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first drive

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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RUF CTR Anniversary driven

“The Yellowbird is a car that made us internationally renowned from one day to another. We were the world’s fastest car – all the big companies were slower. No matter if it was 20 years ago, ten years ago or just yesterday, everybody talks about this car.” These are the words of Marcel Ruf, who talks with passion and pride when I ask him to describe what the RUF CTR of 1987 did for his father’s company.

It was that 3.2 Carrera-based ‘Yellowbird’ which put RUF Automobile on the map. A real-life David versus Goliath moment, it was faster than Ferrari’s F40 and Porsche’s 959, inspiring an entire generation of automotive fanatic. Those three letters responsible for building it became an alluring brand synonymous with engineering precision and purity henceforth.

We’re here on Rufplatz to celebrate 80 years of a company which has been integral to the culture surrounding the 911, a sports car we all – RUF included – admire greatly. RUF has always found a way to improve on Porsche’s recipe, consistently evolving the 911 years ahead of Zuffenhausen.

It led to RUF becoming a certified manufacturer in its own right by the German authorities in 1981, and since then we’ve been on the road to this very moment, a dream Alois Ruf Jr has harvested for decades: to build a complete sports car from scratch. That car is the new RUF CTR.

Revealed in 2017 – 30 years since the original – the latest CTR has undergone further testing, tweaks and even a name change. The CTR Anniversary, as it is now known, is at last approaching the finished article, and is a fitting way for this family-run business to celebrate its 80th birthday.

Putting the festivities to one side, this new CTR is arguably the most important RUF creation in years. Times have changed, and now there’s much stiffer competition for ultra high-end, Porsche-inspired craftwork, most notably from a well-known company some 5,000-miles away in north Hollywood.

Looking more inwardly too, the fact this is the first RUF to be built completely from scratch carries a significant cost. Company sources tell me it could be between €12 to 15 million to develop the CTR, all of the investment coming directly from RUF itself. It’s a statement of confidence to say the least, the carbon fibre monocoque at its centre forming, we are told, the basis of RUF cars of the future as well as now.

On paper the CTR Anniversary’s credentials (we’ll come to those later) have well and truly resonated with the uber wealthy, so much so that all 30 cars of the initial build run were sold within a week. I say initial build run, as off-the-bat demand for the CTR Anniversary caught out not only RUF itself, but owners of the first CTR, too, who simply didn’t react quick enough to bag the latest example.

“We felt it was important that those owners of the original CTR were given the opportunity to have an Anniversary, so we spoke with the 30 buyers of the new car and asked how they felt about us increasing production to 50 cars to solve the problem. Thankfully they gave their blessing, so we were able to offer the extra 20 spaces only to those who had a CTR1,” Marcel Ruf explains. A potential sticking point dealt with efficiently and calmly – how typically German.

Production of the CTR Anniversary is set to run until 2022 (by which time the company will also have started building its new, naturally aspirated SCR) with deliveries beginning later this year. A handful are very near to completion, these being assembled by hand on the factory floor during our visit. However, sitting outside and resplendent in the house colour of yellow, there’s an example ready for the road – and we’re going to be driving it.

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2019 Porsche 992 Carrera S vs 4S first drive review

We’ve been here before, right? A new 911, which among our fraternity will forever be known as the 992. In Porsche’s model line there’s nothing more significant, even if today 911 sales are a mere support act to the SUV bottom line. Simply put, the 911 remains the company’s icon, the car that defines the firm. The 911 represents success on road and track, a million-selling sports car that’s instantly recognisable; unique in the automotive world.

Which is why replacing it is about as difficult a task as Porsche has. Time doesn’t stand still though, and the 911 has to evolve to work in the world it finds itself in. That evolution has unquestionably allowed it to endure and succeed, but the transitional points in its lifecycle will always be significant and debated ad-infinitum among drivers and the likes of me in titles like this.

