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Opinion: the 911 R is the 991 we’ve all been waiting for

Porsche purists, you are not in a hazy daydream: rub your eyes and pinch yourself, because this is reality – Porsche HAS affixed a manual gearbox to its current Rennsport flat six engine. This revelation has arrived in the form of the new 911 R, a road car ‘built for corners’ and a fitting homage to the original R, a homologated competition special, which celebrates its 50th birthday in 2017.

In fairness, we’ve expected the 991 R for some time now and, frankly, the day of its arrival simply couldn’t come soon enough. Right from the introduction of the 991-generation’s motorsport platform with the GT3 in 2013, long-time Porsche aficionados have had to get used to the absence of that all-important third pedal in the footwell, replaced by paddleshift on the steering wheel as the GT3 platform went PDK only. It was the same story for the Rennsport model revealed last year, too.

While the argument that PDK is necessary in order to improve lap times is true, I can’t help but feel this has been to the detriment of what has for years made Porsche different to other sports car manufacturers. See, Zuffenhausen’s philosophy has always been ‘It’s not how fast you go, it’s how you get there’. It’s why the tachometer is mounted centrally in the instrument panel of any 911, after all.


To that ilk, GT and Rennsport 911s have always celebrated the ‘pure’ driving experience in its most exhilarating light and while the 991 GT3 and 991 GT3 RS are brilliant cars, there’s no getting away from the fact they’re just not as exciting to pilot as their forebears, unless you’re on the very limit. Purists agree and have long called on Porsche for a return of the traditional shifter, a wish that’s been administered with the 991R unveiled at the 86th Geneva International Motor Show this week. Even better, this short-shift manual ‘box has just six forward gears, doing away with the long 7th ratio found on all 991 Carreras.

The entire premise of the 911R is refreshingly palatable. Weighing 1,370kilograms (that’s 50kilograms lighter than the 991 GT3 RS), the 991R is a true lightweight by modern standards. The small GT steering wheel has done away with its multi-function gubbins, and the option of a lightweight flywheel mated to what could be the last naturally aspirated Porsche flat six further enhances its purist sporting intent.

Porsche could have gone further with its traditional, lightweight intentions, though. The R’s active rear axle no doubt aids stability in the absence of any fixed rear wing, but the caveat here is added weight. Conversely, PCCBs are a lightweight option over cast iron ‘Big Red’ brakes, but the reality is PCCBs just aren’t necessary on a car for the road, and take away a degree of feel for the driver too (the lack of pedal travel required to scrub speed makes heel and toe difficult).

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Regardless, the 991R has answered the prayers of those wishing for a ‘proper’ performance Porsche 911 again and is arguably the most exciting model since the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 of 2010. Lets just hope this latest engineering marvel will be used for spirited road use as it was intended – though with Porsche 918 owners given first choice for buying one of the 991 available, I’m not holding my breath.

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OFFICIAL: 2016 Porsche 991 R unveiled ahead of Geneva

Driving enthusiasts rejoice! The manual performance Porsche 911 lives on and it’s officially here in time for the 2016 Geneva Motor Show in the shape of the much-anticipated Porsche 991 R, a lightweight homage to its famous Sixties namesake.

Yes, you read that right. The new 2016 Porsche 911 R features a clutch and manual gearbox with six (rather than the 991 generation’s standard seven) forward ratios.

With Porsche keen to stress the new transmission’s “short gearshift travel” and a host of other attributes, the ‘R’ is sure to provide the most analogue driving experience since the demise of manual, Mezger-engined 997 GT3s.

911 R Light (18) copy

Contrary to the initial rumours, the manual gearbox in the Porsche 991 R is not mated to the current GT3’s high-revving, 3.8-litre flat six. However, before you shed a tear, worry not for, instead, the 911 R is bestowed with the full-fat 4.0-litre engine from the 991 GT3 RS, complete with 500hp and 8,800rpm redline.

This brings it inline with the original 911R, which was the most powerful Porsche 911 ever built upon its release in 1967. The new neunelfer’s synergy with its leichtbau ancestor also sees a continuation of the lightweight philosophy that defined the early car.

Although based inside the wider, first generation 991 GT3 bodyshell, the 2016 Porsche 911 R is the lightest 991 ever built, hitting the scales at 1,370kg, 10kg lighter than a standard 991.1 Carrera and a full 50kg less than the latest Rennsport.

911 R Light (8)

This allows the Porsche 991 R to sprint from 0-62mph (0-100kph) in 3.8 seconds, 0.1 seconds faster than the 997 GT3 RS 4.0. However, the revived ‘R’ is not about its pure performance figures.

Instead, as all the rumours suggested, the 2016 911 R is tuned to thrill out on the open road rather than extract the maximum lap time out on the track. To that end, Porsche has broken with tradition an not provided a Nürburgring Nordschleife time (though we’re sure the first owners will rectify that).

Porsche has given the rear-wheel drive neunelfer a mechanical limited-slip differential, combined with Porsche Torque Vectoring, to ensure excellent traction through the 305-section rear tyres (the fronts measure up at 245, both on 20-inch diameter centre-lock wheels).

911 R Light (4)

Interestingly though, contrary to it’s lightweight mantra, the 991 R retains the rear-wheel steering system seen on the 991.1 GT3 and GT3 RS. Porsche claims this is to provide the idiosyncratic blend of agility and stability that the electro-mechanical system has become known for.

Unlike previous cars from Porsche’s motorsport department, the 991 R does away with any fixed rear-end aerodynamics, shunning a rear wing in favour for a Carrera-style moveable decklid, the grill of which uses a mesh covering, evoking the iconic R-badged original.

