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991 v 992: the ultimate battle

It’s fair to say Porsche’s executives can be mighty pleased with the way the company’s eighth generation of 911 has been received so far. The Neunelfer is, after all, the bedrock of Zuffenhausen: an entire automotive operation is administered with this iconic car at its centre.

Of course it’s crucial that any new 911 must succeed in obtaining the approval of a global fanbase so impassioned by it. In the case of the 992, succeeded it has… and then some.

Not since the arrival of the 997.1 has a new generation of 911 been met with such resounding acclaim by all corners of the motoring spectrum. The 992 has built nicely on the foundations of the 991 before it, an era which didn’t exactly enjoy the same instant endearment.

Its bloated size over the outgoing 997 was lamented, as was the uptake of electrically assisted steering, both of which were seen as surefire signs of a general creep away from the 911’s all-out sports car demeanor in favour of a more comfortable grand tourer.

Despite what might best be described as a takeoff with turbulence, the 991 has gone on to become one of the most popular 911 generations of all time, right where it matters – in the showroom. Even after that mid-life introduction of turbocharging for the entire Carrera range, customers continued to back the car handsomely with their wallets. As a result, the 991 is a best-seller.

The 992 is still wet behind the ears in terms of its production cycle. There are only four models to choose from, Carrera S or 4S in Coupe or Cabriolet, but, with sales managers in an effervescent glow from early reviews, it’s about time the new arrival was put directly against its predecessor.

The 992 Carrera 4S Coupe’s RRP in the UK might be £98,418, but once you’ve added some sensible options you won’t see much change from £115,000 – our Dolomite silver press car here comes in at £116,467.

That’s the same figure you can expect to pay for a 991.2 GTS right now, either straight from the production line, as some late examples are still being built alongside the 992, or from a host of used examples currently available with around 1,000 miles on the clock. The stage is therefore set: what’s better, a new 992 C4S or a well-specced 991.2 C4 GTS?

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Porsche index: 991.1 Carrera S

HISTORY & SPEC

Launched alongside the Carrera, the S made its debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and went on sale in December of that year. It was instantly apparent that Porsche had taken a slightly different path with its new Neunelfer, the relatively compact dimensions of the 997 making way for something notably wider and longer.

Sitting on a wheelbase stretched by 100mm, this was an altogether roomier, more luxurious proposition, and it’s one that not all 911 devotees were comfortable with – more than a few voices accused the new model of being more cruiser than sports car. Thankfully the flat six sitting in the tail would appease most critics, the Carrera’s 350hp, 3.4-litre unit making way for the larger 3.8 boasting 400hp and 440Nm of torque. Naturally aspirated, it featured direct fuel injection and VarioCam Plus and was linked to a new seven-speed manual gearbox or an optional PDK unit.

The manual has come in for criticism since, but the double-clutch unit was impressive, getting the Carrera S to 62mph in 4.3 seconds and on to 187mph. However you view this car those are impressive numbers, and they were little different for the Cabriolet variant that arrived in March 2012 wearing a price tag of £89,740.

This was certainly a cleaner, more efficient 911, with Porsche claiming that fuel consumption and CO2 emissions had been reduced by 14 per cent; new technological features such as auto stop/start, better thermal management for the engine and a coasting function for the PDK ‘box all coming to the 991’s aid.

Adopting electrical assistance for the steering no doubt shaved further fractions when it came to efficiency, but it was at the expense of yet more criticism in some quarters. In reality, it’s a good system. As for the rest of the chassis specification, it was a more-than-tasty recipe that featured PASM and Porsche Torque Vectoring as standard, along with uprated and iconic ‘Big Red’ brakes: compared to the Carrera there were larger discs and Monobloc fixed front calipers with six rather than four pistons. 

There was the option to spend plenty of cash on further enhancements, too, from the likes of Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control and Sport Chrono to special interior finishes and £3,000 of Burmester hi-fi. With plenty of buyers happy to indulge when it came to options, there are rich pickings to be had for today’s buyers.

Like its immediate predecessors, just four years were allowed to pass before the Gen2 model arrived, bringing with it the end of natural aspiration. Today the 991.1’s specification marks a good link between the more classic-oriented 997s and the tech-laden drive of the 992.

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Classic Porsche test: story of the Carrera 3.0

In many Porsche 911 books the Carrera 3.0 hardly merits a mention. Sandwiched between the revered Carrera 2.7 and all-conquering SC, it’s a mere footnote in a 56-year story. Has history judged it too harshly? Is the ‘Carrera 3’ underrated or simply underwhelming? Only driving one will tell us for sure.

The odds seem stacked against the 3.0 from the start. First, Porsche broke an unwritten rule by launching a new car with less power than its predecessor. And while a 13hp shortfall mattered more on paper than the road, the outgoing Carrera 2.7 also boasted perfect pedigree, being mechanically identical to the 1973 RS 2.7, barring the US model. The new 3.0, conversely, was defined by what it lacked. It was, in essence, ‘a Turbo without the turbo’.

