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Classic Porsche 911 - Surveys owners, repair and operation of 911 news stories and page model, sales and much more in ou...
Classic Porsche 911 - Surveys owners, repair and operation of 911 news stories and page model, sales and much more in our club fans and fans of the legendary series cars Porsche 911. All about 911-901, 930, 964, 993, 996 and new era 997 and 991-series.

If you're buying a used 911 as an investment, send me your address so that I can arrange a visit from the boys. Investors who never drive their 911s bring a word to mind. That word is 'pimp'. As 911 diehards, the boys don't like pimps, so when they arrive, make sure your engine is still warm, the exhaust system is making that tinkling noise and there is evidence in your tyres of some recently accomplished brisk cornering.

All 911s, from 1963 to this afternoon, share a characteristic 911 'feel', but that varies greatly in degree. Bog-standard used Coupes from the late 1970s or 1980s once delivered the goods for sensible money but they might demand some restoration work now.

Choosing a 911 is such a very personal matter. Just go for what you really want, get the best straight car you can find and look after it. Reliability is legendary but repairs can be costly.

My choice is currently the 993 Carrera 2 Coupe of 1993-98. Its predecessor, the 964, was respectable but dull. The 993's different, agile feel makes it terrific to drive and good ones go for less than £30,000 - this week, anyway.
It's the last air-cooled 911 model but so what? Later models lost nothing by being water-cooled. No, pick a 993 for its exhilarating agility, and its price.

A friend of mine paid £26,000 for a superb 1994 993 Carrera 2 in late 2013. He loves it, whether he's tootling about the shops or on a 300-mile blast through the remote Highlands of Scotland, where it truly excels. And that's no more than it deserves.

Porsche 911 Carrera RS
1973 // £500,000
The eternally great, ultimate development of the original 911 concept, it combines high performance and low weight with inch-perfect precision handling. Superb but the price of this model now, sir, is officially‘through the roof'. If you buy one, promise us you will use it.

On an autumn day in 1972 the salesman from Porsche GB came to visit our house. 'We're making a special car,' he told my father. 'Only 200 will be built, and we're offering them to our best clients first as demand is sure to be strong.' They built more than 1500 in the end, and demand was so great that, instead of management having to use them as company cars to use up unsold stock as expected, Porsche sold out the first batch of 500 immediately and had to build two more series.

Why the fuss? Because the RS is so much more than the sum of its parts. It was derived from the relatively humble 2.4S, but with flared rear arches and wider wheels (a 911 first), bored-out engine (at 2.7 litres Porsche's biggest road car motor to date), a rear spoiler (another first, and not just for Porsche, so initially illegal in some markets) and, last but not least, weight-loss that took the RS under the magic 1000kg in 'lightweight' trim.
The result: 150mph, 0-60mph in 5.0sec, handling to die for (and you would if you lifted off mid-comer) and a string of victories on every continent including rallies, Le Mans and the Targa Florio. Oh, and you can drive it to the shops.

Mine's been in the family for 42 years and has never once 'failed to proceed'. Beat that, Enzo...


Porsche 911 GT3 (997-series, generation II)
2009-12 // £80,000-120,000
The 997-series Generation II cars were terrific in their time and the naturally aspirated 997 GT3 was a hugely powerful, seriously fabulous machine, subtly better in fast corners than previous GT3 models.
A classic in waiting - bound to be a sound long-term investment.

Any brand new 911
2015 // From around £75,000
Admit it, they are absolutely brilliant. If you don’t want one, you should. Buy it, keep it, service it properly. One day, it will be a classic but, meanwhile, enjoy a few happy decades driving it. The best of all worlds.
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  •   Adam Towler reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    All together - #1990 #Honda-NSX against #Porsche-911-Carrera-2-964 and #Lotus-Esprit-SE-Turbo , #Ferrari 348tb . Honda’s first supercar versus Europe’s best. #Porsche-911-Carrera-2 #Porsche-911-Carrera #Porsche-911-964 #Porsche-964 #Ferrari-348tb #Lotus-Esprit-SE

    If you can beat them, join them. Fresh from whipping Ferrari. #Porsche and #Lotus on the track - which the ad-men keep telling us is the 'ultimate' challenge - Honda now wants to join them on the road. And why not? Despite the magic names, engineering finesse, and all those years of tradition and hype, there is no sensible reason why Honda replete both with cash and talent - can't try to tackle the supercar sacred cows.

    Much of testing done on Durham moors, where both #Ferrari and Lotus were hard work at speed.

    It has gone about building a supercar in a different way from Ferrari or Porsche or Lotus, as you'd expect. You can bet that the new #Honda NSX. Honda's and Japan’s first supercar, cost many times more to develop than Ferrari's equally new 348. And you can bet it will earn its maker less money (if any at all), for profit is not the point of the NSX. It’s all about image; all about cashing in on the success of Honda’s formula one programme, and making the world view the Civics and Concertos and Accords in a new, more respectful light.

    How can the Honda NSX be as profitable as a #Ferrari-348 , when it costs about £15,000 less to buy in Britain (£52,000 versus £67,499), and yet is built of more costly materials (an aluminium alloy monocoque and body, plus absolutely gorgeous forged alloy suspension components) and has more high-tech mechanicals?

    The Ferrari and Honda are the new cars here, but who would dare dismiss the two old-timers? The #Porsche-911 may well be the oldest sports car in the world but, for most of its 26 years, it has been, in my view, the best. And jus; a year ago it received the most comprehensive revamp in its history. Many new body panels, a brand-new engine (but still a flat-six, still air-cooled), yet all the old-time charm. It’s still not bad value, either, at £45,821 (even if, as with all Porsches, it’s much cheaper in most other markets).

