Stairway to Heaven – Porsche 911R vs Honda NSX

Perhaps too polished. This speaks of a car that’s had a long gestation, is trying to be all things to all people, but doesn’t have a particular specialism. It feels neither a product of Japan, nor America, but somewhere in-between. It doesn’t have an eco mindset, but neither is it an out-and-out charger. It’s too good-natured. The driving has more than a hint of Lexus about it – a Civic Type-R is notably more assertive and aggressive. Then a couple of days later it would proceed to deeply impress and surprise us on track – but that’s another story. Out here, the NSX is almost effete alongside the pumping testosterone of the 911 R. It’s not that the Porsche is macho – it’s just precise and pure. And light. The NSX, over 400kg heavier, needs its two turbos and e-motors to accelerate slower and return the same 18.2mpg fuel economy. What does this tell us? Draw your own conclusions. But the Porsche is the car I chose for one last fang across the pass.

porsche-vs-honda-7The following day, we roll up outside the Helmut Pfeifhofer Porsche museum in Gmund. It’s quaint and personal, and we meet Helmut himself, who went to school with Wolfgang Porsche. But the real highlight is a couple of kilometres north of town. Helmut’s son Christoph takes us to the original Porsche Werks building. Parking the NSX on the hallowed turf would have felt sacrilegious, so we leave it at the local football pitch opposite and take the R through the rickety wooden gates. Inside we learn that the original 356 was designed in this shed, on these drawing boards. Outside, the 911 R ticks gently. It looks settled, content, like it’s come home, a car capable of linking arms with 1948 and 2016 and not missing a beat. The sense of time having passed and yet the focus remaining the same is powerful. But I can’t help but think that old Ferry Porsche would find it puzzling that in a world capable of creating cars as advanced as the Honda NSX, we still want to drive a throwback, to drive simple. Maybe that says something about the cars; more likely it says something about the human condition.

A guide to the Grossglockner

On 3 August 1935, after five years of construction, the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrosse was formally opened. The following day, the first race up it took place. The course was 19.5km long and the surface was sand. There weren’t many barriers. The mind boggles. In 1938 and 1939 the German automotive superpowers came: Hans Stuck muscled his Type C Auto Union to victory first, with Hermann Lang winning the following year in a Mercedes-Benz W125. And that was it. WWII arrived and hillclimbing never returned to the Grossglockner. Today, it attracts a million visitors per year. Make the effort to get up early— it’s worth it.

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