The twins that define perfection… …for very different reasons
Human beings have a habit of wistfully wishing for a future that contains more of the past, and more often than not these retrospective yearnings are badly misplaced. Anyone denouncing the 2016 Formula One season as tripe would do well to watch some mid-Eighties turbo-era races from the “Golden Era” to remind themselves of the yawn-fest it usually became. But in the world of driving, it is hard to escape the fact that the older ways might well be more fun. The Porsche 911R is evidential proof.
You have to choose your vocabulary quite carefully when describing this machine, not least because calling a 911 “backwards-looking” musters images of Seventies Porsches entering shrubbery on damp days. But this is a performance car from yesterday: it uses a 493bhp atmospheric motor, accessed through a six-speed manual gearbox. It has no hybridity, torque – vectoring or delusions of being anything other than a car to enjoy. It would have had no rear steering had Porsche found a way to argue that it didn’t improve the driving experience. But it couldn’t, so it remained.
This is a car whose philosophical presence far outweighs its mechanical achievements. Porsche took all the expensive bits from a 991 GT3 RS, binned the wide body and wing plumage and developed the manual transmission it promised it would never develop when it announced its new paddle-only future with the 991 GT3 back in 2013. In short, Porsche responded to public pressure and made the 911 that 911 saddos wanted.
The results exceed expectations: that yowling six feels 50bhp stronger than it does attached to a dual-clutch transmission, the chassis draws you into the experience in a way no other competitor can and, of course, the gearchange is a thing of wonder. The 911 R moves the narrative of performance away from Nürburgring lap times and other such nonsense to the nitty-gritty of simply enjoying the way a car drives, and how it makes the driver feel. And in this most fundamental category it is one of the best performance cars ever built.