    The #Lotus-Esprit made its debut back in 1976, was Improved by a turbo engine in 1981, and competed hard with the Ferraris and Porsches for a while. Then its act floundered in the mid to late '80s, shackled by insufficient development funds. But, just over a year ago, the financially revitalised company (bought by General Motors) announced the SE variant, the best Esprit of all. And one of the fastest supercars ever: offering Lamborghini Countach-busting performance, now for £44,900.

    Deserted Durham Moorland Road, bright sunny day. Ferrari 348tb underneath you. What better, more invigorating way to travel? The quad-cam 3.4-iitre 32-valve V8 engine, good for 300bhp, and just a few inches behind you. serenades with its magic; the little yellow Prancing Horse shield on the steering wheel boss does a jig on the bumps and undulations, animate like the rest of the car; and all around you is the most gracefully simple cabin you'll ever sit in.

    It is not like driving a normal car; that is the charm of a Ferrari. Always has been. There is a delicacy, an intimacy, about the car. You can feel the cogs mesh when you change gear. You can sense the pads biting the big discs when you push the middle pedal. The right pedal is even more responsive: a millimetre of throttle movement means a discernible difference in speed, a quantifiable change in that wonderful engine note, which always rides with you - always reminding you (even when you may want peace and quiet, such as on a long run) that you are driving something quite different from a Ford or a Vauxhall (or a Honda).

    The keen throttle response is crucial to the car’s character. Apart from the 911, the Ferrari is the only car here that can really be steered on the throttle (aided by its short wheelbase, which helps a car's propensity to change direction quickly). Turn into a corner, using the steering, and the throttle control car, fine-tune the attitude of the car. If the nose is running a little wide (unlikely, for the Ferrari has the best turn-in of the group), you can adjust it by backing off. Want the nose to run a little wider? Simple, squeeze on more power, and observe the whole handling composure change. The throttle of a Ferrari does so much more than merely make it go fast.

    And then when it s over, when you’ve driven the Ferrari hard and fast, when you have enjoyed a moment of driving pleasure rare in today's sanitised world, you can get out and just look at the car. It’s a piece of sculpture, a thing of beauty. Try as the others do, no-one can make a supercar as beautiful as the Italians. The 348 is one of the loveliest Ferraris.

    After driving the Ferrari, you won't believe that anything could be better. No other car, surely, can give that close conjunction between driver and car; or the intimate relationship between the car and the road. None of the others is a Ferrari. Who else but the Italians could make so expressive a machine?

    Well, none of the others can: let's make that clear right away. Which is not to say, they can't win this comparison: there is more to a supercar's repertoire than the richness of the driving experience, important though that is.

    The Lotus is not tied down to the road as tightly, and its turbo four-cylinder engine - which actually produces more straight-line urge than any other car here - is smooth and refined. But it has no music, no magic, and th8 throttle response of a turbo car is never good.

    Porsche’s 911 is the only German sports car on sale now with real spirit, real élan, partly because it's old, and was conceived before the Germans got carried away by science. But, characterful old car though it is, it doesn't serenade you with the same richness as the Ferrari.

    What chance do the Japanese have of matching the vivacity of a Ferrari? They have certainly shown no signs of being able to breathe life into machinery before. Besides, how can Honda, maker of blue-rinse saloons, suddenly hope to produce a red-blooded sports car?

    The Japanese can't pull their old trick - of measuring all the rivals, copying in some cases, refining in most of the others - this time. You can't measure a Ferrari's virtues, let alone copy them - any more than you can analyse Mozart's music or Shakespeare's plays and. thereby, hope to duplicate them. Some things cannot be measured: neither the Japanese nor the Germans have learnt this.

    Okay, so the Honda isn't as much fun to drive as the Ferrari, cither. So be it. But when you put your brightest engineers onto a project (and there are no brighter bunch than Honda's), employ your finest workmen to build the car in a brand-new factory, and come straight out and say, hang the cost, we are going to build the best supercar in the world, and we don't give a monkey's whether it makes money for us or not because it's jolly good for our image, you've got to take them seriously. The NSX may not interact with you as richly as the Ferrari. But that doesn't mean it's not as good.

    On that wonderful Durham road, drive the new Honda NSX. Power comes from a 3.0-litre, quad-cam 274bhp VS, enriched by variable valve timing and variable valve lift thus, on paper, offering terrific low-end tractability and lively big-rev performance - it's red-lined at 8000rpm.

    Feels like a normal car at first. No intimidation. You don’t have to climb over a massively wide sill (which helps duct air to the mid-mounted twin water radiators of the 348) nor do you have to climb down into the seat, having vaulted a high sill, as you do in the claustrophobic cabin of the Esprit.

    It just feels like a normal car. A CRX almost, except you're sitting lower, and the windscreen is deeper, and the tail higher. You don't have to steel yourself, prepare yourself, for a new and vastly different experience. You just get in (entry and exit is easy), sit straight-ahead (none of the askew nonsense that the other three demand, thanks to the absence of front wheel-arch intrusion), adjust the steering wheel to suit (it's the only one with reach and rake adjustment) and go.

    And go fast! Faster, on any winding moorland road, than the other three. Easter to drive fast, what's more. The softer and more yielding nature of the suspension (double wishbones all round, although unlike the Ferrari's prosaic steel set-up. the Honda's are by elegantly forged aluminium alloy arms) means the car has nothing like the Ferrari's nervousness on sinuous British moors - about the only public roads where, in this country, cars like this can be pushed hard

    Whereas the Ferrari feels fidgety, a little headstrong, the Honda just absorbs the bumps and crests and dips as it charges insouciantly on its way. Unless you take real risks, or unless you have the skill of a Senna, the Honda is the quicker A-to-B public road tool. And that surprised us all.