On sale for just two years between 1976 and 1977, the Carrera 3.0 was the middle rung of a revised 911 range. The base model – called 911 Lux in some markets – retained a 165hp version of the 2.7-litre engine. The 3.0, meanwhile, adopted the 2,994cc lump from the flagship 930. This development of the 1974 3.0 RS engine would serve the 911 in various guises until 1984. In naturally aspirated form quoted power was 197hp at 6,000rpm, this versus 260hp at 5,500rpm for the top-dog Turbo. Fuel economy was improved, albeit not sufficiently for US emissions legislation. The 3.0 was never sold Stateside as a result.

Transforming a 930 into a Carrera 3 wasn’t merely a case of unbolting the blower. The N/A engine also had larger inlet ports, while compression ratio increased from 6.5:1 to 8.5:1. Further fettling for the 1976 model year included a die-cast aluminium crankcase, Nikasil cylinder liners, a five-blade cooling fan and Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, replacing the plunger-type system. The use of K-Jetronic, which endured until the 1994 964 Turbo 3.6, also meant the demise of the hand throttle, supplanted by a vacuum-operated warm-up regulator. Most buyers chose the five-speed manual transmission, but Porsche also offered the four-speed ‘box from the Turbo and the clutchless Sportomatic – the latter now reduced to just three ratios.

What the 3.0 lacked in peak power it made up for in mid-range muscle. Maximum torque of 255Nm matches the outgoing Carrera 2.7 and is developed 900rpm lower in the rev range, meaning it equals the older car’s 6.3-second sprint to 60mph. Top speed is an Autobahn-friendly 145mph. The 3.0 is a relatively light 911, too. At 1,093kg it weighs 67kg – or a typical adult passenger – less than a 1978 SC.

At first glance the Carrera 3 looks little different to other impact-bumper 911s. ATS ‘Cookie Cutter’ alloys in 6×15- and 7×15-inch sizes were standard, with wider Turbo-spec Fuchs for the Sport pack. The latter included a Whaletail spoiler and optional ‘Carrera’ side script, plus Bilstein dampers replacing the standard Koni or Boge set-up. A Comfort pack was also added for 1977 with 14-inch wheels and softer Bilsteins. Coupe versions of the 3.0 outsold Targas by a factor of two to one.

The most significant cosmetic update, however, is hidden from view. 1976 saw Porsche introduce hot-dip zinc coating for all panels, vastly improving the 911’s traditionally rather feeble resistance to rust. Stuttgart then put its Deutschmarks on the line with an industry-leading six-year corrosion warranty, which boosted resale values and reinforced a growing reputation for quality. Sadly the zinc protection is rarely so effective in the longer term; even slight damage exposes the steel underneath, allowing rust to take hold.

Inside, the Carrera 3 made a significant step towards curing another of the 911’s age-old issues: inadequate heating. Until this point regulating cabin temperature had been a hit-and-miss affair, using levers between the seats to mix air heated by the exhaust with fresh air from outside. The new system, standard on the 3.0 and Turbo, used two thermostats and a rotary controller to manage this process automatically. Separate fan and heater sliders were also introduced for 1977 along with face-level air vents, albeit only on the passenger side.

Further improvements to comfort came from extra sound deadening and a plusher interior, including carpeting on the lower doors from 1977. A larger driver’s door mirror was fitted, now electrically operated and heated, and cruise control – called Tempostat in Europe or Automatic Speed Control in the US – was an option for the first time. Porsche even changed the design of the locks to improve security. Now, instead of pop-up buttons that could be hooked with a coat hanger, the 911 had round knobs on the door panels. The Targa’s opening quarterlights were discontinued to deter smash-and-grab opportunists, too.

We could go on, of course. But there are only so many facts about thermostats or carpeted doors even the most committed enthusiast needs. What matters more is how the Carrera 3.0 drives and, ultimately, its place in the air-cooled 911 hierarchy. To find out we visited Classic Motor Hub, a huge multi-marque showroom that at the time of writing has the car pictured for sale at £87,500. CMH is also nestled among some of the Cotswolds’ prettiest villages
and finest driving roads. If the Carrera 3.0 can’t impress here…

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996.2 v 997.1 GT3

Passers-by seem impressed, if a little nonplussed as to why we’re photographing two seemingly identical 911 GT3s. But to Porsche aficionados the 996 and 997 generations actually represent two very different flavours of GT3, and spark lively debate. Today we’re comparing the last of the 996 GT3s with the first of the 997, putting the GT3’s first generational shift under the microscope and declaring a winner.

It’s now 20 years since Porsche released its first 911 GT3, a road car that was produced to homologate the racers. The arrival of Andreas Preuninger soon after saw ‘Mr GT3’ put his stamp on the 996 generation with the revised 996.2 GT3 of 2003. He had to wait for the subsequent 997 GT3 of 2006 to take ownership of a GT3 generation from the start. That car is now identified as a 997.1, differentiating it from the later 997.2 GT3.

Both 996.2 and 997.1 Porsche GT3s remain highly coveted sports cars today, and overlap in pricing – the bulk of 996.2 GT3s span £60,000 to £80,000, with 997.1 GT3s grabbing the baton at £70,000 and accelerating off to £90,000.

