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A Surplus of Tech and Performance: Has Porsche Gone Too Far?

Clarksonian excess is positively joyous on paper, and the items that grab review headlines trend towards both the extreme and the concrete. Everyone with a bit of petrol in their veins knows that 700 horsepower is a lot, and 200 is simply not very many. At the same time, not everyone agrees on what makes a car fun. What works in a headline to bring people in, and what constitutes thoughtful criticism that keeps people reading are not necessarily the same. For that reason the subject of excess in modern Porsches requires further examination. While the sales figures indicate that Porsche has their customer base pretty well nailed, does it necessarily follow that the brand has stayed reasonable and accessible?

Too Fast?

Mr. JWW contends that maybe, for road drivers, Porsche has gone too far. The GT2 RS is designed to work on track, that is part of its very nature. At the same time, the compromises required to make it the fastest production car around the ‘Ring make it almost entirely inaccessible on the street. At its intended purpose the GT2 RS is virtually unrivaled, but on road the edges of the car’s performance envelope become infuriatingly distant.

This isn’t a problem that is unique to the GT2 RS, the GT2 RS is simply emblematic of it. In terms of straight-line speed any 911 will get deep in to triple digits before it feels like it is breathing hard. Despite being significantly more road and comfort oriented than the GT2, both the Turbo and Turbo S still offer more performance in every metric than can be routinely enjoyed out in the world of traffic and rogue deer.

The merits of « slow car fast » are often parroted, but if the majority of your enjoyment comes off-track that does hold a fair amount of water. At road speeds is a GT2 RS more enjoyable than a Carrera Club Sport or a 993 Carrera RS despite how much more performance it offers? Does this prodigious performance mean modern Porsches offer « too much » performance, or is it indicative of users simply refocusing what sort of enjoyment they seek from their cars?

Too Much Tech?

While I am certain that the paragraphs above are going to be somewhat contentious, I don’t think this will: New cars have a lot of tech in them. New Porsches have an extraordinary, and occasionally overwhelming, amount of tech in them. While Porsche clung to their analog roots for an extremely long time, hop in a 996 Carrera and compare the number of toys on offer to a current car, the 992 is a technological marvel of adaptive suspension, rear wheel steering, and programmable drive modes.

While all of these ingredients make the car faster, do they make for a better sports car? Had Porsche not stayed current the brand’s popular sports cars could have become niche curiosities like the eternally-lovable range of Morgans. While many enthusiasts claim to prefer simplicity, the broader market does not follow. The current 911 tries to be all things to all people, and the host contends that in comfort mode the car is decidedly more GT car than outright sports car.

The interior is more complex as well, with an analog rev counter flanked by configurable digital displays at both sides, and a dash-mounted infotainment display of a size that would make an iPad blush. Perhaps all this makes the new 911 more versatile, but does it make for a better sports car? Is it a step too far?

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Porsche 991 hybrid test drive

The internal combustion engine doesn’t realise it’s there,” says Chuck Moreland, owner of Elephant Racing. You might know the company – it’s a specialist in Porsche suspension – but here Moreland’s talking about the flat six in an early 991.1 3.4-litre Carrera.

Specifically, he’s talking about the Vonnen Shadow Drive, Vonnen an Elephant Racing offshoot that’s developed a hybrid 911 before Porsche itself. If it was going to be done anywhere outside Weissach, then it’s hardly surprising it was here.

Vonnen is in California, specifically Silicon Valley, the absolute global heart of innovation and technology. Moreland explains how it happened: “It was a case of us sitting around talking among ourselves and thinking, ‘hey, wouldn’t it be great if…’. And then we started exploring different ideas of how you might hybridise an existing 911 platform.”

That was three years ago. Today we’re standing around an engine and gearbox, looking at the axial flux electric motor that Vonnen has developed with a European supplier, sandwiching it between the two.

If that sounds familiar, it’s exactly what Porsche will do with the 992 to hybridise it, only it’s left space inside the gearbox to do so. With the 991 there’s no such luxury, so Vonnen had to get clever with the space it had.

It’s been a quick development cycle, especially considering this wasn’t Vonnen’s first solution. Initially Vonnen tried pushing electrically generated drive back into the gearbox via the front-axle output shaft on a 996 Carrera 4.

Moreland says: “That was more a proof of concept, but we learned a lot from it, and we recognised that there was real opportunity for improving. The biggest issue was that the torque was being added on the output shaft of the transaxle, so we weren’t taking advantage of the gear-reduction capabilities from the gearbox.”

Buoyed by the potential, Moreland went all in, saying: “Okay, cost be damned, what if we wanted to make this thing rip? What would we do?” And so we went back to the drawing board and this is what we dreamed up, and it basically addressed all the issues that existed with this car. And that’s how we got where we are.”

Squeezing an electric motor between the engine and transmission adds 26mm in length. That’s required some modification of the structure fore of the gearbox to allow clearance, the electric motor replacing the flywheel, as well as the starter motor,  and taking over all the functionality of it, including stop-start, if fitted. The batteries powering it are situated in the luggage area, robbing it of some space. 

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Speedster generations

“I took a 911 Cabriolet off the line and drove it to my hot-rod shop,” admits Preuninger. That car became a mix-up of Gen1 GT3 and that Cabriolet.

The result of the GT boss’ work was first shown to a select group of customers as far back as 2014 alongside the 911 R concept, which the Speedster shares a lot of DNA with. This new Speedster is a GT department model, a car which, if you take Speedsters at their most elemental, it always should have been. 