    Yes, it floats a little more on the crests and, yes, its wheels don't enjoy quite the same close relationship with the tarmac that the Ferrari's huge and beautiful 17-inch alloys enjoy. And the steering - the least sharp of all these cars, and the one that weights up most at speed - doesn't chatter to you the whole time, talking to you, blabbering away.

    Mind you, like most hyperactive things, the Ferrari's steering can get tiresome. On long trips you may curse the 348's wrist-jarring character, and the slight high-speed nervousness, preferring a quieter, gentler companion.

    But it's fast, this Honda. Seriously fast. In real terms, quicker than the Ferrari, both on the public road and, as we discovered before venturing to Durham, quicker on the racing circuit as well. On the track, at Castle Combe, the NSX was the quickest of the bunch (best lap, 1 min 14.4, compared with 1min 15.3 for the 348). What's more, it was the easiest car to drive on the bumpy Wiltshire track. You could lap all day at the NSX's best time, no fuss, no worry, no danger of spinning off and bending expensive aluminium alloy bodywork on crude steel barriers.

    Not so the Ferrari. It is much harder work, at the Combe, just as it is on a winding moorland road. It's firmer sprung, more of a racer, much more throttle-responsive, a car that wants to duck and weave. It has to be manhandled, quite physically, to make it go fast (heavy steering, heavy clutch, heavy slow-shifting gearchange, heavy brakes). It taxes and tests you. Drive the Ferrari fast-very fast - and you’ll sweat. The Honda is easy. Impressively, antiseptically easy.

    The NSX will understeer at the limit, in a safe, controllable way that will frighten no buyer (whether they be serious racers, or poseurs who want nothing other than a pretty set of wheels). Stray near to the 348’s (very high) limits and you can just start to feel the rear - so well anchored down at medium-high speeds – getting pendulous. Push a little harder and you'll be doing a blood-curdling, no-holds- barred, oversteer slice which will look wonderful (if you don’t lose control) and feel wonderful (if you don't lose control). And while all this excitement is going on, the Honda will be going just as fast, in its unexciting understeering way.

    On a less bumpy circuit than Castle Combe, the Ferrari would almost certainly have matched the Honda’s lap time. The asperity of the Castle Combe surface upset the nervous disposition of the Italian car: its steering kicked our wrists, and it seemed to be darting around, nervously and uncomfortably, even on straights. Its very firm suspension - the Ferrari has noticeably less body roll than its rivals, and the biggest tyres - does it no favours at a circuit like the Combe. You can tell the car has been set up for Ferrari's glass-smooth test circuit.

    The Porsche got nearest to matching the Honda's lap time at the Combe (best lap. 1min 14.9), and got nearest to matching the Ferrari's entertainment value on the Durham moors. What an extraordinary sports car the 911 is! Despite its age, and its unprepossessing mechanical layout (it is the only car of the group without a mid-mounted engine; instead its motor sits out the back, out there in no man's land, where no self-respecting modern engineer would ever consider siting the engine of a modern car), the 911 competes hard and fast against a brand-new Ferrari, and the mightiest effort yet from Japan’s boldest car maker.

    Its great virtue soon becomes apparent, when you take up station behind the wheel. It's small. How refreshing to find a supercar maker that realises you can have speed and presence without length and girth. But how depressing that Porsche knew this 30 years ago, but seems to have forgotten it now (judging by the Sumo-sized girth of its more recent offerings, such as the ungainly 928).

    The 911 is actually slightly longer than the 348 (the shortest but yet widest car here), but almost 10 inches narrower. It is six inches narrower than the NSX. Less body width means you've got more road space to play with; it’s a big difference. On a narrow B road, this Porsche has no peer. Even on the wider Durham moorland roads, its manoeuvrability, its lissomness, is entertainingly impressive.

    As with both the 348 and the NSX, the 911 has a pearl of an engine. Capable of pulling from about 800rpm in fifth gear (the Honda can dig even deeper into its rev range), and yet perfectly composed when the rev limiter silences it just before 7000rpm (it feels as though it could rev much, much higher, were it allowed), the 3.6-litre flat six is the feeblest engine in the comparison (250bhp), but doesn’t feel it.

    The 911 964 is marginally Quicker than the 348, in the standing start figures (0 60mph in 5.3sec, Ferrari 5.6; 0-100mph in 12.8sec, Ferrari 13.0). It’s faster than the Honda, too which, despite its speed on the track and on the road, is the tardiest off the mark (0-60 in 5.7sec, and 0-100 in 13.1). Next to the 348, the 911's engine feels the most throttle-responsive. There is absolutely no slack m that throttle pedal and. when you're tanking on, the car's cornering attitude can be beautifully manipulated by the accelerator pedal.

    Next to the Ferrari’s, the Porsche’s steering is the most communicative, the one that delivers the richest messages to the driver. What's more, it's better damped than the 348's, doing without the kickback and frenzy. With just over two turns lock to lock, it’s the highest-geared set-up too. Don’t let the power assistance, standards ware on the Carrera 2, put you off: although a useful adjunct at parking speeds, it deadens none of the high-speed sensations.

    No car is better made, either, although the Ferrari - beautifully solid and superbly finished - comes closest. The Honda is not Quite as good, and, during our week-long test, was the only car to give trouble: it ran on five cylinders for a bit, and its traction-control system (one of the many technical novelties of this most technically intriguing car) started to misbehave, before correcting itself.