The 911 matters to people then, more so than any other car. It doesn’t actually seem like that long ago I was reviewing the then new 991, or indeed 991.2; in the time since they’ve gone on to become the 911, after the usual difficult transition period where everyone is looking dewy-eyed about the outgoing model. I’ll do that now, the Carrera T manual that I’d borrowed off the UK press fleet in anticipation of driving the new 992 feeling pretty much perfect to me. That 991 should be good though, it being at the end of its development cycle.

Everything learned from that and more has been adopted here with the 992. There are two of them here today, a Carrera S and Carrera 4S. They are, as all will be until the standard Carrera arrives later this year, PDK, and pulling the right paddle shifter here can now be done eight times. “They’re the same,” is the reply when I request that both cars feature in the same shot.

Visually, that’s true; the Carrera S and Carrera 4S are identical, even more so when they’re painted the same Racing yellow. The only clue to the 4S’s additional drive is the badge on its backside. Choose the model delete option, or better still the simple 911 numbering, and you’d not know it’s a four, Porsche’s decision to make all Carreras widebody removing that go-to identifier of drive. It’s big, this new 911, as wide as the outgoing GTS and GT3, a bit longer and taller, as well as heavier. We’ll get to that later.

The dynamics engineers certainly weren’t complaining when the decision to go widebody was made. You might think that it was the chassis engineers that dictated it, but the 992’s a widebody for different reasons, key among them being the cooling. The 992’s 3.0-litre twin turbo flat-six has to pass ever-tighter laws for economy and emissions, and an efficient turbo engine is a cool one. That defines not just the physicality of the 911’s shape, but the large cooling intakes fed by active vanes at the 992’s nose. Here, now, in natural light and in the pitlane of the Hockenheimring, I have to say it looks good. It’s unmistakably 911, as it should be, design boss Mauer’s team having dipped into the 911’s past to bring it forward. From the cut-out recess on the bonnet to the SC-aping font for the rear 911 badging, via the large headlights sitting upright (cut exclusively out of the wings rather than puncturing the bumper), there’s no mistaking its lineage.

That expansive rear is spanned by an LED strip light across its entire width, the slightly recessed lighting and three-dimensional Porsche badge across the back leaving you in no doubt that you’re following a 911. The pop-up rear wing that aids stability now also acts as an airbrake when stopping from speed. It’s better integrated than that on the 991, but is still arguably an inelegant if undeniably effective solution to the 911’s aerodynamic Achilles heel. It’s the other pop-out element to the new 911 that’s causing the most debate here today; the door handles. They look neat, but their operation isn’t perfect, feeling insubstantial and not always popping out to greet you. That you have to lift and pull rather than simply grab counts against them too. A small thing, perhaps, but they feel like the answer to a question nobody asked, particularly in comparison to those on a 991.

Once inside, this is clearly a 911 for a new era. The quality takes a leap, the build feeling substantial, the materials, too. It’s an attractive cabin, the centre dash coming with a near 11-inch screen containing all the info and entertainment functions. It’s a touchscreen, adding connectivity and configurability to your nav and entertainment that you probably never knew you wanted or, arguably, needed. Choose the Sport Chrono and you’ll be able to select the driving modes…

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New Porsche 992 Cabriolet revealed

Less than six weeks after the launch of the 992 generation 911, Porsche has unveiled the open-topped version of its eighth generation sports car icon. As with its Coupe brothers, the Cabriolet has been released in Carrera S and Carrera 4S guise with PDK-only for now, the Carrera and Carrera 4 version with manual gearbox arriving later this year.

The Porsche 992 Cabriolet uses a similar kinetic system to the 991 before it, again operable at speeds of up to 30mph, though opening and closing time of the roof is now slightly quicker at 12 seconds. The roof system, which successfully maintains the form of the Coupe variant when covering the interior, again features an integrated (and heated) glass rear screen, now relying on lightweight yet sturdy magnesium bows to stop the roof from ballooning at high speeds.

This is necessary because the Porsche 992 Cabriolet has a top speed of 190mph in Carrera S form (188mph for the 4S), making it a very, very fast open-topped Porsche. It is the all-wheel-drive 992 which has the upper hand in the sprint stakes though, managing a 0-62mph time of just 3.6-seconds with optional Sport Chrono Package (the 2S’s time is 3.7-seconds).

