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    THE QUIET ONE – PORSCHE 993 GROUP TEST

    From base C4 all the way up to the mighty Turbo, we get to grips with a quartet of 993s. Four subtly different incarnations of the 993: but one stands out on all counts. Words: Johnny Tipler. Photography: Antony Fraser.

    High on the moors in God’s Own County, I’m pounding along the undulating country lane aboard a hot 993. Suspension jittering on the bumps, it’s the 3.8-litre X51-spec version of the normally aspirated 3.6-litre Carrera 4. There’s plenty of attitude in its demeanor, and its barking “graaghhh...” is exultant on acceleration and the overrun as I set it up for the bends and the crests. Oh, yes, I think to myself, this has to be the one! But is it? After all, it’s only the first of the four 993s I’ve sampled, and things could change. Our pal John Hawkins from Specialist Cars at Malton has presented us with a conundrum. Which, out of this quartet of silver salvers, would we like to take home? It’s a hypothetical question – he’s a generous man, but not insanely so – and it does indeed provide food for thought (besides hanging around outside the Pickering pork pie shop, that is).

    He proffers the keys to a bag of sparkling silver in the shape of a standard #Porsche-911-Carrera-4 , a #Porsche-911-Carrera-C2S , a Carrera 4S with the X51’s 3.8-litre motor, and a 993 Turbo. I’ve had a go in examples of each one fairly recently, though not all on the same day, which is the task that now faces me. I gained an impression of the X51 on a shoot in Belgium late last year, a barnstormer of a car, though hard to evaluate on a narrow airfield perimeter road; and a 993 Turbo, also ex-Malton, during our quest for the all-time Top Ten #Porsche 911 last summer. We took a 993 C4 to Bruntingthorpe on a ‘wide boys’ shoot a few years back but, apart from high-end max-outs, it’s difficult to truly assess a car on those broad Vbomber runways. The C2S was the one I was most looking forward to driving: visually it’s the queen bee, but would its normally-aspirated 3.6 flat-six that provides the motive power belie its purposeful, broadbeamed, Turbo-esque stance?

    Let’s catch up a bit on the specifications and sort out the differences between them. The basic 993’s 3.6-litre flat-six develops 272bhp, rising to 285bhp in its later Varioram form, and it comes with either sixspeed manual or Tiptronic transmission, and in C2 twoor C4 four-wheel drive format. It is configured as a coupé, cabriolet, or wide Turbo-bodied Carrera 2S and 4S if the wide arch look is preferred. The 993 also showcases the complex Weissach multi-link rear suspension and Varioram induction technology, and the 993 Targa unveiled in 1996 is the first 911 to feature the ingenious sliding glass sunroof. Five other, more powerful, versions of the 993 include the 408bhp 993 Turbo, the 430bhp 993 GT2 racer, and the 300bhp 993 Carrera RS, spartan Club Sport, and 315bhp Carrera Cup racer. The X51 designation I’ve already mentioned is not a model in its own right, rather a factory performance upgrade offering similar power output to the 993 RS, though mounted in a heavier C4S shell it won’t be as quick.

    The Porsche 993 Turbo was released in #1995 , its 3.6-litre engine employing a pair of #KKK #KKK-K-16 turbochargers and Motronic engine management, driving via the same four-wheel-drive transmission as the normal Carrera 4. The bulbous bodywork – 25mm wider than the C2/C4 – with its larger front air intakes and integral fixed rear wing, houses upgraded suspension, larger ‘Big Red’ brakes and star-shaped hollow-spoke 18in alloy wheels. It accelerates from 0- to 62mph in 4.5s and is capable of 180mph. End of the line 993 Turbos feature stronger driveshafts.

    In 1996 the C4S was announced, based on the Turbo 4 chassis and suspension, and housed in the wider Turbo body and running on Turbo-style 18in wheels. In short, it is basically a Turbo 993 without the turbochargers, and even the fixed Turbo rear wing could be specified to complete the impression.