    The 911 has the best brakes. Apart from the Ferrari, they have the most feel, and they stood up to fast laps of Castle Combe with greater decorum than any rival (the Honda's are closest for fade-free behaviour).

    Next to the NSX, the 911 was also the easiest car to punt on the racing track, and on those sinuous Durham moors. It is a forgiving car, unless conditions are damp (when all that weight over the tail can betray it). It has the best ride quality, marginally edging out the Honda (the Ferrari is easily the firmest; the Lotus is supple yet noisy when wheelsdrop in and out of holes). The steering; the throttle response: the excellent grip; the terrific visibility (top marks hero, although the NSX and the 348 are not far behind): the wieldiness. They all add up to make the Porsche a fast and easy high-speed drive, as well as an exhilarating one.


    But the Porsche has one serious shortcoming, compared with the Ferrari and Honda. Pressing on, it feels less stable. It rolls more, it (eels more on tippy toe. its front wheels have less of a grip on the road. And, at very high speed, the Porsche gets light at the nose. It gave one of our testers a helluva scare on the high-speed bowl at Millbrook, where we did the performance testing. It's a corollary of that rear engine, of course.

    The Lotus has its engine in the right place, but it doesn't have the right engine. A good turbo (and by turbo standards, it is geed) just cannot hack it with three of the best normally aspirated engines ever made. True, it revs briskly and smoothly to 7300rpm red-line. And it packs a mighty wallop - all from 2.2 litres and only four cylinders (it's good for 264bhp). But it matters little whence it came; what matters is how it gees.

    Drive hard on a public road, and the engine drifts on and off boost, denying you the Instant acceleration always available in the other three. There is far less engine braking, too, another corollary of turbo engines - and that means you cannot delicately balance the car's handling by using the accelerator pedal. To boot, the gearchange is easily the worst of the four (our test car. not the finest Esprit SE we have tested, had a really vague shift) and the engine got boo my on the motorway.

    More surprising is how far behind the others is the Esprit's chassis. On Castle Combe, the car understeered badly when pressing on: the main reason its lap time was the worst (best: 1min 15.6sec). On the Durham moors, the front end never felt securely tied down, the steering feeling peculiarly lifeless. The brakes felt dead, although they worked well enough. It just didn't compete, this Lotus, in any area other than straight-line urge (0-60mph in 4.7 sec, 0-100mph in 11.9 - the best of the bunch). Given all the nice things we’ve said about the SE, this car was a major disappointment. It finishes a poor fourth in this comparison.

    Less disappointing was the Esprit’s interior, if only because we already knew this was pretty awful. The Lotus gets plenty of leather - although it's not of the same quality as the Ferrari's Connolly hides - and seats which look inviting, once you can get into them (access is horribly limited, owing to the insufficient sweep of the door, and to the high sills you have to hurdle). But what really spoils the show is the appalling quality switchgear, no better than you'd get on an average kit car.

    The door handles come from an Austin 1800, the column stalks have a second-rate feel and action, and the VDO instruments are too small, and badly sited. The walnut facia also looks rather tacked on: token arborealism, a crude attempt to give the cabin more class. Inside, the Esprit shows its age.

    So does the Porsche. The 911’s cabin is easily its weakest suit - an important consideration, after all that's where you'll be spending most of your time in this car's company. The seats look cheap and lack both lateral and thigh support, the dashboard is a mess (you have to grope for some of the fiddly switches, scattered willy-nilly all over the cabin), the steering wheel doesn't look anything special (although it feels nice enough, and is well sized), there is no left foot rest (a major omission on a performance car), and some of the trim standard is dire (most prominently that awful Elastoplast that is the roof lining). Given so much of this car was changed during its metamorphosis into a Carrera 2 last year, why did not the Stuttgart engineers do anything about the car’s most glaring weakness? At least the switches and the whole cabin have a chunkiness and a solidity rare today.

    The Honda also has a disappointing cabin. It’s dashboard has a nice sculpture, and the seats are easily the most comfortable and supportive of this group. The cockpit is roomier than the Ferrari's (although it lacks the 343's rear parcel shelf) and the Lotus’s. And the pedals are perfectly placed, good for heel ’n’ toeing, well spaced, and supplemented by a wide left foot brace.

    But the whole thing just looks so ordinary. You don’t get those lovely hides of the Ferrari, which feel and smell so good. The leather you do get is the second-rate stuff, which may as well be top-quality vinyl. The dash is swathed in cheap-feeling plastic (don’t be fooled by the genuine stitching), and the carpets are nothing special. The roof lining is cheap plastic, so disappointing on a car of this worth.

    There’s nothing wrong with the big, boldly displayed instruments - never mind that they look as though they're from lesser Hondas: many Ferrari switches are from Fiats - but there's plenty wrong with the satellite control pods, either side of the wheel. It's a variation on the Citroen CX theme and, like any copy of a wonderful original, is nowhere near as good. The arrangement looks messy, and is not easy to use. The hard plastic switches have a poor tactility, as well. You just don’t feel as though you're somewhere special, when you’re ensconced in the NSX. It’s a shame, because you are: this Honda is a wonderful car.

    If I've sounded less than effusive about it so far, that is entirely intentional. It is not an effusive sort of car: instead, it s a massively competent one, a car whose strengths can be rationally explained. They are many.

