We have a Porsche sale on this week, so Tim Oldland chooses his favourite models over the years…
If you sit down and think of your favourite Porsches, you need to really think about it, because when you do you realise just how many incredible cars they’ve made in their 68yr history of automotive manufacture. But I have tried to think of my favourites and justify them for you. And why choose 11? Well 9+1+1=11 of course!
11 – Porsche Super
When Porsche brought out the Cayenne Diesel, purists everywhere spat out their dummies in disgust as their precious Porsche making a vehicle that uses the devil’s fuel. But they seem to have forgotten that Porsche was making diesel vehicles in the 1930’s in the form of their range of tractors! Okay they may not be as high performing as their current models, but at the time they were just as exclusive and glamorous as they are today. Plus even a tractor looks cool with the Porsche badge on the side doesn’t it?
10 – Porsche 924 Carrera GTS
Sales of the 924 and 924 Turbo were pretty healthy for Porsche, but while they sold well they didn’t really light a fire under enthusiasts – for that it needed to go racing. So they added an intercooler to the Audi-sourced 2.0 litre turbocharged four cylinder engine, increased the compression and other small changes which resulted in 245bhp in the case of the Carrera GTS. Visually it really moved on from the Turbo, with flared wheelarches, a low front chin spoiler, a large rubber rear spoiler, a bonnet mounted intake and intake ducts mounted at the front of the bumper. It looked fantastically aggressive and was a brilliantly composed – and fast – road car.
9 – Porsche 959
The 959 always catches people out in car-based quizzes – ask most ‘car people’ what competition group the 959 was borne from – Rallying or Track racing – most will say track, after all looking at it you can see the sleek bodywork and 911-derived shape. But no, the 959 was actually designed with the 1980’s Group B rallying regulations in mind, hence the turbos and 4WD setup. Sadly by the time the 959 reached production, Group B had been canned thanks to a few unfortunate deaths, but thankfully Porsche stuck with it and carried on. The 959 still competed on the dirt though, taking part in the Paris-Dakar Rally and winning.
What came out of that was a highly modified 911 with an air and water cooled turbocharged 2.85 litre flat-six that produced 450bhp – staggering figures for the time. Combined with the 4WD system it meant the 959 could hit 62mph in just 3.7 seconds and power on to a top speed of 197mph – making it the fastest car in the world until it was knocked off the top spot a few years later by the Ferrari F40. There was huge turbo lag but the 959 was easy to drive, comfortable, refined and handled like a dream, a stark difference to the race car for the road that was the F40.
8 – Porsche Cayman R
Throughout the history of Porsche, they have mainly focused on the 911 and its rear engine layout. They have worked wonders with it in all fairness, but there are always inherent balance issues with slinging the engine behind the rear wheels. They have tried front engines before with the 924, 944, 968 and 928 but they always ended up being not quite as sporting as the 911. So now we get to their first attempt at a mid-engine sports car – the Cayman. Okay, the Boxster came first but the Cayman was the more hardcore of the two and this Cayman R was the ‘GT3’ of that range.
Power was up to 325bhp from the 3.4 litre flat six, while they managed to shave 55kg out of the weight of the car which helped with everything from handling to ride and performance. Of course, the main reason the Cayman R handles so sublimely is the fact that the engine is behind the seats and ahead of the rear axle. Perfect weight distribution means perfect handling and there hasn’t been a Porsche since that can string together a set of corners as well as the Cayman R.
7 – Porsche Cayenne Turbo S (1st Generation)
This one is going to be a struggle for many, that’s for sure. First off we need to deal with the Cayenne itself – it’s quite possible the most important car in Porsche’s history. Porsche co-developed the Cayenne with the VW Touareg meaning it cost less to develop, plus they wrote all the development costs off in the first year. So from year two of the (considerable) sales the Cayenne was churning out masses of profit – meaning they could spend it on wonderful things like the 911 GT3 and other wonderful things.
So we’ve established how important the Cayenne was, but was it any good? The sales would suggest so and they were right, especially in Turbo S form. One thing the Cayenne was not, was pretty – in fact it’s just plain ugly – but under that bonnet sits a twin turbo 4.5 litre V8 producing a staggering 514bhp. Sure there are plenty of SUVs with that power and more now, but this was utterly bonkers in 2006, as was the performance – 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 167mph. But the thing that surprised most was the way this 2.3-tonne high-riding SUV handled – you could have serious fun hustling one along a twisty country road. It started a whole new genre of cars and for that we should be thankful.
