The Porsche 911: “Je t’aime, moi non plus”.
If you know anything about me, you know my hate of Porsche 911 ‘s, right?
Wrong. I don’t hate those cars. In fact, it’s more complicated than that. You see, growing up in the 90’s, there were three brands that made great sports cars in their own way: Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. Concerning the first one, I think we don’t need to argument, the second one is more debatable but I have always loved their madness (before VW bought them). The last one was the choice dictated by reason, the choice you would make if you were smart.
Let’s discuss the essence of the Porsche 911 first. To me, what the 911 offers and always has, a sports car, comfortable in every situation, suitable for daily driving, stealth and elegant. And that’s the issue I have, it’s so good that, firstly, it’s too easy and secondly, too common. 5 years back, you would still see G-series Porsche 911’s parked in Paris like a Renault Clio, even a Porsche 930 Turbo from time to time, and everyone would see it and either say nothing or “oh look an old beaten up 911!”. It never felt as special as seeing any Ferrari. I remember, when I was 4 or 5 years old, my father’s best friend coming to the café with the brand new Porsche 993 bi-turbo, and I asked “well, where is the Ferrari?”. To which he answered “look, it’s the new 911 bi-turbo, it’s very fast!”. I was so upset, that we went back to his garage to take the Testarossa instead. Then I was happy.
I would never deny how good, or fun, or fast they are, they just never were a childhood dream, and I never considered buying one someday. But, I figured I don’t want to die ignorant, I need to try some of those Porsche 911 and see for myself why people love them so much.
Chill out with a Porsche 993 Carrera
With my three friends, we decided that it was a good idea to attend the Nurburgring Oldtimer event, article coming up on that. But we needed to make it fun all along. Lucky for us, one of those friends, Pit, owns a Porsche 964, a 993 and a 991.1 4S Cabriolet in Luxembourg.
I had to choose one. Yep, that’s an example of how life can get difficult sometimes. Without hesitation, I just jumped in the 993. Why? Well, I was born in 1990, that’s the one I grew up with, I saw my father’s dentists friends drive it, I raced it on the very first Need For Speed, and to be honest, to this day I think it’s the best Porsche 911 design except for the 901 type.
Quick sum-up of the Porsche 993: production started in 94, the example we have here is a 1995 Carrera in Polarsilber (polar grey something, sorry I don’t speak German), with a 3.6L flat-6 delivering 272hp at 6,100rpm on the rear wheels, which is of course the last of the air-cooled 911’s engine, a 6 speed manual, all that weighing 1,370kg. Sounds like fun.
Sitting inside, it feels strange, it’s a mix of modern and old, you don’t know exactly what you are going to drive. It feels so small in the cabin compared to a modern Porsche 911, which I love. Everything is well-engineered, it feels solid, the commands are in the right places, you can tell it’s a well thought car.
Starting the engine, a nice discreet sound enters the cabin, I let it get up in temperature, and off we go to Germany. Of course, my friends and I were in a rush. Or were we? Of course Pit had to tell me his top speeds with both Porsche 911’s, which was 285km/h with the 993. Of course I would try to go faster. We had 1:30 hours of driving (or racing) ahead, with just enough speed limited Luxembourg highways to get to know the car better.
When we arrived to the infamous autobahn, Pit was in front in the 991 as a passenger, driven by Maxime, I was in the middle, and the 964 right behind driven by Chris (not Harris). Suddenly, the Porsche 991 takes off, and I’m in 6th gear at 130km/h, it’s impressive how weak the engine is at low rpm, there is nothing in there at all. Anyway, blip down to fourth gear and I’m gone up to 6,700rpm, now the engine is singing! Surprisingly, the 964 was still right behind me, I couldn’t believe it. The 991 took high speed curves like it was nothing, while I struggled with the steering wheel trying to keep grip on the front and rear axle. It felt so unstable and dangerous, I loved it.
Anyway we did that for an hour, I don’t think we went under 180km/h on the unlimited parts of the autobahn ever, the cruising speed was 250km/h, and my top speed on the speedo was 290km/h downhill. Woops, sorry Pit. Great fun.