The front and rear ends are almost directly carried over from the Porsche 991.1 GT3 (albeit with a revised lip spoiler at the front) while the R gets a bespoke set of striped decals – available in either red or green – designed to mimic the 24-hour world record-breaking 911Rs used in 1967.

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Inside, on top of the carbon-clad gear lever and clutch pedal, the highlights are the 918-style carbon bucket seats. In a further nod to the short-wheelbase neunelfer upon which the 991 R takes its inspiration, the seats are finished in brown leather with ‘Pepita’ houndstooth fabric centres.

The Porsche 991 R also gets it’s own 360mm version of the Sport GT steering wheel, complete with black rather than silver trim pieces, while the rear seats have been deleted (as can the PCM and air conditioning units).

Only 991 examples of the 2016 Porsche 911 R will be built with word on the grapevine suggesting that all of them are already sold out (many to 918 Spyder owners). However, should you be lucky enough to source one through your local OPC, the UK list price is £136,901.

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Five Porsche 911s I want to drive in 2016 – Lee’s choices

As part of the magazine’s remit to deliver you the very best in Porsche journalism, I’ve been lucky enough to sample some thrilling 911s first hand in 2015. How do we better it, I hear you ask? Well, the five cars below are a good start – they’re the 911s I personally am looking forward to driving most in 2016. Without further ado…


5) Porsche 964 RS

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A year ago I was non-plussed about the 964 Rennsport. As I’ve previously mentioned, to my eyes the 964 Rennsport (in 3.6-litre guise) is merely a 964 Carrera with a touch of weight saving, and is therefore overrated. However, perhaps captivated by Josh’s 964 RS v 997 GT3 RS feature in issue 128, I’m now curious to see for myself if there is more to this Rennsport’s competition DNA.


4) Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer

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Each car is billed as pure automotive art, but how does it stack up as a driver’s car? Proprietor Rob Dickinson and co have worked extremely hard over the last two years on this side of their projects in particular, developing engines with Ed Pink Racing, as well as bespoke carbon ceramic brakes. With production of these reinvented Porsches so low, even finding a car will be hard enough, let alone finding one with an owner lax on passing the keys to a mere motoring hack. Watch this space…


3) Porsche 996 Carrera

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It’s been the underrated 911 for so long but even the plucky 996 Carrera has seen its values rise in 2015. My road test in a 996 C4S last year still resonates today and I’m relishing rekindling the steer in a lighter, rear-drive variant. With prices of this 911 still temptingly low, you never know – I may even end up buying one!


2) Porsche 991 R


Make no bones about it, this is going to the THE 911 of 2016. This is the back-to-basics special that enthusiasts have been craving for so long. Details remain scarce but even what we already know is enough to whet the appetite: GT3 engine, 991 chassis, and a manual gearbox. I’m hearing that each Porsche Centre is only going to be given the opportunity to sell one or two, so again, the numbers will not work in everybody’s favour, but nevertheless you can expect to read all about the car first hand from an upcoming issue of Total 911.


1) Porsche 959


The only 911-derived hypercar. One of the fastest cars of the Eighties in terms of top speed (rivalling the Ferrari F40 of course), so much technology garnered from this car has ended up on subsequent generations of the iconic 911. As a man hailing from the same decade (just) and who regularly has anything by Duran Duran on a ‘recently played’ list, this really will be the ultimate Porsche experience for me.


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Porsche 911 R to be unveiled at 2016 Geneva Motor Show?

Rumours of a new back-to-basics Porsche 911 have been floating around since the summer. However, details are starting to firm up with sources suggesting that Porsche will launch a 21st Century 911 R at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

Initially it was believed the new purists’ Porsche would use some form of ‘GT’ badge to signify the input of Andreas Preuninger’s team in the car’s development. Now though, it looks more likely that Zuffenhausen will revisit the iconic ‘R’ moniker last seen in 1967.

Unlike the original 911R, the Porsche 991 R won’t be a dedicated racer. Instead, it will be built as the definitive driver’s car. That means the second generation 991’s 3.0-litre turbocharged flat six will be shunned in favour of the high-revving 9A1 unit from the current 911 GT3.

911 GT3 engine

Whether it will rev all the way to 9,000rpm is yet to be confirmed but expect upwards of 450hp and a sonorous soundtrack to accompany an analogue driving experience that will undoubtedly be defined by the decision to only use a manual gearbox.

Yes, that’s right. The rumoured 911 R will feature a clutch pedal and seven-speed stick shift rather than the automated PDK unit seen in the GT3. There will also be narrower tyres and no rear wing (as shown in our artist’s impression at the top of the page).

In true 911 R tradition, the latest iteration will feature extensive weight saving, though whether it will hit the scales at less than the GT3 is yet to be seen. A dry weight somewhere south of the current 991 Carrera GTS seems more likely.


Pricing will probably be announced closer to the 2016 Geneva Motor Show next March though there are conflicting rumours as to the availability of upcoming Porsche 991 R.

Some suggest production will be limited to just 600 units (and that they are already sold out) while other sources seem to believe the 911 R will be put into full scale production but that sales forecasts aren’t expecting a huge uptake.

Whatever the case with price and availability will be, if true, the Porsche 991 R looks set to be one of the most exciting neunelfers built since the 964 Carrera 4 Lightweight. We’re already licking our lips at the prospect.

For all the latest news on upcoming Porsche 911s, make sure to bookmark Total911.com now.

991 GT3 wing


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