6 – Porsche 928 S1
In the late 1970’s Porsche’s 911 was selling well, but given the design could be traced back to the VW Beetle, they decided that they would try and replace it. Out went the rear engine and in came a front engined GT car named the 928. Featuring a very futuristic design for the time, the 928 had a long bonnet with round pop-up headlights and a rounded rear end that encompassed the massive glasshouse and rear window. The interior was a serious 70’s trip too, with some crazy swooping checked fabrics that looked like the kind of thing you see depicting an LSD user’s worst nightmare in films.
Under that long bonnet sat another departure for Porsche – a 4.5 litre naturally aspirated V8. As this was the 1970’s the power output was only 237bhp which seems meagre by today’s standards, but made the 928 a smooth running rocketship when launched. It was priced quite a bit higher than the 911 when launched and this combined with the front engine layout meant it was never a big enough sales success for Porsche to consider dropping the 911 and for that we should be truly thankful! But the 928 soldiered on for another 18yrs anyway, ending with a glorious 5.4 litre V8 monster with 340bhp. But for me the best and purest shape 928 will be the very first.
5 – Porsche 911 (993) Carrera 2S
‘Porsche purists’ – a very kind term used to describe the kind of people who go to damp car parks in the early hours of the morning and stand around in their Porsche branded jackets, shoes and hats discussing the firing order of their flat-six and reminisce about ‘the good old days’. Those old days to which they refer are the days when the flat-six engine was cooled by just air (like a Beetle. Sorry) not by water like modern 911s and, well, most other cars. The air-cooled flat-six was a glorious thing and made the earlier 911s have a distinct character that is definitely missing these days, but times, emissions and reliability forced Porsche to move to water cooling for the 911 (996) variant which meant that the 993 variant was the last ‘pure’ 911 according to those above. If you accept that fact, then the 993 Carrera 2S is the best of the last true Porsches, to me at least.
The 993 is a beautiful car, but to be the earlier versions were always a little too feminine in their details – so when Porsche brought out the Carrera 2S in 1997 it gelled with me for the first time. It used the 993 Turbo’s body but without the rear arch intakes to give a much wider stance. The front bumper was also lower and more aggressive, while the rear looked fantastic with the woder bodywork but no tea-tray spoiler as found on the Turbo. With 285bhp the Carrera 2S (knows as such as there was also a Carrera 4S with AWD) was no slouch, hitting 62mph in 5,2 seconds on the way to a 172mph top speed. But the way it handled was the real joy here, with wonderfully communicative steering, sure footed handling with loads of grip from the wider track and an ability to be steered on the throttle like only the best cars. It was the last of its kind, and what a wonderfully fitting send off it was.
4 – Porsche 911 (991.2) Targa 4 PDK
It’s only fitting that I include a current Porsche in this list, mainly because they’re just so damn good. I admit that a GT3 RS is obviously a sharper, better driving tool if you want to go to the Nurburgring every weekend, but for me a perfect modern Porsche would need rear seats for my daughter, the ability to drop the roof to experience the brief summer we have here in the UK and compliant suspension so it’s not tiring to drive. For me in the current range this describes perfectly the latest generation Targa 4.
There’s the new downsized 3.0 litre twin turbo flat-six engine which puts out a staggering 366bhp, mated to the excellent PDK gearbox that gives lightning-quick gearshifts and easy town driving. The suspension can be soft or firm depending on your selection of mode, while the amazing Targa roof mechanism will draw crowds every time you stow the roof panel. Admittedly it now costs around £90,000 but I can’t think of a sports car that is more versatile. Also helps that it’s just £5 in this week’s promotion!
3 – Porsche 911 (997) Sport Classic
There have been so many incredible Porsches over the history of the company, but for me the 997-generation 911 Sport Classic stands out head and shoulders above the rest. It may be a blatant homage to older models but that’s why I like it so much – you get the style and touches of the older cars but with the newer technology of the new models. The basis of the SC was the 911 Carrera 4 body, but with the RWD running gear. Then, the Power Kit was added taking the 3.8 litre flat-6 up to 402bhp which meant 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds and a 188mph top speed, certainly ample. There was a unique front bumper and classic Fuchs-style alloys, while the rear bumper gained an exhaust with two round tips.