    On most public roads, and on the race track, it is the quickest. It is the most comfortable car all round (best seats, and a surprisingly supple ride). It is the most restful on a motorway. It is the easiest and least demanding to drive fast, an utterly unintimidating mid-engined supercar that really could be used for shopping at Sainsbury's, were its boot bigger. It has the most benign high-speed handling, and is almost impossible to unsettle in sharp lift-off manoeuvres performed mid-corner. It is the most technically intriguing, and has the juiciest mechanical detailing. Those forged aluminium alloy wishbones are mechanical artistry. And it proved the most economical on test (23.0 mpg; Porsche 21.6; Ferrari 20.2; Lotus 19.7).

    There is no avoiding it: the #NSX is a breakthrough, a supercar that furrows new ground. How can a car with so many compelling virtues be anything other than the best? It can't be. And it is. It’s better than the Ferrari, and by some margin.

    And better than the 911, by an even bigger one. Honda has done a formula one, in the supercar field.

    Yet, I just don’t want one; it's not special enough. It doesn't look that good, to my eye: rather like a poor pastiche of a Ferrari. Honda's boldness seemed to have run out, when it came to the styling. But, much more important driving the NSX just isn't enough of an event. By exorcising that lovely sensitivity and nervousness endemic in a mid-engined car. Honda has partly negated the point of buying a mid-engined car. It just doesn't interact with you richly enough; it doesn't bewitch you, intoxicate you, win you over, warts and all.

    The 348 and the 911 do. They are special cars, and driving them is a special experience. You will savour every occasion you punt these cars hard on a deserted road, even if you may not be going as fast as the NSX driver. You may have to exert more effort, but so what? That’s what sporting cars are supposed to be about. You have to drive the 348 and the Porsche 911 964, instead merely of letting a wonderful car do the work for you.

    Of the pair, the Ferrari wins - if you can afford the extra 20-odd thousand pounds, and can wait five years to take delivery. There is nothing like it. It communicates so richly, involves you so completely. And. when you have finished driving it - cocooned in that exquisite cockpit - you can get out and feast your eyes on one of the loveliest cars ever designed.


    Honda and Porsche (left) easiest cars to drive quickly on moor roads. They're most supple.

    Porsche more on tippy-toe at speed than rivals, but is still prodigiously fast on winding road. Lotus understeers doggedly, steering mushy at speed.

    Lotus gels masses of leather in cabin, but controls look cheap, and visibility is bad. Flat front screen gets bad dash reflections.

    Nice steering wheel (although It's non-adjustable), but instruments too small, scattered about facia almost at random. But car feels special.

    Ventilation controls are typical of poor quality switchgear.

    Poor fit of sunroof. Esprits now better built, but not as good as rivals.

    Ferrari is flattest handling, fools most like racer, but gets nervous at the limit. Honda is inveterate understeerer, lacks throttle sensitivity of 348.

    Steering wheel looks nothing special but it fools good, and the steering itself is sharp and communicative. Crummy switchgear.

    Porsche cabin is unsatisfactory. Seals look cheap, and arc uncomfortable on long runs. Only car in group with roar chairs.

    Radio has removable front which deactivates unit. Very easy to carry.

    Rear chairs have fold-forward squabs, to increase carrying versatility.

    Porsche rolls more than rivals, understeers most of time, except when it’s wet. Lotus feels good at medium-high speed, less so when going hard.

    Porsche's engine biggest (3.6 litres) but least powerful (250bhp).

    Lotus has only 2.2-litres, yet delivers 264bhp, thanks to intercooled turbo.

    PERFORMANCE ACCELERATION (sec)
    0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100 30-80
    Ferrari 2.1 3.0 4.3 5.6 6.9 9.0 10.9 13.0 6.9
    Honda 2.1 3.0 4.3 5.7 7.1 8.5 10.9 13.1 6.1
    Lotus 1.8 2.5 3.6 4.7 6.3 8.0 9.8 11.9 6.2
    Porsche 2.0 3.1 4.1 5.3 6.9 8.6 10.5 12.8 6.0


    IN FOURTH GEAR (sec)
    20-40 30-50 40-60 50-70 60-80 70-90 80-100
    Ferrari 5.8 5.2 5.1 5.0 4.9 5.1 5.7
    Honda 5.7 5.4 5.4 5.4 5.4 5.6 6.0
    Lotus 8.8 5.9 4.3 4.1 3.9 4.0 4.4
    Porsche 5.7 53 5.3 5.3 5.2 5.4 5.5

    TOP SPEED (mph)
    Ferrari 169
    Honda 164
    Lotus 159
    Porsche 161

    CASTLE COMBE LAP TIMES (min)
    Ferrari 1:15.3
    Honda 1:14 4
    Lotus 1:15.6
    Porsche 1:14.9
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  • TIME MACHINES

    When 911&PW launched in 1990, the lead story in the news pages was the impending arrival of the 964 Turbo, the pinnacle of the 911 range. In order to assess the passage of 25 years of 911 development, we pitched the 964 Turbo against the current 991 Turbo. You can’t stop the 911 and you can’t stop progress.

    Porsche 911 & PW 25th Anniversary Happy Birthday to us! 25-years ago the 964 Turbo was the top dog. We pitch it against the current 991. What better way to illustrate 25-years of #Porsche progress, and 25-years of 911&PW, than by pitching the two top dog 911s of their respective eras. Enter the 964 Turbo and the 991 Turbo for an evolutionary, time travelling showdown.

    “The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there.” An overused quote (the opening line of LP Hartley’s #1953 novel, The Go Between), but overused for a reason, that being its eloquence and descriptive power. Does any other line sum up the power of progress quite as well? I don’t think so.

