Stairway to Heaven – Porsche 911R vs Honda NSX


The Honda doesn’t have the Porsche’s force of personality, that’s clear

And yet. And yet I wonder whether I’d have had an even better time in a GT3 RS. There is something in that car’s relentless focus and determination that I find utterly addictive. So while John and Andy start to take photography, I go and drive the R some more. Not hard, just letting it flex itself, enjoying the flow. Now we’re talking. The act of driving is compelling, you break it down into a process: braking, turning, accelerating, further dissecting each element, concentrating on what the car is doing, feeling it work. And at everyday speeds, it’s delectable. Personally, although it runs narrower tyres than the RS (305, instead of 325-width rear rubber), I still reckon it has too much grip, but there’s no faulting the gearchange, the response from chassis or engine, the chuntering, howling flat-six. It’s sublime. I just bathe in the experience. And later that day, in my own sweat, too.

Better than the GT3 RS? Nah, just even more hyped… to the extent that I firmly believed this would be the single greatest car I’d ever drive, the one-stop shop answer to fast driving. It’s not, could never be, as good as the hype suggests, but Porsche has succeeded in making it feel substantially different, to perform a different role to the GT3 RS. The weird thing is that on road, where the R is targeted, I think I’d prefer the RS, while for track work, the R might well be the one. Maybe that’s just me. Either way, what we’re looking at here is a sensational piece of machinery.

There’s a fair chance the Grossglockner is the smoothest, most varied, gobsmacking, best maintained and interesting pass in the entire Alps. It has tunnels, cobbles, lakes, branch lines, viewing platforms, cafes and, near one col, it unnecessarily loops a mountain just to give travellers another view. This is thoughtful, artful road building, designed not simply to provide a route across the mountains, but to give travellers an experience. Maybe that’s why the Porsche feels so well matched to it. Anyway, as a result of all this it gets busy: coach parties, panting pedallers, car clubs – by 10am, the Grossglockner is a conveyor belt of swivel-headed gawping. It’s not until 4pm that peace returns – the tourists descend by whatever wheeled contraption brought them up, and I nab the NSX for 45 minutes. I want to drive the southern flank of the pass, then branch west to see the Pasterze glacier and the Grossglockner mountain itself, the highest point in Austria. It’s not as magnificent as I’d hoped – the road to it lacks the star quality of the main route and the glacier which must have once filled this valley is retreating, leaving a deep, dirty scar. It makes me feel a bit flat. The trouble is, so does the NSX.

The Honda doesn’t have the Porsche’s force of personality, that much is clear. It demands nothing of you and is too meek and benign at road speeds. And not just in comparison to the R. In Sport, the stability control constantly badgers me, so I up it to Sport+, which has the harder ride I don’t really want. Plus it still understeers through steering that lacks bite and texture, while the engine note is dreary at medium revs. The trouble is that the NSX has been engineered to be everyday usable for 60-year-old American dentists. So it rides very well indeed in Sport, it’s quiet and there’s a consistency to its components and a cohesiveness to its behaviour that’s rather becoming. It’s very, very polished.porsche-vs-honda-5

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