Even so, Preuninger admits: “We didn’t focus on every last gram and we’re not concerned about lap times.” While that might be true, a kerbweight of 1,465kg is just 52kg more than a manual GT3.

The Speedster, like the R, is exclusively manual, with no PDK being offered, saving 17kg in weight and pleasing the driving purists among us. There are the same 911 R carbon-fibre front wings, the underbody at the rear being R-derived, while PCCB is standard too.

Those early customers who saw it liked the idea of a properly raw Speedster, doing without any roof, but Preuninger and his team denied them that, fitting a hood, in part to ensure that owners actually use them rather than park them away with delivery miles in collections. And the 1,948 Porsche will build? That’s the year when the first Speedster was built. 

Opening the low, neat roof is simple enough – a button unlatches the hood at the top of the lower windscreen and unclips the buttresses which then spring up from the large clamshell. The clamshell lock is released too, and the huge carbon-fibre panel – the largest Porsche has ever made, and weighing just 10kg – lifts out and back on struts, the hood simply pushed into its stowage area underneath.

Pop down the cover and the Speedster is open, as it should be, the slightly steeper rake and lowering of the screen, as well as that rear, fundamentally changing the look of the 911. It’s very reminiscent of original 356 Speedsters, losing the sometimes-uncomfortable, heavy-looking rear of later 911 Speedster models. There’s also a hint of Carrera GT in its proportions, particularly that rear three-quarter view.

The black stone guards on the flanks fore of the rear wheels were a late – and necessary – addition, admits Preuninger, breaking the visual length while harking back to the G-series models.

You don’t have to have them, and if you’re after an even more retro style then there’s the Heritage Pack plus a numbered, customised Porsche Design timepiece, as is the norm these days.

Forget those, though. Preuninger leans in, says to press Auto Blip and the exhaust button and go and drive it. I argue I’ll do the footwork myself and leave the Auto Blip off, Preuninger laughing and saying: “It’s better than you,” before adding, “and me…”

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New 991.2 RSR Spied Testing at Monza—With a New Exhaust Note

A large part of the 911 RSR’s charm is the sound it makes. The sublime climb from a throaty growl to a screaming crescendo is something anyone can appreciate, provided their eardrums are functioning. For that reason, some will be disappointed to hear the Ford GT-esque bark the latest RSR emits from its side-exit exhausts. After a few laps, it becomes more interesting, but its comparatively dull exhaust note leaves something to be desired. In the video below you can see the new model testing alongside two examples of the one that Porsche has been running for two years.

The performance is impressive, however. This evolution of the Porsche GTE/GTLM car is compliant over the curbs and composed exiting Monza’s first hairpin. No wheelspin and remarkable stability at speed can be attributed to some of the visual changes from the previous generation. Lightly widened haunches cover wider rear wheels, a revised rear diffuser helps with more downforce, new larger intakes on the flanks feed a lot more air, and different skirts with integrated side-exit exhausts. It’s likely the diffuser pushed the exhaust away from the rear axle, just like it did the motor, which has been oriented midship in the 991 RSR.

Though the sound might not reverberate as nicely off the trees, the widened body is much prettier than the last.

The new tone is reminiscent of the 996 RSR, and a mild muffling has some wondering whether the new car is turbocharged. However, there aren’t any telltale whistles, flutters, or pops—just a flattened note. It might not be as pleasing to the ear, but it powers a car that is stunningly fast in all types of corners.

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Inconspicuous Dragster: The New Carrera 4S Can Run with Hypercars

It’s often said that Porsche horsepower is a little more potent than other marques’ horsepower. Perhaps having the motor so close to the driven wheels minimizes drivetrain losses, or maybe there’s simply a bit of magic at work between the broad haunches of a Porsche. In any event, it’s not unusual to see a fairly standard 911 hanging with cars which should be out of its league. Such is the case with the 991 C4S.

In terms of price and power, the Porsche is totally outclassed. The 450 horsepower its 3.0-liter flat-six is nothing to sniff at, but when in the company of an Audi R8 Performance, a Nismo GT-R, and a BMW M850i—with 620 horsepower, 600 horsepower, and 520 horsepower, respectively—it seems it’d be hopeless in a drag race. All four cars drive every one of their wheels, and all enjoy the rapid gearshifts offered by modern, paddle-shifted automatics. By minimizing the number of variables present, this test promises to be an intriguing demonstration of power and traction.

Interspersed between boyish enthusiasm and Muttley-esque snickering, we see some moments of brilliance from the underdog. The Porsche is easily the lightest car in the bunch at just a tick over 3,200 pounds. Compared to the others, it’s a featherweight; nearly 1,300 pounds lighter than the portly BMW. The Porsche’s light weight, coupled with its stellar traction, makes it the quickest off the line, only to be reigned in by the heavier, punchier cars towards the end of the quarter-mile drag.

The GT-R, which sports another 150 horsepower but weights ~700 pounds more, just pips it before the line by a mere tenth of a second. Considering the Porsche costs a little more than half as the Audi and Nissan which just outgunned it, it wasn’t too bad a loss.

Though not the swiftest, it is the sexiest of the angular, wing-studded bunch

The results of the rolling race were too predictable, with the more powerful machinery streaking away, but if there’s a consolation prize, the Porsche is the quickest to stop. Give them a race track with corners, and the results might further favor the 911. In terms of real world performance, the Porsche can hang with, and occasionally outperform the supercars. Not too shabby.

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