    In these days of rapid and rampant progress, subtracting 25-years from 2015 to arrive at 1990 appears to be just a short hop back in time, but truly it was a different time. Imagine going back there now? When 911 & Porsche World launched in April 1990, as a finger in the air exercise of publishing, the only way to gauge whether there would be an audience for the title was by simply doing it and putting it on the shelves of WHSmith and a few specialist Porsche dealers.

    The brief was simple: To cover all things Porsche and to represent the interest and passion of all things Porsche for owners and enthusiasts. In a world devoid of any form of digital media and communication, that is how things worked. Paper, words and pictures. Copy was typed, pictures were committed to film, pages were stuck together with glue. Typesetters and compositers turned it into reality. What we can do now in seconds, used to take days. 1990 might have seemed all very modern and exciting, but if time travel were possible, anyone from the ’60s would have been able to adapt very quickly indeed. Hell, plenty of cars still had carburettors and points!

    Inevitably 25-years of 911&PW, for its eclecticism, also reads like a Porsche timeline from its launch to now. We’ve followed the fortunes of the marque from near bust to a sonic fiscal boom and back again. We’ve followed each new model and have chronicled five generations of 911 from the 964 to the 991, or exactly 25-years of the 911’s timeline. No, the 911 isn’t the be all and end all of the magazine, but its constant presence creates an essential point of reference, just as it does for Porsche the company. No other sports car has been developed to the same degree as the 911, with each generation exploiting the technology of the time. For the first 25-years progress was pretty sedate, but the following 25-years, the 25-years that this magazine has been around, like the rest of the technological world, it’s been rapid indeed, thanks largely to a digital revolution that has left no part of life untouched.

    So how best to illustrate this in our own little world? Well, if the 911 is the constant by which the magazine is measured, then why not gather the ultimate 911 of 1990 and wind up the KKK turbo for a bit of time travel and propel into its own future to meet its 2015 future self. Sure there’s a void in between, but all the better to accentuate the massive progress of the past 25-years. We’re going to make one giant leap, rather than a number of incremental steps. Hold on!


    Fittingly, the ultimate 911 of 1990 was announced in the news pages of the very first issue of 911&PW. “911 Turbo for the nineties,” was how we introduced the 964 Turbo. Following hot on the heels of the normally aspirated #Porsche-964-C2 and C4, the Turbo featured the same aero front and rear bumper treatment and side skirts, plus 959-style five spoke ‘Cup’ wheels, that temporarily seemed so modern compared with the Fuchs of old. And big too. At 17 inches, they seemed huge. Aero wing mirrors were another improvement, but ultimately there was a feeling that the 964 Turbo wasn’t much of a leap forward over the 930 Turbo and it stuck with the 2WD drive layout, despite the 964 range being launched with a flagship 4WD version. Put it this way, there wasn’t much sense of this containing a great deal in the way of trickle down technology from the 959, which was kind of surprising looking back now, or even then, but we’ll come to that.

    Whereas the normally aspirated 964 got what were essentially all new 3.6-litre engines, with twin plug heads, the Turbo rather made do with the 930 Turbo’s 3.3- litre engine and an extra 20bhp, bringing it up to a not inconsiderable 320bhp, thanks to its larger #KKK turbo, larger intercooler, #Bosch-K-Jetronic injection and revised air intake system. Like its 964 siblings, the Turbo also got coil spring suspension all round, with MacPherson struts at the front with aluminium transverse links and semitrailing arms at the rear.

    The modernising front and rear bumper treatment deserves more than just a throwaway reference. Without having to do much to the main body shell, Porsche used the front and rear aprons to dramatic aerodynamic effect, but unlike the normally aspirated C2 and C4, the Turbo didn’t get the retractable rear spoiler, but remained faithful to the Turbo defining ‘tea tray’ lid, which rather accentuated its connection with the 930, rather than the rest of the 964 range.

    There was, then, a feeling that the 964 Turbo was something of an afterthought compared with the base 964s, which were clearly a leap forward from the G-Series cars that they replaced in terms of sophistication and modernity. But that was then and this is now and 25-years into the future the 964 Turbo has rather come of age. After years in the doldrums it has been reinvented as the last of the old school, rear drive only 911 Turbos, and as such it commands a price above the 930 Turbo. And of course because it’s an air-cooled 911, that price is not inconsiderable.

    Above all the 964 Turbo is a product of its time and was constrained by the engineering solutions of the day. It is very much ‘mechanical.’ Much as computers had little to do with the day-to-day production of 911&PW, they had very little to do with the development of the 964, and nor did the 964 have much in the way of on board computing power. Take out the Bosch ECU and you’ll find a few RAM chips to control the fuelling and ignition, with about as much operating power as a 2015 cordless phone. There is also what Porsche optimistically describe as an ‘onboard computer,’ which features an LED screen in the bottom centre of the rev counter, which gives basic distance travelled info, outside temp and boost pressure. There is an equivalent in the 991 Turbo, which will even display Gforce and the engine’s torque curve.

    But let’s not sneer. Even if it were possible to convey such info to the driver in 1990, it probably wouldn’t have crossed the engineers’ minds. Why would it? Twenty-five years on it’s just a bit of tech froth, that would only appeal to teenagers and Nissan Skyline drivers. But that’s progress for you and the endless digital revolution, that makes all this stuff possible, some of empowering, essential usefulness, some, like an onboard torque curve readout just a gimic.