    Ventilated, cross-drilled brakes and four-pot calipers are perhaps slightly over the top, though you can never have too much braking ability. The Turbo’s 8in and 10in ‘Technologie-Rad’ wheels fill out the bulging arches. Resembling Ninja throwing stars, these lightweight five-spoke 18in alloys are not to everyone’s taste on a car that manages to retain the last vestiges of classic 911 styling, and they are not standard, although most C4Ss seem to have them. In the absence of an intercooler the Turbo’s fixed spoiler is omitted in favour of the normal 993’s, retractable wing. Not only does the C4S provide vice-free handling and optimum traction via the multi-link LSA, (lightweight stability agile) rear axle and all-wheel drive, the cabin environment includes leather upholstery, air-con, electrically adjustable seats and ten speaker sound system. A broader body without the aid of forced induction means more wind resistance, and even the factory admitted the top speed was 3mph slower for the C4S compared with its narrow-bodied C4 sibling, at 168mph and 171mph respectively, with 0-60mph in 6.3sec for the C4S against 5.7sec for the slimline Carrera 4. So, one way to address the C4S’s (slight) performance deficit is to acquire the factory’s advanced X51 specification, but that would have set you back around £9 grand, back in the day. This conversion takes the form of the RS-spec 3746cc flatsix, engine code M64-05S, though lacking the RS’s lightweight crank pulley. The C4S anchors up with 993 Turbo brakes, and runs Turbo-style wheels and suspension, installed in the C4S’s wide body. And it’s this model, in 3.8 X51 guise, that I’m being let loose in. But before we get going, here’s the gen on another of our frolicking foursome. Twelve months later, for the 1997 model year, and just ahead of the ‘kettle’ revolution, the swansong C2S came out, also featuring the broad-shouldered Turbo bodyshell but the regular 993 C2 suspension and running gear – like the C4S, set up a tad lower, though 18in Turbo wheels were optional. The naturally-aspirated 3600cc engine is not tuned up in any way, though it features the unique two-section grille in the engine lid, which contains the electrically-operated wing, and aerodynamics are uprated by a small spoiler mounted on the trailing edge of the roof. Units produced numbered 6,948 units of the C4S and 3,714 of the C2S. Not so many, then, considering the volume construction 996 that was already in the frame.

    We leave Specialist Cars’ premises and motor the few miles up to the turnoff onto the moorland road that winds up to Blakey Ridge. First off, I’m driving the 993 Turbo, and to start with, the steering wheel is too close to my knees, so I play around with the driving position, tilting the seat to rectify that. Its sixth gear provides a nice lazy overdrive, where 2,000rpm equals 60mph. But obviously it also feels extremely powerful, with instant throttle response, and when the turbo kicks in it’s away like a streak of lightning. The ride is very firm, the suspension hard, and it loves to follow the contours of this rippling hill road. DDDrrrrrrr!!! A cattle-grid loosens the fillings. Not so much cattle as wandering sheep to watch out for, lurking just over a blind crest more than likely. Forewarned is forearmed. What I like about 993s is their solidity, and one of the 993’s greatest assets is its build-quality, and that means you shouldn’t hear any rattles or squeaks from loose trim. I can’t entirely endorse this Turbo in that respect as the dash top creaks and groans on our moorland bash. It also has very minor braking and handling issues, though no doubt these are fixable. Fundamentally, though, I’m just not convinced its stupendous performance is actually so usable – or relevant – in an everyday context.


    We pause for breath - and a black pudding bun – on the summit by the Lion Inn. There’s quite a crosswind, but the sun is lightening the khaki tint of the fell grass and gorse, a rather wonderful camouflage patchwork quilt. I ease into the cabin of the X51-C4S, resplendent in blue leather with walnut veneer dash and door trim.

