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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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  •   Ben Field reacted to this post about 7 months ago
    Werk II, Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart Porsche / #Porsche-911 / #Porsche-911-993 / #Porsche-911-Carrera-2 / #Porsche-911-Carrera-2-993

    An 86-year-old #Ferry-Porsche , who was responsible for the first-ever #Porsche car sold by the company in 1948, stands alongside the millionth example nearly 50 years later. The car in question, a 993 Carrera 2 with VarioRam, was given to the German highway patrol, where it served for ten years before being handed back to Porsche. Today it can be found on display in the Museum, just the other side of Porscheplatz from where it first rolled out into the Stuttgart sunlight.
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  •   Andy Everett reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The Next Level #Porsche-911T vs. #Porsche-911-964 . Got a little more cash to splash on a #911 ? Two decades apart, the E-Series and 964 proffer alternative prospects for around £35k-50k… Got a little more cash to splash on a 911? Although two decades apart, both the #Porsche-E-Series-911T and the #964 offer alternative prospects for around £45,000… Story: Simon Jackson. Photography: Gus Gregory.


    There’s a simple and realistic question everyone should ask themselves prior to purchasing a vehicle of any kind. This question cuts through all the hype, drastically reduces any hastily pencilled list of pros and cons, and immediately delivers a sense of serene clarity, and that question is: ‘What am I going to use it for?’. It seems indisputably obvious but it’s not always the first thing a passionate petrolhead considers before embarking on an excitable, sometimes emotional, car shopping journey.

    When it comes to Porsches, in particular over 50 years worth of #Porsche-911 variants, asking yourself this question is absolutely imperative. This argument is clarified here with two 911s available for around the same price, both of which are fantastic in their own right, yet which on paper offer very divergent ownership prospects. Indeed, choosing between them could well be a case of deciding exactly what you plan to use them for…

    964 C2
    The 964’s transformation in fortunes is almost entirely complete now. Today it’s virtually impossible to purchase one of these post-1989 911s for under £20k, with the exception of the odd rogue convertible or #Targa version perhaps. Once the abhorrent black sheep of the 911 family, today the 964 stands tall as a cherished 911 with a strong following – and rightly so. But despite this reversal in favour the 964 still has some headroom to grow, and prices reflect this steadily rising as the cars become older and good examples become more sought-after. As such, anyone looking above the SC and 3.2 Carrera for a classic yet useable 911 could do far worse than considering a 964 as their #Porsche of choice.

    This #1991 #Porsche-911-Carrera-2 , finished in Mint green, is for sale at 4 Star Classics in Hampshire. The lefthand- drive model has been imported from Japan at some point during its lifetime, has covered just 46,000 miles and features the ‘love it or loathe it’ controversial Tiptronic gearbox. As you might imagine given the mileage it’s in exceptional condition, and is offered for sale at £39,995.

    Stepping inside the 964, one is reminded of how this model really does bridge the gap between what you might interpret as a true ‘classic’ 911s and more modern versions such as the 993 or 996. The driving position and dashboard layout owe more to Porsches of old than we might have first realised when the car was new back in the Nineties, and this projects a familiar and tangible ‘modern classic’ environment.

    With the weather doing its utmost to hamper progress and dampen the day during our photoshoot, the 964 presents a delightful safe haven – it feels old enough to be special, yet current enough to offer the touches of modernity a day like today may require. Heating to effectively and quickly clear the screen, door rubbers capable of keeping copious amounts of rain water at bay, plus a reliable and tractable drivetrain. It all feels wholly useable.

    Out on the road that persona remains as the driving experience is exceptionally friendly. This isn’t a Porsche that fights you at every step, rather one that wishes to make life as smooth as possible. In combination with the four-speed Tiptronic gearbox, the engine offers relatively sedate progress, belying the book figures of 250hp produced by the 3600cc flat-six. But when pushed a touch harder the C2 will pick up pace accordingly. For all intents and purposes this is a 911 you could happily use 365 days of the year.

    Steering is light yet offers progressive turn-in bite and a depth of feel often missing in more modern machinery, so perhaps the only real flaw here is that often-loathed Tiptronic gearbox, which certainly doesn’t deliver as urgent or progressive a driving experience as a contemporary #PDK system. However, despite how our first choice would undoubtedly be a manual ’box in this generation of 911, the Tiptronic cog-swapper is perhaps not the malevolent piece of devil engineering it is depicted as by some. Worse things happen at sea.

    In many regards, for me, the 964 is of a period just prior to the over-indulgence of technology in cars, when form followed function to just the right degree, cars were more lithe and simplistic offering the perfect balance of driveability, comfort and convenience, and straight-talking sex appeal not electronic dominance. For me, the 964’s legacy will be that it was the last truly classically-styled 911, offering a driving experience that looked ahead to the future, while taking a leaf from the book of the past. Personally I can’t think of another 911 I would rather use everyday, but perhaps the 964 has now become too precious for that kind of thing?

    911T

    As you’ll no doubt be all too aware, early 911s of all variants are incredibly sought after today, so it’s little wonder that even the more basic models which used to offer plausible entry-level 911 ownership not so many years ago, are now becoming pretty expensive investments. The 1970s 911T is one such model that is going through a rapid acceleration in asking prices, and as such it makes a very plausible case for purchase to anyone in the market for a £40,000 (and upwards) classic 911.