    On board the 964 is a familiar air-cooled place. The interior of this immaculate example is era defining light grey. The dash is essentially a modernised version of the 1963 original, while the prominent centre console is about the only 959 feature to have made it into the 964 Turbo, and sits on top of the redundant transmission tunnel. The deep bolstered Sports seats are fabulously comfy and offer a modicum of electric adjustability, while the four-spoke ‘lozenge’ centred steering wheel is fixed in all plains. The pedals, naturally, still pivot from the floor and are offset on this right-hooker. For 911 pilots of old, it’s all part of the package, here in the modern world you objectively wonder as to how some of the 911’s quirky features could have lasted for 25 years and beyond. Even in 1990 this essentially ‘modernised’ 911 must have felt rather oldfashioned compared to the competition like the #Honda-NSX , or the #Ferrari-348 (actually the 348 wasn’t a prancing horse, but more a lame donkey, with a gearbox full of rubble. The NSX, however, was a game-changer, held back only by its badge). But that, as we know, is all part of the 911 charm and mystique. If you have to ask, then clearly you don’t understand. Or is that just making a virtue out of a necessity?

    But it could, and should have been so much different. Of course the #Porsche-959 hadn’t been forgotten. The car we could have been driving today, if everything had gone to plan, and Porsche hadn’t gone though one of its many financial blips, was called the 969 and was clearly the son of the 959, with a 370bhp 3.5-litre twin turbo engine (other engines were considered, like the V8 Indy car engine – seriously), with water-cooled four-valve cylinder heads and a sophisticated four-wheel drive system hooked up to Porsche’s own PDK transmission, or a manual ’box if the buyer preferred. The 969 was due for a #1991 launch and would happily hold 185mph around the Nardo bowl. It featured the sloped back headlights of the 959 and hoop rear wing. Sixteen prototypes were built. It would have been the pinnacle of the #Porsche-911 range and in all likelihood another form of Turbo would have slotted in underneath.

    Internal machinations and costs killed the #Porsche-969 . Too expensive to build, technology not quite there yet, with a potential price tag that could have been beyond market forces and a financial crisis within Porsche, and on top of that the 969 would have launched straight into the early ’90s recession.

    So that’s what could have been. It’s what the #993 Turbo vaguely became (twin turbos, four-wheel drive and a lot of the 969’s styling cues) and certainly what the #996 Turbo achieved. But the 964 Turbo? Yes, it really was something of a rush job, stop-gap model, particularly in its first 930-engined based iteration.

    So, it would have been great to have been driving the stillborn #969 , and it would certainly have had rather more of a connection with the 991 Turbo, but we’re not, so let’s just get the 964 Turbo fired up. Who’s got the key?

    ‘Fired up’ is a bit of a misnomer. Typically it ‘churns’ into life and settles into a soft, muted idle, the turbo and the new fangled catalytic converter acting as effective silencers. The 964’s new power steering takes the heft out of steering and the relatively new G50 ’box is an ally in the soon to be forgotten and interactive art of changing gear. Those floor-mounted pedals might feel weird, but the clutch is light enough and the throttle pedal allows full foot coverage. Lifting your footing completely off the footwell to operate the brake is, well, just one of those 911 idiosyncrasies.


    Off boost, below 3000rpm, it feels soft and lethargic. Get the big old turbo spinning and the fuel pumping and it picks itself up with a hard-edged vigour. Unlike some old supercars of the era, the 964 Turbo isn’t going to get blown away by a modern turbo diesel. A modern hot hatch maybe (a Golf R would humiliate it), but on boost the 964 Turbo feels like it’s got every one of those 320 horses working, although typically tall gearing (80mph in second) will see it easily drop off boost. It’s a feeling that’s accentuated by the very stiff suspension, that has the Turbo leaping about these not entirely flat North Yorkshire moors. It’s not 964 RS stiff, but it’s not far off, a product of the new to the 964 coil spring suspension, which doesn’t have quite the sense of detachment from the road surface that the G-Series cars did, with their torsion bars. The big 17in wheels and 50 profile tyres don’t help either, but those big wheels do allow massive – for 1990 – 333mm front discs and hefty four-pot calipers, that even now haul the Turbo up with impressive retardation.

    In the corners and the 964 is a natural understeerer. It has to be bullied and worked to get to the apex, but then get the boost right and it launches itself out with that characteristic rear-end squat, and charges off with a turbine howl. If the corners are coming thick and fast, then be prepared to work very hard. There’s massive amounts of grip, but the Turbo doesn’t much like changing direction, so a lift at the right moment will activate the tail, but that’s a bit like juggling chainsaws. Get it wrong and it will hurt.

    In today’s context it feels old-fashioned, but in an endearing sort of way. It’s got old school Turbo twitches and tendencies. You absolutely know it’s there, influencing the whole demeanour of the car. It’s either on or off. Even in 1990 it was a bit of an animal and not exactly the car that was expected. Uncouth and unsophisticated, something of a thug. But then as we know now (and what wasn’t appreciated at the time), this wasn’t the Turbo that Porsche had intended to bring to the market.

    And so to the 991 Turbo. Are we travelling backward in time here or forward? Well forward obviously, but so mightily fast is the 991, and so comprehensively evolved and sophisticated, that an ability to time travel back to 1990 for a look at its predecessor, wouldn’t be a surprise. I’m sure if you were delve in to sat nav settings the time travel option would appear. Just tap in North Yorkshire Moors 1990, and in Terminator style the 991 would appear in a frisson of pulsing, arcing electricity to scare the sheep.

    The 991 Turbo is progress on a massive scale, made possible by the advances in digital and engineering technology, but mainly by the former. Its whole build and design was conceived electronically, from the design process to the build process where engineering tolerances are micro managed by computer-controlled machinery. The integration of computer and mechanical is almost cyborg in nature. The machines are taking over and in the shape of the 991 Turbo, and much more in modern life, it’s very much true. We live in a time when a tiny pocket device, originally conceived to simply make phone calls, puts every conceivable piece of information, book, piece of music and visual image within instant reach. Imagine predicting that in 1990?

