I recently made the switch from an E92 6MT to a 991S PDK so I figured I'd share some thoughts.
First of all - I LOVE the E92 M3. I have a decent history with BMWs, starting with a 2000 Z3M Coupe that I somehow managed not to kill myself in. I've lusted after various incarnations of the M3 and the 911 since I was a teenager and have only recently been able to experience living with both.
First, some comments on practicality:
I'm lucky enough to work from home, so my car tends to be 85% for enjoyment and 15% for family use. I have a daughter going on 2 years old, who I pick up from daycare most days, and the E92 was the perfect blend of usability with a rear-facing car seat, and performance when I had the car to myself.
I didn't mind at all taking the seat out, strapping her in, and then sliding it back into place. The front seat was still usable with her in the back.
(Insert obligatory comments on trunk space, ride quality for the wife, and ease of changing the character with the M button - all good stuff.)
When I test drove the 991, I expected the car seat not to fit. That's certainly true in the 997. To my surprise, it actually did - albeit with the front passenger's head almost pinned to the windshield. But remember my primary use case - I pick my daughter up from daycare, and don't really need to have a front passenger. Plus, she's transitioning to a forward-facing seat now, and that fits great, with normal positioning for the front passenger.
With the rear-facing seat, I didn't take it out anymore, I just slid her in between the roof and the seat - like loading an Apollo astronaut. She laughs, it's easier than the M3, and her riding position is so far forward, I can turn my head and talk to her. She loves riding with me in the 991 and, it has actually become a little bonding experience for us.
OK, enough parent stuff.
Let's get to performance:
So the M3...
I won't go into a full review of the car's dynamics. I just want to recount what the car meant to me, and why it put the big smiles on my face.
I've driven many performance cars on the road, (my wife and I love to rent exotics when we're on vacation - great way to experience cars and have fun drives) and I've done some karting training (which I highly recommend for learning car dynamics). So I've had many memorable car moments over the years. None of them stick in my head as much as the first time I broke the back end loose on my M3 for the first time.
I have never felt so in control of a car that was over the edge. You know that feeling in your stomach when you break traction in a car? The "holy shit, did I just screw myself" feeling? That never happened. M-dynamic mode was on, the tail was out, I was in complete control, and both my wife and I were laughing our asses off. (BTW, my wife is awesome).
I spent a year never turning off DSC completely. M-dynamic mode was programmed into my M button, and I used it on a set of empty roads I called "my Chris Harris training ground". I'm no Chris Harris, and to prove it, I even let a friend with much less performance experience drive those corners and get the back end around a bit. (He was laughing his ass off too). So I realized that the car and the software make you feel like a superhero.
When I finally turned all the nannies off, it was a different story. I ended up facing the other way many times while trying to pull off the same moves. But I was careful, practiced and got halfway decent doing some small drifts. With a baby seat (and no baby) in the back
The car, even without electronic assistance, is so rewarding and communicative at the limits and beyond. It's a special thing.
Then I test drove a 991S
I haven't owned an automatic box since my first car in high school. I love stick. I love revving it to break traction. I love heel-toeing. I love the involvement. I love engine braking. Note, I have never driven an M3 DCT either.
Then I drove the PDK... and hated it. It was flat-footed, seeked high gear all the time, and felt like... like an Audi with a slushbox.
But then I switched it to Sport+ / Manual and my life changed.
To sum up the experience - the feeling of driving a 991 aggressively is that of accurate, technical, capable, speed, versus the M3, which encourages you to play and hoon. As you can read above, I've been hooning for a while - and when I put that 991 in Sport+/Manual, my entire focus turned to "look for apex, clip, get on the throttle, track out, don't fuck up". The road felt like a track, and I switched to karting mode, and my brain was all about being precise, fast (but don't get arrested), and being technically correct in my driving.
It was intoxicating - and in that situation, I never wanted my hands off the wheel. Shifting went from a fun challenge to a necessity that you have to integrate into your lines.
Technically, the PDK shifts like a monster in Sport+. Under load you get a kick in your ass. As some noted in this thread, under load, there is a delay, and to be honest, it gets a little annoying when you're playing with redline (nothing like a rev limiter to remind you that you suck). But once you learn the technique and anticipate delay, the shifts are rewarding and lightning fast.
Suffice it to say, my current routine when I get in the car is to hit Sport+ and knock the gear lever over to Manual. Only when my wife is in the car do I soften it, and I never drive in auto. My MPG is 13.9 because I never let the auto seek 7th gear. I love the noise, I love the feeling of control, and I love downshifting and engine braking at lights.