    The car you see here is an E-Series, available in #1971 - 1972 , with it came a new 2341cc engine which resulted in these cars being commonly referred to as the ‘2.4-litre’ 911. The E-Series boasted Bosch mechanical fuel injection over the carburettor alternative, and is noted for its oil tank (and subsequent filler flap) located between the right-hand door and rear-wheel arch – a feature dropped in the summer of #1972 to avoid owners filling their oil tanks with fuel.

    This Light yellow car, offered for sale by 4 Star Classics for £49,995, is a 1972 911T and has covered 81,000 miles from new. It might seem a world apart from the aforementioned 964, but with its five-speed manual gearbox, ventilated disc brakes and mechanical fuel injection system, it is effectively just as useable as its 1990s equivalent – if a touch more precious.

    Firing the 911T into action is a smile-inducing experience, as the sound of that traditional aircooled flat-six greets one’s ears. There’s just something so infectious about that tuneful clamour. Moving from the 964 into this 911, two decades its senior, you’d quite rightly expect a level of shock at your basic surroundings to befall you, but thanks to the 911’s gentle evolutionary nature this car doesn’t feel as ‘night and day’ compared with the 964 as you might first expect. Typically period pliant seating offers levels of comfort a few modern machines could learn a thing or two from, and the steering wheel and gear knob provide chunky tactile points of contact for the driver. Pure Seventies. Engaging drive is a characteristically air-cooled procedure, matching revs for take-off doesn’t take one too long to master and there’s a reassuringly consistent disposition to all the vital controls – unlike some classic cars of the era which can provide a temperamental driving experience to say the least. Once in motion, as with all classic 911s, the gearbox can take some getting used to, but once mastered and when handled with the correct level of aptitude and care, the change between gears is a satisfying process. Turn-in is a weightier affair than with the 964, but it is direct and confidence-inspiring, allowing the driver to get back on the throttle at his or her earliest convenience. It really is an enjoyable drive.

    In pursuit of the 964, the 911T provides perhaps its biggest shock – its level of performance. It feels brisk, in relative terms, fooling the brain into believing that the (over) 100hp deficit to the penultimate aircooled 911 ahead must be some kind of misprint. Unlike the cosseting more modern 964, this car encouragingly feels like a true classic sports car, one you could enjoy on the back routes or on your local track in equal measure. My only complaint is that I wish I was driving this car on a beautiful summer’s day – hardly the fault of the car! The 911T feels like just the right mix of classic Porsche, not too precious that you won’t want to push it from time-to-time, but not too quick that you’d feel the need to rinse it for every tenth of a second just to invoke a thrill through the controls. In many respects it seems to currently occupy a 911 sweet spot…

    CONCLUSION

    Of course it goes without saying that these two 911s are very different. The 19 years that separate them may visually represent a typically mild Porsche evolution, but psychically under the skin it’s more of a revolution. So you might be expecting me to tell you that the comparative result is that today they do entirely different jobs, but I’m not going to – because I’m not sure they do…

    Given the sought-after nature (and not forgetting their asking prices) of these two variants of 911, both the 911T and 964 have morphed, seemingly in parallel, into Porsche 911s which you probably wouldn’t want to use on a day-to-day basis, and in a way that defines this duo. Deciding which one to buy really does come back to that question we discussed earlier: ‘What am I going to use it for?’.

    If you’re looking for a financial investment opportunity that will only appreciate in value, then based on historical evidence either of these cars offer value for money and should be almost bulletproof in terms of depreciation. If you buy the right example you probably can’t go wrong there. If you want a Porsche for high days and holidays, a car to roll out of the garage a few times a year when the sun is shining or for the annual pilgrimage to something like the Goodwood Revival, again, the world’s your oyster with this pairing – just take your pick. Want to drive your 911 to work once a week or enjoy it strictly during your leisure at weekends? Guess what – a 911T or a 964 would make for the perfect partner too. And, if you’re a strictly dedicated enthusiast there’s certainly an argument that either could be used on a day-to-day level.

    Of course you might be thinking that there are other Porsches, other 911s perhaps which display this all-round ability, and you might be right. But as the star of both these cars rise up the classified listings in harmony, it’s clear that choosing a 911 in this price bracket has never presented a tougher decision.

    Firing the 911T into action is a smile-inducing experience, as the sound of that air-cooled flat-six greets one’s ears.

    Comparing 911s from different eras, which in essence offer completely different ownership concepts, is no easy task. In reality there’s nothing wrong with any of the prospects we have examined here; the #Porsche-911SC would make the perfect starter air-cooled 911, and those with a little more cash to splash might consider a 911T or a 964 – two already popular versions of Stuttgart’s icon, but cars which can still be acquired for a reasonable outlay… well, reasonable in Porsche terms anyway.

    Naturally there are many other variants of 911 which could sit alongside our selections here, most notably the 3.2 Carrera, and undoubtedly you’ll have your own ideas. But the message is clear; whichever path you choose you’re sure to end up with a 911 you can cherish and use in equal measure, and which, in theory, should not lose value. Of course, that’s not why the majority of enthusiasts purchase Porsche cars in the first instance, but it’s certainly a nice silver lining to owning one of the world’s most iconic sports cars, right?
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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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