We’ve come to Porsche specialists Paragon in East Sussex to explore two excellent examples currently residing in stock. Paragon’s 996 has covered 37,000 miles and is up at £74,995. The 997, meanwhile, is yours for £84,995. Both have undergone significant prep work to lift them to Paragon’s standards.

Both are as road-spec as they come in Comfort trim – no roll cage, fire extinguisher or buckets – featuring stock six-piston brakes with no carbon-ceramics, and factory suspension specs including camber settings. You’re unlikely to find two fitter, more representative, more comparable examples.

I jump into the 996 for the 20-mile trip to our Beachy Head photo location for two reasons: I’ve had good seat time in 997 GT3s, but have only once driven a 996 GT3, and pretty briefly on track – this is the car I really need to get my head around. I’m also curious to see how different it is from my own 996 3.4 Carrera.

The GT3’s headline changes versus the Carrera included lower, stiffer suspension; deletion of the rear seats; slightly wider 18-inch alloys; uprated six-piston front brakes (four rear) and, most importantly, the completely different Mezger 3.6-litre flat six, here rated at 380bhp and 385Nm.

I’d expected a significantly more aggressive temperament than my own car, but that’s just not true. Yes, it bobbles a bit when driven slowly over imperfect urban tarmac, and you notice the more responsive front end, a little extra weight to the steering on initial turn-in and reduced body roll even at more moderate speeds, but it actually rides with generous compliance, and there’s no huge penalty in terms of road noise. More aggressive than a Carrera, of course, but potter about and I don’t think there’s a huge trade-off here.

Driven harder on the twists that course down to the coast from the top of Beachy Head, the 996 is sublime. The steering immediately loads up with weight to contextualise lateral forces loading through the suspension; its intimidating detail encourages you to hold the wheel gently to better let it breathe and communicate through your fingertips. 15 years on its ratio still feels perfectly quick enough, and the way the front end arcs into corners without delay remains strikingly immediate – there’s very little roll and waiting for mass to settle, no slack to work through to get the steering working.

For the full 996.2 v 997.1 GT3 head-to-head test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 177 in shops now or get it delivered to your door via here. You can also download a digital copy with high definition bonus galleries to any Apple or Android device.

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993 v 991: wild Porsche GT2s

The year 1994 offered something of a step change for Porsche Motorsport. After multiple notable racing successes with naturally aspirated 911s such as the Carrera RSR and RS 3.8, the company once again turned its attention to turbocharging for elite GT racing. A new car was born out of the 993 generation, wider and wilder than ever before. The name given to this new high-performance 911 was simply the racing class it was to participate in: let us say hello once again to the now-legendary 993 GT2.

However, these cars were badged ‘GT’ – as can be seen below its huge rear wing. To compete in this class Porsche had to manufacture and homologate a street version, which became available as early as April of 1995. Little did Porsche and 911 enthusiasts know at the time, but it would become an absolute icon of a car, and one of the most sought-after today.

Unlike the car it was based on – the new 993 Turbo – the GT2 offered 22bhp more and offered a host of upgrades to the drivetrain, body, suspension and equipment, to name but a few. The big news was that the GT2 would be rear-wheel drive only, the 200kg weight loss over a Turbo mainly being attributed to this change. With the GT2 Porsche had made it perfectly clear it was not about to relinquish the ominous widowmaker moniker too easily. Rear-wheel-drive 911 Turbos were until then aimed at the more experienced driver, but the change to four-wheel drive left a gap at the very top of the 911 range, one that was to be filled by the motorsport-inspired GT2 street car.

Fast forward more than 20 years and until recently customers had to look to the naturally aspirated GT3 RS model to have race-inspired thrills. However, as a final swansong to the 991 range, Andreas Preuninger and his GT team developed and manufactured the most powerful production 911 to date. One can ramble on about the finer details of this machine, which you would have read in previous issues of Total 911, but there is no better way to sum it up than the 6:47.25 time the 991 GT2 RS set around the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife.

In South Africa where the owner of both these exquisite cars opens the garage door, I find myself subconsciously drifting towards the 993 GT2 first. The door feels light in my hand as I pull its handle. I lower myself into the Recaro bucket seat and shut the door, the thud reminiscent of a whole era of air-cooled Porsche. The seat offers side support from your hips all the way up to your shoulders – the goosebumps on my forearms already demonstrate this is an exceptional place to be!

The cabin is basic, but not Clubsport or race car basic; after all, this is the more comfortable ‘Strasse’ specification. However, there are no rear seats, only carpets with the neat ‘GT’ inscription, as is the case on the back of the car below the rear wing. The cabin is compact – you sit close to the dashboard and windscreen in classic 911 guise. I hold the leather-trimmed, three-spoke steering wheel, impressed by the fact there is not a button in sight.

I’ve been privileged enough to have driven a few 993 GT2s before, and every time it is a particularly memorable occasion. Today is no different. A quick peek in the side mirror gets me all excited again as those monstrous, tacked-on wheel arches fill the view. These were added to enable the GT2’s enormous 11-inch-wide wheels to fit under its arches.

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