    Ye Olde English wood panelling is redolent of a classic Jaguar and at odds with the upbeat image this hottedup 993 seeks to project. The motor zings into life and I pull onto the road. It’s clear for miles, snaking erratically as it follows the contours of the barren tracts. As expected, the four-wheel drive C4S chassis is not so different from the Turbo – a little harder perhaps, but it’s instantly more excitable – as well as torquier with its 3.8 conversion, making it much more alive than the rather pleased-with-itself, ‘I’m so bloody quick’, Turbo; the X51 is definitely the street fighter of the two. It’s shod with 285/30ZR 18 Bridgestones on the back and 225/40ZR 18s on the front, which grip pretty well, though I am getting quite serious bump steer in the potholes, which are chucking it around a fair bit. I’m working the X51 much harder through the gears and really using the throttle, whereas the Turbo does all that sort of work for you. The Turbo is ferocious point-and-squirt, while the X51’s lively nature makes it the more involving drive, the one where you’ve always got to think what you’re doing, whereas the Turbo is a genteel version of the same chassis, if you want it to be. On the brakes, too, the X51 is superior to the Turbo. With the X51 there’s no question, just solid linear brake performance, while the Turbo weaves about. We speculate that maybe the dampers need revalving. The X51 is not a docile beast, and that’s how a proper sports car should be. But eventually I conclude that it is too much a mixture of specifications. And that includes cosmetics too: granddad’s woodwork trim doesn’t really belong in something you’re capable of misbehaving in. It’s been mucked about with too much; if the walnut was on the original order form, and then they’ve gone for the 3.8 engine conversion, I don’t really get what they were trying to do with it. I would find the X51 a trifle irritating day-to-day, because it is relatively bonkers, compared with the orthodox models.

    The 993 C2S is arguably the best looking of the four, its broad-arched Turbo body with the classic sloping tail-end, unencumbered – at a standstill at any rate – by a prominent rear wing. Of course, aero is crucial at high speed, and the electronic wing is simply tucked away at rest, ready to emerge when it hits 50mph. This C2S has been retro-fitted with imitation split-rim Cupstyle wheels, as well as broad spacers on the back to widen the track, and I note the worn edges on the tyres and black rubber skimming the wheelarches where the tyres are fouling the bodywork, and that is not very clever. The oversize spacers appear to be bolted to the hubs and the wheels bolted to the spacers. It probably ought to have Turbo type ‘Ninja throwing star’ wheels with blade effect on the spokes, and thinner spacers, if any at all. Unlike the 911 ‘S’ of old, the 993 C2S offers no performance advantage over the regular 993 C2, though in fairness it does get up and go enthusiastically, and with no driven front axle it does have better feel and is appreciably keener on turn-in than the four-by-four brigade.

    I drive the C2S as fast as I can along the swoops and cambered curves of the big dipper which is Blakey Ridge, and it is certainly an exciting car to drive, despite the terrible graunching over the bumps as the rear tyres snag the bodywork. I can’t argue with the zing of the flat-six and the spritely performance; it most definitely wants to get up and go, and I perceive much more of a sporting persona than the C4 X51, which must be down to the two-wheel drive chassis. Despite the bumps the C2S is remarkably good fun, and a harder ride than the standard C4. One of the positives about the rear-drive C2S is that it turns in smartly, possibly because of its broad rear track, which means I can brake late going into a corner and get through the turn with a nice degree of agility. It also makes me wonder if we had a regular C2, instead of an S with absurdly wide rear track, then that also might give our shootout a different outcome. The C2S cabin is steeped in maroon leather, which is a little bit like sitting inside a candy bar. It’s intriguing at first sight, but I’m not sure that I could live with it. The C2S seems more sorted, more together than the X51; I don’t think that one quite knows want it wants to be, and in fact this wild child with its wider-than-wide rear end is also slightly over the top.

