Through the darkness and unyielding bluster of a Western Cape winter, a distinctive red strip fluoresces in the distance.
This horizontal bar is like a spirit level, one beaming swathe of Teutonic illumination cutting through the N7 freeway, at an hour when Table Mountain is yet to be kissed by the morning sunshine.
And we are chasing the future: like our colleagues up ahead we are piloting an example of the 2019 Porsche 911 (992). The execution of its rear-lighting design steers the subject of conversation to the prospect of the forthcoming, battery-powered Taycan next year.
It would be remiss to say the model heralds a new direction for the brand. Because the first car designed and built by Ferdinand Porsche in 1898 was an electric vehicle dubbed the Egger-Lohner.
There is more than a hint of irony in all of this. The technology of that forward-looking genesis would only be peddled to the mainstream 122 years after conception. Meanwhile, the product perhaps best associated with the Porsche crest is the petroleum-dependent Neun-elfer. Oh yes, the nine-eleven, with its circular eyes, flat-six at the back and an instantly recognisable silhouette that, for many, will always represent the archetypal sports car.
It is hard to argue against the notion that the 911 has stood firm against the vagaries of the calendar. So confident are its makers in the enduring relevance of the model that it has been billed as a “timeless machine” — and even HG Wells will have to concede that this is a pretty clever play on words. It should be noted, however, that while the 911 might be the go-to product when referencing the Porsche stable, it is the Macan and its Cayenne sibling that account for the bulk of sales volumes.
Anyway, how has Porsche honed the eighth-generation version of its long-standing, two-door mainstay? Subtly, in typical fashion, blending throwback with mild modernisation. Note the recess aft of the bonnet, nodding to a styling cue seen in earlier forms of the model. There seems to be a smidgen more… squareness dialled into proceedings.
Also evident in the side mirrors, which offer a greater field of vision. The door handles are integrated flush into the bodywork, ejecting and retracting electronically when required. Its hind boasts louvres that appear more prominent than the outgoing vehicle. Porsche has this analogue-meets-digitisation approach down pat.
While screen displays have relegated conventional, fixed dials, the overall ambience continues to echo 911 elements of yesteryear. There are just five buttons on the fascia. The 992 range launches with the Carrera S and its four-wheel drive 4S counterpart, powered by a revised version of the 2,981cc, flat-six engine that featured in the 991.
According to Porsche, it benefits from an improved injection process and cooling system, as well as a duo of larger turbochargers. The figures speak for themselves, with 22kW and 30Nm more, taking things to a total output of 331kW and 530Nm. Which is good for a sprint time of 3.6 seconds in the 4S and 3.7 seconds in the S. Oh, the Nürburgring plaudit makes for an essential citation: the new Carrera S was a full five seconds faster than the car it replaces, dispatching a lap of the gruelling track in seven minutes and 25 seconds.
No problem tackling the Franschhoek and Du Toitskloof passes, then. We opted for the 4S first and the benefit of four-wheel traction meant a familiarisation period that lasted all of seven metres, before feeling comfortable enough to further explore its competencies. Firstly, expect a power delivery that proffers a sweet convergence of urgency and measured linearity — no surprises there.
Its electromechanical power steering seemed truthful to the age-old tenet of Porsche 911 tillers serving telepathic feedback. And that multilink rear suspension with its anti-roll bar, coupled with the wet mode setting (a first for Porsche), ensured that there were no consequences for leaden-footed liberties.
And how assuredly its character settled down when the frivolity of driving enthusiastically had waned, leaving a gentle arrival at our lunch stop as the only mission on the agenda.
The rear-driven S made its configuration known as we squirmed away under hard acceleration on damp roads after said refreshment break. The more seasoned driving enthusiasts will undoubtedly see this as the one that offers the more authentic Neun-elfer experience.
Be wary of such statements, though, because these are just the starting rungs of the ladder: the 992 range is going to expand further. And if these entry points of initial exposure are so remarkable, imagine what the more special GTS, Turbo, GT2 RS and GT3 RS versions will be like?
It might have been asserted previously by some that peak 911 had been reached — or was imminent. But with the unrelenting evolution of each lineage, I doubt such a conclusive statement could ever be made.
Fast Facts: Porsche 992 Carrera S
Engine: 2981cc twin-turbo flat-six
Power: 331kW at 6500rpm
Torque: 530Nm from 2,300 to 5,000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed PDK
0-100km/h: 3.7-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 308km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 8.9l/100km (claimed combined)
Price: From R1,708,000