Opinion: Is Porsche really gearing up to build special 911s again?
Earlier this week, we announced that Zuffenhausen is potentially going to launch a Porsche 991 R at Geneva Motor Show next March, rekindling an iconic badge that hasn’t been seen on a neunelfer since 1967.
The car is set to get some form of the 991 GT3’s high-revving 9A1 flat six engine but without the dramatic motorsport-inspired aerodynamics. With narrower tyres in the mix too, the rumoured 991 R will focus more on driver involvement than out-and-out pace.
Yesterday, whispers of a Porsche 991 GT3 RSR road car (yes, really) also emerged, with rumours that Weissach is also planning a more hardcore version of the latest 911 GT3 RS that would, in effect, be a road legal version of the FIA World Endurance Championship racer.
While the latter definitely sounds like a pipedream (though it would explain why the latest WEC racer was designated ‘911 RSR’ rather than ‘911 GT3 RSR’ as on the 996 and 997 generations) the idea of a 911 R definitely seems credible.
Suggestions of a back-to-basics Porsche 911 have been floating around for a while, ever since Zuffenhausen trademarked the ‘GT5’ moniker in May. At the time, the rumours suggested a simplified 911 – possible badged as the Carrera GT – that would put driver engagement to the fore over outright speed.
Porsche has previous experience of building such cars, with the 911 3.2 Clubsport in the Eighties and the 964 Carrera 4 Lightweight standing as testament to Zuffenhausen’s special, niche builds.
However, since that duo, times have certainly changed at Porsche, not least because of the recent diesel emissions crisis for parent company, Volkswagen. Is a special Porsche 991 limited to just 600 examples really the sort of thing Zuffenhausen can afford to produce right now?
Even before Volkswagen’s stock price crashed last month, Jürgen Barth (creator of the 964 C4 Lightweight) felt “the factory has got too big now” to build special Porsche 911s.
And now, former Porsche CEO, Matthias Müller (now head of VW) confirmed last week that there would be “a review of all planned investments, and what isn’t absolutely vital will be cancelled or delayed.”
“I will be completely clear: this won’t be painless,” he explained at a press conference last week. That doesn’t sound like good news for a Porsche 911 that is likely to only appeal to a minority of new Porsche buyers.
On the flip side, as part of the fallout from the VW scandal, Porsche has been given more autonomy within the Volkswagen Group and, as the brand pushes further into the volume market with the hugely successful Macan, there will be some at Zuffenhausen who want the brand to retain its core identity.
That, of course, is building exciting sports cars (specifically rear-engined ones with a ‘911’ badge beneath the decklid grill). A 991 R with a manual gearbox would certainly show that Porsche hasn’t forgotten its roots at a time when all brands within the VW group need return to doing the basics well.