials and beautifully sculpted interior. There are perhaps a few less haptic buttons on the transmission tunnel than there are in the Carrera S and without the GT Sport steering wheel, you're not looking at the rotary mode switch all the time, but there's still the exemplary 10.9-inch Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment and the twin seven-inch TFT screens flanking the central, analogue rev counter in the instrument cluster, as well as luxuries like dual-zone climate control, cruise control and keyless go all being fitted as standard. OK, the rear seats are somewhat bijou, but view them instead as additional cargo storage to supplement the otherwise rather modest 132-litre 'frunk' (that's a portmanteau for front trunk, in case you're wondering).
Apart from beyond 160km/h, there is nowhere you will feel, or hear, the difference between this model of 992 and its 450hp sibling. Seriously. The extra, unremitting reach of the Carrera S only makes itself felt at higher revs in higher gears, whereupon the 911 will be travelling at wholly illegal speeds, so really, you're not losing anything on the driving experience by plumping for the Carrera. Which'll still get as close to 300km/h flat out as makes no difference and run 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds without Sport Chrono, remember. So, it is undeniably incredibly quick.
Furthermore, while we have absolutely nothing against the Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S models of the 992, we now definitely prefer the rear-driven variants. There's just something a little more informative and rewarding about their steering, controlled through the absolutely perfectly proportioned wheel in the cabin, which makes gelling with the Porsche an even more special experience than it is in the all-wheel-drive versions.
Better still, the 385hp Carrera is the best 911 yet for playing the pseudo-GT. The ride on its adaptive dampers is every bit as good as on the S, the sound-suppression is magnificent (although there's quite a bit of tyre chatter from the rear) and yet, as recompense for that 65hp/80Nm deficit to its big brother, you'll get 35.5mpg (7.9 litres/100km) from it on a steady motorway run and around 27.4mpg (10.3 litres/100km) overall. Whereas the last Carrera S we drove in the same manner returned 29.3mpg (9.6 litres/100km) at best and 21.2mpg overall (13.3 litres/100km); admittedly, that was a C4S, rather than the two-wheel-drive version, but as Porsche claims broadly similar on-paper economy and CO2 figures for all possible combinations of the Carrera/Carrera S 2/4 Coupes and Cabrios, you can see that in reality the 385hp machine is easily the most frugal on a day-to-day basis.
And yet, wring out that biturbo flat-six engine and you're rewarded with mammoth pace and a superb soundtrack. Not quite as hard-edged and visceral as the old normally aspirated 911s of yore, but still one of the greatest turbocharged voices in the modern era. Even if you only short-shift the Carrera at about 5,000rpm, it's still effortlessly rapid, making other vehicles look like they've left their handbrakes on, and you can lean on the impeccable traction that only the driven rear wheels can serve up to fire out of corners on the rich midrange torque of the drivetrain. Also, the fact there is not yet a manual 992 of any format is not a problem; not when the PDK is such a faultless gearbox.
Indeed, the handling of the Carrera as a whole is just sparklingly good; age is not diminishing the 911's charm, as the car is simply maturing from one generation to the next into an ever-finer creation.
What you get for your money
A bog-basic Carrera S would be €167,680. This Carrera, with a few nice options, was usefully cheaper. That's not insignificant, considering it'll be less punitive to run in the long-term, and also the days of standard Porsches coming with less kit than a minimalist artist's most prized installation are long gone. So the Carrera is fitted with dual-zone climate control, heated front sports seats with partial-electric adjustment, leather upholstery, a multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifts for the PDK, the highly desirable Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), 19-inch front and 20-inch rear alloy wheels, the PCM infotainment, the 150-watt and eight-speaker Sound Package Plus audio system, LED lights all round for the exterior, Porsche Wet Mode, Warn and Brake Assist, Keyless Go, Park Assist front and rear, and cruise control, among many other items from the factory. More than you could need on a prestige sports car like this.
We know there are plenty of incredibly exciting 992s inbound and we know that it is lovely to have that 'S' badge on the rump of your Porsche, signifying (in this case) the 450hp hit of performance that said 911 can deliver, but - realistically - the only places you can legally exploit the additional power of the Carrera S variants is either on track or on a lightly trafficked Autobahn. And we reckon the lower expense of this 385hp model, plus its preferable running costs, make it the go-to 992, no matter how outstanding the Carrera S is.