Atop the engine cover sat a new ducktail spoiler, while the roof panel was unique with a double-bubble style for added aerodynamic efficiency. Inside there was espresso brown leather on every surface including the air vents, sun visors and even coat hooks on the back of the seats, while the centres of the seats and door cards feature a woven-leather homage to the classic houndstooth fabric used by 911s in the 70’s. The Sport Classic was rather expensive at £135,000 but they’re worth double that now thanks to their rarity and unique combination of style, performance and exclusivity.
2 – Porsche Carrera GT
Don’t let the 911-style front end lull you into thinking the Carrera GT is another tarted-up 911 derivative like the 959 was – oh no, the Carrera GT is basically a Le Mans car in a different body, and they are not your everyday cruise-to-the-shops supercar like the Veyron either – the CGT will try and kill you if you push it too far (sorry Paul Walker fans).the CGT features a carbon fibre monocoque chassis which is incredibly light and stiff, with pushrod activated inboard suspension, again like that of a race car.
But the most impressive thing about the CGT was the engine – an aborted Le Mans program provided a dry-sumped 5.7 litre naturally aspirated V10 which produced 606bhp – not huge by today’s standards but combined with a 1400kg curb weight it had scintillating performance. 0-62mph took just 3.6 seconds, while 100mph came up in 7.8 seconds and the top speed was 208mph. Despite many supercars of the time using paddle shift boxes, the CGT had a slick six-speed manual gearbox, with a beechwood gearknob like that used on the 917 racers. This gearbox used a ceramic twin plate clutch though, which was notoriously tricky to use and get away from start without stalling. Then the very race-oriented suspension setup made for somewhat edgy handling, but it was very well regarded amongst enthusiasts as a return to involving supercars that didn’t drive themselves. Of course, it also looked incredible and still does, with the simple yet aggressive design and cool details like the rising spoiler, mesh engine covers and jet-engine-like exhaust tips. Oh, and did I mention the noise that the V10 makes? Imagine a Le Mans prototype screaming down the Mulsanne Straight – that’s pretty much it – pure aural pleasure.
1 – Singer 911
Okay, this one is cheating a little bit as it isn’t a production Porsche model, but it still deserves a place. The 930-generation model was an ode to 80’s excess when it came out but are slowly becoming cool now. The 996, 997 and 991 models are all great cars but I don’t think they’re particularly cool. The 993-generation was the last of the air cooled variants, with an incredibly pretty body, fantastic handling and a crazy Turbo variant that destroyed the competitors of the time. But there’s something much cooler.
The 1970’s 911 had purity to the design, a cleanliness that gives it that classically cool look. But they weren’t the best things to drive when new and less so now. Luckily, hidden away in an industrial estate in Los Angeles is a company called Singer who ‘reimagine’ the 911. They actually start with the early 90’s 964 model which was much improved, then remove all the bodywork and replace it with carbon fibre in the look of the 70’s models – with added sexiness in the form of wider front and rear arches, a subtle ducktail spoiler that raises up like the later models and a clean front end with centrally mounted filler cap. Actually, not all of the body panels are replaced – the doors remain steel for side impact protection, but more importantly because carbon or aluminium doors didn’t make that all-important Porsche ‘thunk’ when they close.
That’s indicative of the attention to detail that goes into every Singer – every single panel gap is exactly 2mm, the wheels are replicas of the iconic Fuchs alloys but wider, the headlights look like the old units but are bespoke xenon items that come from Le Mans race cars, the interior replicates the old models but all the intricate leather is woven by hand, while the metalwork is all nickel plated for a unique finish. So many man-hours go into making a Singer and it shows all over it, but you certainly pay for the privilege with cars costing upwards of £300,000 and current waiting times of around 2yrs from order. But petrolheads, non-petrolheads, the wealthy, the poor, the arty, they all see a Singer and mouth ‘wow’. It’s quite simply the coolest car ever in my eyes.