The 2019 992 Cabriolet’s engine is exactly the same as that found in the 992 Coupes, its 3.0-litre ‘9A2 evo’ flat six producing 450hp and 530Nm torque. Both Cabriolets also withhold the widebody treatment rolled out for every 992-generation 911, its full-width light bar and staggered 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels also finding their way onto the Cabriolet which, for the first time, features an optional Sports PASM chassis, lowering the car by 10mm.

Prices for the rear-driven Carrera S Cabriolet start from £102,000 in the UK, its all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S stablemate available from £108,000. We prefer Coupe 911s here at Total 911, though with seamless lines, stunning performance and breathtaking aesthetical appeal, the 992 Cabriolet looks set to be the most convincing of its kind to date.

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Porsche 996: GT3 Genesis

GT3: the most evocative, desirable collection of letters and numbers as you can ask for to be tacked to the rump of a 911. Add RS into the mix and that’s even more so. The GT3, as its name and subsequent RS spin-off highlights, has its tyres firmly rooted in Porsche’s racing activities. It’s enough to elevate all the cars here above the usual rhetoric spewed about the once ‘undesirable’ 996, the GT3 badge signifying something very special indeed.

There are three GT3s in the 996 generation, the Gen1 available from 1998-2001, the Gen2 coming in 2003 until 2005, with the RS spun off that between 2004 and 2005. That Gen1 car is unique among GT3s, largely because it’s the only GT3 not to have a same-generation RS model based on it, the Gen1 being Porsche’s GT3 genesis.

It’s inconceivable that you’re reading this and don’t know at least the basics surrounding the GT3. Lighter, more engaging, its creation allowing homologation of parts to allow Porsche to race the 911 to great success around the world. Actually, with the original GT3 that lighter element is a misnomer, as put the Gen1 car on the scales and it’s carrying around 30kg more mass than its base 996 Carrera relation.

Blame that on the marginally heavier G96/90 gearbox and M96/76 engine, as well as an additional engine radiator. Porsche didn’t elect to go down the lightweight panels, thinner glass route with its first GT3 model, though it did bin the rear seats in a small – 8kg – concession to mass reduction, while Sport bucket seats removed around 20kg over the standard Carrera’s pews. As a means of recompense for the weight gain, the M96/76 engine, more commonly referred to in reverential tones as ‘the Mezger’, was fitted, its specification being pure motorsport, with lightened, stronger internals to cope with the stresses of winning competition.

And what compensation, the Le Mans-winning GT1-derived, naturally aspirated 3.6-litre flat six unit was rated at 360bhp at 7,200rpm – redlining at 7,800rpm – with peak torque of 370Nm. It’s a glorious engine with enough power to allow the GT3 to reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds, 100mph in 10.2 seconds and a quoted top speed of 187mph. But it isn’t the numbers that matter, really, rather how it delivers its performance. In Walter Röhrl’s hands the first GT3 lapped the Nürburgring in 7 minutes 56 seconds – isn’t it ridiculous to think how far things have come in under 20 years? Stopping all that are 330mm cross-drilled, inner-vented discs of 330mm in diameter, grabbed by four-piston monoblock callipers.

Getting into James Samuel’s yellow Gen1 car today demonstrates exactly what Porsche intended its customers to do with their GT3s: track them. Why else would Porsche include adjustable suspension with extended-axle geometry sitting 30mm lower than standard, an adjustable rear wing and the possibility to quickly (relatively speaking here, and if you’re a race mechanic) swap out gear ratios to suit differing tracks, as well as the synchro rings? To that Porsche added differing hubs, with 10mm larger bearings over the Carrera’s 70mm ones for the greater forces racing tyres would exert. Spherical top joints more rigidly position the front suspension, the same possible at the rear if you’re off racing, the GT department adding five alternative mountings at the back for the adjustable tubular anti-roll bars.

For the full feature, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 167 in shops now or get it delivered to your door. You can also download a digital copy, featuring a bonus gallery, to your chosen Apple or Android device. 

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