But what about dropping the clutch at lights? Could I be as happy with Launch Control? My god yes. After a 500 mile break-in where it was suggested I didn't use LC, I was at a light at about 11:30pm. No one else around. My wife in the passenger seat, baby safely at my mom's house. I put my left foot on the brake, right foot on the gas, the tach bounced against redline with this amazing sound, feathering on and off max RPM. Light turned green, I lifted my left foot, our heads snapped back, and it felt like we were just dropped off a building. Stomach in our throats, eyes pushed back in their sockets. We laughed harder than the first time I got the rear end loose on the M3. It's that awesome. Plus it's so easy to do, it's almost an afterthought alone at a light, or if someone wants to have a go at you. Just amazing.
When I drove the 991 off the lot (I took one on the lot same day - I was that
blown away), the buyer's remorse set in. 'What did I do!?" This car is not for drifting on my favorite empty road. It's rear-engined, and again, I'm no Chris Harris. To be honest, I had that feeling for a month after. I had to make a very personal decision to change what type of driving rewarded me, and what techniques I wanted to improve by driving this way.
And that's hard to find in a car that is more capable than anything you can do legally on a public road. So I changed my whole mentality. I started using iRacing online with a force feedback wheel to practice my techniques on a track (I'm not lucky to live near enough to a track to do this regularly with the 991). On the road, I map out corners as I'd see them in the game, and negotiate lines and traffic while staying safe and legal. Yeah - seems boring, but it's actually a lot of fun. My improvement comes in my online practice, not on the road. The 991 on the road became a visceral, enjoyable way to feel like I'm on the track all the time. You just snap into that mode when you get behind the wheel, and it makes an everyday drive feel like a track day.
Let's talk about chassis dynamics. I drove (and bought) a car with PDCC, which uses an active system to dampen roll in corners, and PTV, which is brake-based torque vectoring. At first, corners feel artificial with these things plus the electric-assist steering. It's a huge change, and my initial thoughts were
- I can feel the grip, but I can't feel the road texture like the M3
- Why the hell is this car cornering so flat?! This is impossible!
- What is that sensation of pushing and pulling in the corner? I could feel the PTV correction very distinctly.
- Holy shit this thing will hit any apex at any speed.
- I am a technical driving GOD! (A damn lie)
When I reconciled all of these new sensations after a month of driving, they started feeling "right", and I could feel what the car was telling me about the road more and more. Short story, I could take corners at speeds 20MPH or so higher than I felt comfortable doing in my M3.
If you want a more natural feel, and a bit less tendency to understeer, skip the PDCC. But you might have some more surprises with the back end stepping out in the wet. The PTV is a pretty odd sensation, but if you want to hit every apex, every time, check the box. I know it's working because my favorite corner is a right hander, and I see more brake dust on my right rear wheel than my left. Regardless, the car is naturally really well behaved - much more than the 997 and before - but these electronic assists make it feel even more neutral and accurate, and add a bit of a safety margin in when you get ham-fisted.
So, a few months in, where is my head at?
I wish I could afford both cars. But given the option, right now, I'm very very happy I chose the 991.
I had to change my whole reward mentality with driving, but I made the transition, and I have smiles every time I drive. Maybe it's me getting older, maybe it's just that the 911 offers the most driving fun with the absolute maximum limit of what I could trade off in practicality.
A big test on how much I love a car is when I bring the car in for a service that lasts a week (the 991 had 4 warranty campaigns to be done!), how happy I am to pick it back up. I'd say picking up the 991 was better than initial delivery. I was so nervous driving it home that first day, it was actually more stressful than fun. But now it was like picking up an old friend, and I barreled out of that dealership and back home with an ear to ear grin.
Do I miss the stick? Yes. Would I choose the PDK again? Yes - probably. I never got the chance to test a 991 with stick - it's probably amazing. But the type of technical driving the 991 excels at lends itself to a PDK. If I bought another M3, I'd probably go right back to the stick. It feels right in that car.
Another weird tip. I'm a coupe guy - I don't put the top down on cars, and I don't want the extra weight. On the M3, there was no way I'd sacrifice the carbon fiber roof for a sunroof. But on the 911, I'm glad I took that option. It does have buffeting at speed with the windows down and the sunroof closed. So the sunroof being open is basically a requirement. It lets the air and the awesome awesome sound of the engine enter the cabin more.
Well, I hope this was helpful to at least some of you. Again, I love both cars - maybe one day I can have both in the garage. (Note to self: get a bigger garage first)