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Turbo v Carrera: 930 3.0 vs 2.7 MFI

After the swing of the 1960s, the 1970s are often lambasted, wrongly viewed as a decade of energy crises, political upheaval and scandal. The reality is that while the 1970s might have been a turbulent decade, they were also arguably a turning point in the modern world. 

Those energy crises did raise global concerns over consumption and, unsurprisingly, the car was in the firing line, particularly in the US. Increasing legislation for fuel economy and emissions, as well as safety, demanded change. That created problems for Porsche with the 911.

The 911s of 1970’s America would feature detuned engines to pass economy standards, EU and RoW cars largely escaping those, though those US regulations would have a pronounced impact on how the 911 would look. 

From 1973 onwards US domestic and imported cars had to survive a 5mph collision without any damage to the headlights, engine or safety equipment. The 911’s bumpers had to change, with the US regulation demanding innovation.

The G-series bumpers were born, revolutionising the 911’s look and ensuring it would pass not just the 1973-onwards regulations, but also the later zero-damage standards that would come into force over the next decade. 

Porsche evidentially thrives on the challenges posed by regulation, and those US rules forced the company’s hand changing the 911’s look. The styling department is credited as being responsible for those iconic bumpers, under then-director Anatole Lapine and a team consisting of Wolfgang Möbius, Dick Söderberg and Peter Reisinger. 

In contrast to so many rivals’ hastily devised, somewhat awkward efforts, Porsche’s solution to the regulations was beautifully integrated and simply engineered. Larger, higher, body-painted bumpers with neoprene rubbing strips were adopted, to which functional ‘bellows’ which compressed on impact were fitted.

The bellows were a neat solution which allowed the bumpers to move as much as 50mm, and were attached to collapsible steel tubes on European cars and hydraulic shock absorbers on US cars. The new bumpers were instrumental in the relocation of the battery, too, the now single battery being located in the luggage compartment in front of the left-hand front wheel, improving the weight distribution.

The rear would see a similarly styled wrap-around bumper hung off a complex aluminium extrusion, the lightweight metal adopted to keep additional mass at the rear to a minimum. Above the rear bumper Porsche adopted a reflective red band, joining the rear lights in with a styling element that’s largely pervaded the 911’s rear visual signature ever since. 

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Porsche Index: 997 Turbo S

History and spec

The Gen2 997 Turbo was an exceptionally accomplished sports car, and we’ve sung its praises many times within these pages. Improving upon such a special recipe was a tall order for the engineers at Zuffenhausen, yet they did exactly that, creating an instant classic.

With just 2,000 made, production amounted to virtually half that of the regular 997.2 Turbo, and those few lucky buyers would have been very impressed with their new purchase.

There was still the same 3.8-litre motor beneath the engine cover, but it had been fettled to produce 530hp and 700Nm of torque – an increase of 30hp and 50Nm respectively. Most of that increase came from turning up the wick on the pair of variable-geometry turbochargers, maximum boost now raised from 1.0 bar to 1.2 bar.

Still directly injected and equipped with VarioCam Plus variable valve timing, the latter had been revised on the intake side and the air intake was fashioned from a carbon weave.

Drive was sent to all four wheels via the seven-speed PDK transmission – Sport Chrono Plus was standard, which meant the addition of launch control – and there was the usual blizzard of driver assistance acronyms in the form of PASM, PTM (Porsche Traction Management) and PTV (Porsche Torque Vectoring).

Despite all of the enticing technology, outright performance wasn’t markedly different from its non-S stablemate, mere fractions of a second shaved from the major benchmarks meaning just modest gains were on offer.

Not that it wasn’t explosively fast as it stood, 0-62mph reeled off in 3.3 seconds and 195mph beckoning if you had the space and nerve. So it had the pace, but reasonably there was a question – one asked in some contemporary road tests – over what buyers were really getting for their additional £17k.

Well, had the buyer ticked the box marked ‘S’ when it came to ordering their 997 Turbo they would have discovered it also came with PCCB brakes as standard, fronted by ‘RS Spyder’ centre-lock wheels. And on top of the already lavish Turbo specification their new purchase boasted the likes of adaptive Sports seats, a six-disc CD/DVD system and a choice of exclusive interior trim colours.

Whether all of that could be viewed as money well spent is open to question, but with the 991 all set to take centre stage this ultimate expression of the 997 Turbo would have been very hard to resist.

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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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August Achleitner: the final interview

April first. April Fools’ Day. A hugely significant day for Porsche, and specifically the 911, as August Achleitner will close his office door at Porsche for the last time, handing the keys over to Frank-Steffen Walliser.

Achleitner’s business cards might say ‘Vice President Product Line 911 and 718’, but he’s long been referred to simply as ‘Mr 911’. He opened the door to that office 18 years ago on 1 April 2001, Dr Dürheimer giving him the job of looking after Porsche’s most famous model.

His leaving is arguably as seismic a change as many of the key points in the 911’s development, Achleitner overseeing the water-cooled era of Porsche, starting with the 996 and signing off with the recently launched 992. You don’t walk straight into a job where you’re responsible for the model that defines a brand. No, when Achleitner removes his nameplate from the door he’ll have been at Porsche for 35 years.

 

It was perhaps inevitable that Achleitner would work for Porsche. He is the son of a vehicle engineer, born in Cologne, Germany, to Austrian parents, while his father was working for Ford before moving to BMW.

The young Achleitner studied engineering in Munich while his father worked at BMW, Achleitner adding economics to his curriculum in a bid to ensure his eventual career path didn’t follow the normal route. “I saw which kind of jobs my former colleagues of my engineering studies had at BMW, and I thought to myself, I don’t agree with that. It’s too small to be responsible for the left door handle. That’s not my target.”

The engineer wouldn’t, of course, start at the top of Porsche, but his ambition and talent undoubtedly dictated his successful career path. He admits always wanting to work for the company, saying: “I was always a Porsche fan, from my childhood. When I joined I was only in engineering because of my additional studies in chassis; I did five years in chassis development.”

A neighbour having a bright-red 356 when he was growing up might have influenced him, too. His first role was with Porsche Engineering, the company’s offshoot that quietly undertakes work for other manufacturers. “At the beginning I had many projects for customers, because Porsche was always doing customer development at that time, more so than today,” says Achleitner.

He admits during this period to being kept busy by BMW, doing some work for Audi and others and also travelling to Detroit to work with Pontiac. Porsche’s own projects started taking over Achleitner’s time, his first work on the 911 relating the brakes. “The only part which I designed and drew by myself that made it to production was the new brake disc off the 964 Turbo,” chuckles Achleitner, admitting that every time he sees one he thinks, ‘I did that’.

A visible contribution there, albeit through the wheel spokes, but it would be what was behind the 964 replacement’s brake discs that would help define Achleitner’s career path. Achleitner was one of the engineers responsible for the Lightweight Stable Agile (LSA), or ‘Weissach’ axle introduced with the 993.

It had been developed in part for the shelved 989 four-door Porsche, the multi-link rear axle being transformational in helping add some predictability to the 911’s dynamic behaviour. That basic rear-axle concept remains to this day, Achleitner saying it’s under the 992, adding: “It’s always a little bit improved, but it’s the same concept. No big changes.”

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