    Up to this point, I’m liking the C2S best. And now, here I am in the stock 993 C4 and, frankly, I’m not expecting any fireworks. I’ve left the dullard till last, reminding myself that this too is an innocuous fourwheel drive model. The lack of an on-board computer and an RS sports steering wheel with no air bag give the impression of a rather more spartan cockpit environment, though in truth the blue leather seats and trim are in the best nick of the four cabins here. Something niggles, though. Were I in the market for a C4, if this car wasn’t in such good condition – it’s only done 48,000 miles – I would pass, because I rely on the computer for telling me the outside temperature (-0° means ice on untreated roads) and how many miles there are left on the fuel. Hmmm... perhaps I’m a little bit too prejudiced, because out on the open road a different story starts to emerge, as I soon realise that this Carrera 4 is the easiest of the quartet to drive and use on a daily basis. It is very compliant, it’s well balanced, it revs nicely and it steers easily, so I suppose if you wanted an easy life then this would be the fella. Everything about it feels taut, whereas the other three are like overhyped kids overdosed on saccharine in a playbarn. This is a very taut car, and the A-road performance is perfectly adequate; it accelerates beautifully smoothly, holds the road perfectly and the ride is good, and in a real world scenario it has the legs of its three siblings. It is, quite simply, the most effective and together of all of them. And this, I remind myself, is a standard car.

    So it’s pretty obvious by now where our fancy’s been tickled. Yes, as they say, it’s the quiet one you have to watch. The one that silently gets on with the job, doesn’t make a fuss, while all the others are jumping about, showing off, waving their arms in the air and making a big song and dance. That’ll be the standard C4 then. I’ve surprised myself, as I generally love the grit of a feisty hot-rod, but there’s no getting away from it, the C4 is the most rounded candidate here in terms of performance, ride and handling, even cabin ergonomics; it simply does everything more competently than any of the others. Who’d have guessed? Not me; generally I like ’em raucous and in your face!

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION
    CAR #Porsche-911-Carrera-4S-X51-993
    ENGINE: 3800cc
    POWER: 300bhp at 6600rpm
    TORQUE: 262lb ft at 5400rpm
    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
    TOP SPEED: 175mph
    0-60MPH: 5.2 secs
    SUSPENSION: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
    TYRES: 205/50 ZR17 front, 255/40 ZR17 rear

    CAR #Porsche-911-Turbo-993
    ENGINE: 3600cc
    POWER: 408bhp at 6600rpm
    TORQUE: 398lb ft at 4500rpm
    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
    TOP SPEED: 180mph
    0-60MPH: 4.5 secs
    SUSPENSION: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
    TYRES: 225/40 ZR18 front, 285/30 ZR18 rear


    CAR #Porsche-911-Carrera-4-993
    ENGINE: 3600cc
    POWER: 285bhp at 6100rpm
    TORQUE: 251lb ft at 5250rpm
    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
    TOP SPEED: 171mph
    0-60MPH: 5.3 secs
    SUSPENSION: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
    TYRES: 205/55 ZR16 front, 245/45 ZR16 rear

    CAR #Porsche-911-Carrera-2S-993
    ENGINE: 3600cc
    POWER: 285bhp at 6100rpm
    TORQUE: 251lb ft at 5250rpm
    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
    TOP SPEED: 167mph
    0-60MPH: 5.4 secs
    SUSPENSION: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
    TYRES: 205/50 ZR17 front, 255/40 ZR17 rear


    Carrera 4 looks rather puny compared to the other wide boys tested here. However, it proves to be the most driveable and best suited to the wild North Yorkshire moors.

    Yes, it’s the one that we would take #Porsche-911-993 C2S is perhaps the best looking of the bunch, but is somewhat over- wheeled and tyred. It offers no performance advantage over the base C2, but looks brawnier with its Turbo body.

    Predictably the 993 Turbo is pretty rapid, even by today’s standards. It certainly shows the wide body pretenders a clean pair of heels. Interior is restrained and features hard back sports seats The great pretender. Full #Porsche-911-Turbo-S-993 body shell right down to the air scoops and biplane wing, but this #Porsche-993 flatters to deceive. It’s a C4S, but with the X51 engine pack, which means a 3.8-litre engine and 300bhp.

    Porsche 993s are the hot ticket when it comes to used 911s at the moment, and for good reason. The last of the air-cooled line and thus the most developed of the original #Porsche-911 concept. They’re all good, but predictably the Turbo packs the biggest punch.
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    Johnny Tipler
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