Arriving at the Nurb, we get out of the cars still full of adrenaline, and discussed what just happened with many superlatives, “wow!” and “that was something!”.
Overall, what I think of the Porsche 993 is that it’s a great car, but lacks a bit of aggressiveness, sportiness, roar. Porsche made the car comfortable, and usable, which certainly satisfied many of their customers, but doesn’t match my driving style.
Back to the fun onboard the Porsche 964 Carrera
Mentioning my opinion on the 993 and the fact that the 964 was following so closely to Pit, he told me that he didn’t want to tell me at first, but he thought the Porsche 964 was a much better car, and may even be faster on acceleration. He even told me that it was a car for me, because it’s very aggressive and roar.
A word about the 964: production started in 89, it is also rear wheel drive, 3.6L flat-6 air-cooled, making 250hp at 6,100rpm, 5-speed manual, weighing 1,350kg. The 993 is really more or less an evolution of the 964 engineering-wise, rather than a brand new model.
This Porsche 911, 964 type, is from 1991 presented in Veilchenblau metallic (purple blue-ish for fragile little deer). However, it’s modified. AHHHHHHHHHHH. Stop, I hear you okay? But this is alright, trust me, it’s going to be okay. Modifications include Bilstein coilovers, 964 Tubro brakes, a racing alcantara steering wheel, 993 RS wheels and an exhaust. Oh, and the power steering is broken. Kind of cool right?
Sitting inside, it feels almost exactly the same as the 993, every button, command, gauge is in the same exact place. It just feels older, which is good to me. Starting the engine, the sound is more present in the cabin, it already feels more alive. When I started driving, I noticed three things. First, I stalled a lot, which is unusual, the electronic throttle feels a bit weird. Second, this doesn’t have a great turning radius. Third, the steering is as hard as can be, excellent.
On the way to the autobahn, it already felt a lot tighter suspension and steering-wise. I instantly knew I was going to love it. Pit was in my passenger seat and we were now the leading car. While joining the Autobahn, Pit mentions that his top speed on the speedo was 275km/h. Challenge accepted. Going up to 6,700rpm, the power is delivered very progressively, and gives you much joy when approaching the limiter. On the Autobahn, Maxime was now driving the 993, and Chris the 991. No need to say that this time the speeds were even higher since I was the car in front. And again, downhill, 285km/h. Sorry again Pit. Maxime adored the Porsche 993, Chris adored the 991, I adored the 964, everyone was in the right place. Anyway, Autobahn is boring to read, let’s jump to the next day on small beautiful Luxembourgian roads.
So, the next day, I pushed Maxime in the 964 first, he had to try it, but after lunch I took it back, the appeal was just too strong. Maxime was now in the passenger seat, Pit in the Porsche 991, Chris in the 993. Now, something you have to know about Pit, he was the front car, he knows the roads like the back of his hand, he has a much faster car and he drives like me. No need to say it was going to get sporty.
On small roads, the car immediately showed it was in its playground. The engine and the gearbox are so joyful, they just invite you to do illegal stuff. The steering feel is absolutely amazing, it’s the first time I put my hands on a steering wheel that feels so communicative and so accurate at the same time. The brakes bite very hard at the touch of the firm pedal, and the nose dives. The suspension lets you know everything that is going on, and are working very well. It just feels like a 60’s car, except it’s injected, and much much tighter everywhere. I had so much fun that, even though I was always advised not to with a Porsche 911, I started pushing to upset the back, and I can tell you, it’s not what you think it is. It’s very easy to deal with, there is absolutely no danger there, the chassis is so communicative that your instinct tells you how to over-drive it. If you break a 911 like Felix did, it’s your own problem, I’m not responsible for your driving. But do it anyway, it’s fun.
In the end I had almost no trouble following the type 991 on those roads, except in long curves where the 964 feels a bit unstable. The 993 on the other hand was always 2 minutes late, which wasn’t surprising to me, considering how much faster the 964 is. As per usual, the fun ended when I boiled the brake fluid. God damn it, anyone has a car with brakes that can resist my driving style? Contact me, I would like to try it just once.