    It’s only when you jump the void from #1990 to #2015 that you realise just how extraordinary the 991 Turbo is, and how we now take all this stuff for granted. Maybe we will refuse to be astonished until cars finally shed their wheels and we start to hover everywhere, or they simply drive themselves, but the only thing that connects the 991 Turbo with the 964 Turbo is the 911 designation, its evolutionary silhouette, its engine location and the fact that it’s got four wheels and a steering wheel and still runs entirely on petrol and, come the next generation of #Porsche-911 , we can certainly expect some form of electric assistance.


    There are many things that astound about the 991 Turbo, but the most beguiling and frankly mind blowing facet is just how ludicrously easy it is to make it go fast. Teleport the 964 Turbo owner of 1990 forward 25-years and stick them in the driver’s seat of the 991. They would be able to grasp the concept of putting the PDK-only transmission into drive, the rest is purely turning the wheel and pressing the go pedal. From that point on, the machine takes over. It will take a little while for 1990 911 Turbo man to actually keep up with what’s going on, such is the speed at which the modern Turbo responds to instruction, and that’s before you’ve employed any of the go faster functionality. Best save Sports Plus and Launch Control for another time.

    Compared with its 25-year-old ancestor, the 991 defies any semblance of physics. It shouldn’t be able to corner like it does, it shouldn’t be able to change direction like it does. It does so because it has a raft of electro mechanical components that look conventional, but are anything but. Dampers? Yes, they look like dampers, but they’re controlled by electro magnetic valves. The roll bars? They’re electronically controlled too, stiffening to support the side of the car that needs it. The centre diff? Electro magnetic again to deliver power and traction back and forth in a nano second. The rear end steers itself, and Torque Vectoring speeds up the inside rear wheel to facilitate turn in. Hell, even the engine mounts clamp the engine tight when the going gets twisty. And all that’s before you even start to consider the traction and stability management controls and the small matter of nearly 600bhp, not far off twice the power of the 964 Turbo.

    The 991 Turbo is fast, but it’s artificially fast. Like a modern fighter would fall out of the sky without its flight control systems, so modern 991 Turbo would fall off the road without all its electronic systems. They are what enables it to function and do the mind altering stuff that it’s so capable of, in the background, making modern 911 Turbo man look like a complete hero.

    But that’s progress for you and there’s no going back. The 964 Turbo is like a warning from the past as to how these things used to be. It’s a quaint reminder of the pre digital age. A Sunday toy for a bit of heavy-duty mechanical interaction. The 991 Turbo is a thrilling, flying on the ground, 21st Century marvel and a fitting pinnacle of where the 911 is right now, and I know which one I’d take.


    THANKS: Sincere thanks to all at Specialist Cars of Malton for the loan of the #964 Turbo, which is currently for sale. Tel: 01653 697722 specialistcarsltd.co.uk

    The 991 Turbo would fall off the road without all its electronic systems.

    Far left: The launch of the 964 Turbo as we covered it in the first issue of 911&PW in 1990. Left: What could have been. The sole surviving 969 Turbo prototype, a clear descendant of the 959, but canned for financial reasons.

    Direction changes and grip levels in the 991 Turbo border on extraordinary. It has a raft of technological solutions geared entirely to getting it round corners as fast as possible.

    Interior is similar to 911s of old, with the curve of the dashboard and placement of the air vents all following #911 tradition. #PDK sevenspeed gearbox is the command centre, with its three modes: Normal, Sport and Sport Plus.

    Right: The #Porsche-991 Turbo is bristling with detail. Wheels are massive 20in, diamond polished cross-spokes, with centre lock fixings. Equally huge six-pot brake calipers clamp on to Porsche PCCB discs. Braking is awesome in the true sense of the word.

    Unlike some old supercars of the era, the #Porsche-964 Turbo isn’t going get blown away by a modern turbodiesel.

    Car #Porsche-911-Turbo-S-991
    Model tested: #Porsche-991-Turbo-S
    Engine: 3800cc, flat-six DOHC, twin turbo
    Transmission: Four-wheel drive, seven-speed PDK
    Body style: Coupe
    Suspension: MacPherson struts (f), multi-link rear
    Top speed: 198mph
    0-62mph 2.9 secs
    Power: 552bhp at 6500rpm

    Pale grey interior is very early ’90s. Deep bolstered ‘Sports’ seats are among the best Porsche have ever made. Cockpit feels tight and compact, but visibility is excellent.

    Even in #1990 this essentially ‘modernised’ 911 must have felt rather old fashioned compared to the competiton.

    964 Turbo looks terrific in white, like a refugee racer on the road. New front and rear aprons, plus side skirts and aero mirrors were a styling success. Tea tray rear wing a 911 Turbo trademark.

    Car #Porsche-911-Turbo-964
    Model tested: #Porsche-964-Turbo
    Engine: 3300cc, flat-six DOHC, single turbo
    Transmission: Rear-wheel drive, five-speed manual
    Body style: Coupe
    Suspension: MacPherson struts front and rear
    Top speed: 167mph
    0-62mph 5.0 secs
    Power: 322bhp at 5750rpm

    Damp, cold North Yorkshire moors roads focus the mind in an old school 911 Turbo, with absolutely no driver aids whatsoever. Not that the 964 feels anything other than grippy and competent.

    Left: Distinctive and huge intercooler sits on top of the 964’s 3.3-litre, air-cooled flat-six. Power is 320bhp. Clocks are resolutely analogue, while four-pot alloy calipers were considered huge for 1990.
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