Porsche 991.1 4S Cabriolet
Ahhh modern cars, with all your technology, your lack of emotion, your over-engineered chassis and your cup-holders, how can I express my hate towards you while I just went out of a classic? Well, not quite in that case. My article isn’t organized chronologically, if you are not happy about that, read part 1 then 3 then 2. It’s a bit late to propose that ? Sorry. Anyway, yes, the second day in the morning, I drove the 991, right before the 964, right after the Porsche 964. Damn it who cares?
I had a first approach of this car, but in Paris, and felt like it was a VW Golf with a good engine. Now was the time to properly try it. Pit said it was so good on small roads, it sounded wrong to me, on paper, it should not. It’s 4WD, has PDK and weighs 1,445kg. While we are here, it’s a water-cooled 3.8L flat 6, making 400hp at 7,400rpm. This example is from 2015, presented in Anthrazitbraun (weird grey marronish).
Firstly, it’s fast, properly fast, with a 0-100 in 4.5 seconds announced by the manufacturer. When you come from an older 911, it feels like everything is speeded up times three. The engine, I have to say, is excellent. It’s so capable while still being alive, and sounds ultra nice thanks to the absence of turbos. The PDK is one of the quickest and most intelligent gearbox there is, in auto mode, it knows what’s in your mind, it just does. In manual, it’s another story, the paddles/buttons are so strange. There is one both sides of the wheel, when you push it up-shifts, when you pull it down-shifts. I hate it. I know exactly why they did it this way, they want the customer to be able to drive with one hand in manual mode. What a shame. I guess the Porsche 911 driver is that dentist with the elbow on the side, thinking he’s driving so fast, but in fact doesn’t even know how to properly hold a wheel. Anyway, back to my story.
I was leading the way, Maxime was driving the Porsche 964 and Chris the Porsche 993, Pit was with me. And I can tell you one thing, I did not see those other two Porsches in my rear view mirror for long. Boy it’s fast.
The chassis/suspension in Sport mode do such a great job, I really mean it, it is very impressive, you forget you are driving a 1.5 tonnes car. Slow turns or long curves, the car feels so stable and agile at the same time. The first gen of the 991 doesn’t have 4 wheel steering though (here is the article where I explain how it works if interested).
The brakes feel marvelous, you feel the calipers bite on the disk with your foot, and your eyeballs just want to get out of your skull, it’s crazy. The steering feels exactly on point and is communicative enough to have fun. The only thing I didn’t quite enjoy with the 991 is its 4WD system. It’s excellent, but tends to understeer at the limit (still it’s very safe and controllable), even though it’s very very far from where most 911 drivers will go. And it doesn’t powerslide at all. Pit told me he bought that instead of a Carrera S because winter in Luxembourg gets complicated. I understand, it’s a good compromise, it doesn’t remove that much fun from the experience but I still don’t understand why he chose a convertible for cold european winters.
Overall, I’m surprised I say that, but I had a lot of fun in the Porsche 911, 991 type, my advice would be a 991.1 Carrera S manual, there you have it, the perfect daily/weekend combo. F***, I never thought I’d say that. Oh, and again, I boiled the brake fluid.
How about 911’s now David?
First, let me tell you who would take what. Chris would take the Porsche 991, because he enjoyed it a lot (even though it took him 1 hour to find the Sport mode), and probably would use it in Paris, which makes sense. Maxime would take the 993, because for him it would be the best weekend car, the relaxed sports car with an elegant look. Maxime still loved the 964 as I told him he would, he went out with a big smile as expected. I would take the 964.
The Porsche 964 is the one that made me realize what the 911 is all about. It’s the sports car for everyone, the one that makes you feel alive, that you can put kilometers on without worrying, the one you can brake late with, throw into corners and hit the gas too soon. It’s just so complete and fun. I have to say, the Porsche 993 didn’t give me that, and I was thinking “oh so that’s exactly the 911 I was expecting, soft, serious, almost boring.”, I am reconsidering my opinions now that I drove the Porsche 964. I even stop to look at pictures of 911’s on my insta feed now, what the hell happened to me?
Now, would Pit like a Ferrari 355 instead? He would love it! Would he like to change cam belts every three years ? Not really! Would he like to not be sure it’s going to start everyday? definitely not! Would I take the Ferrari? Yes, because I’m stupid.