Opinion: Is the new Porsche 911 R too cynical?
Both on paper and in the metal, the new Porsche 911 R looks incredible. A widebody 991 with no visible aerodynamic devices, a manual gearbox and the latest GT3 RS’s 4.0-litre flat six is more than enough to get the hearts of Porsche purists racing.
However, there is a (large) part of me that can’t help but feel, despite all the marketing spiel about the new Neunelfer being a car for those who love fast road driving, that the 991 R’s is actually a rather cynical solution to the increasingly digital performance cars that roll out of Weissach.
The RS engine, magnesium roof and 918-style carbon bucket seats are all nice touches. However, none of them are unique to the Porsche 911 R. Even the ‘Pepita’ interior cloth and green-numbered dials have been seen before on the 991 platform thanks to the 50th Anniversary Edition car.
Pretty much the only bespoke component on the R is the six-speed manual gearbox and you can hardly call a transmission you have to shift yourself “revolutionary”. To my more cynical side, the whole thing feels more like a parts bin special, albeit possibly one of the best parts bin specials every built.
This in itself doesn’t necessarily make it a bad car. After all, one of my favourite Porsche 911s ever – the 964 Carrera 4 Lightweight, as tested in issue 131 – could very well be tarred with the same brush.
However, the mechanical side of things is not where I have my main gripe with the Porsche 991 R; I’m sure that, of all people at Zuffenhausen and Weissach, Andreas Preuninger set out with the purists’ best intentions at heart.
Instead, it feels as if the marketing men are the one’s exploiting the purist mantra, setting a list price for the 911 R that is a significant chunk higher than that of a 991 GT3 RS, despite the fact the latter undoubtedly provides more performance.
It’s a classic case of Porsche charging more but getting less, not that this really matters as it is unlikely that many of the driving enthusiasts this car has purportedly been designed for will ever get behind the wheel of a 991 R.
Like the latest Rennsport, simply getting on the order list has been a clandestine affair, with allocation a task that is ultimately down to each individual OPC (and therefore varies accordingly).
As a hugely limited edition car, this means that, just like the 911 GT3 RS, the majority of Porsche 991 Rs are likely to find their way into the hands of collectors (and therefore never driven) or, more depressingly, speculators looking to make a quick and significant profit flipping the car on.
I understand the arguments that suggest if Porsche didn’t limit production, the uptake for the 911 R would be minimal but, it seems that Porsche has almost taken the easy way out when it comes to selling this particular Neunelfer.
Maybe, ultimately, this is the fault of purists. Internet talk is cheap and history suggests that Porsche’s traditionalists often don’t stump up for extreme, hardcore offerings. However, from my perspective at least, it seems that the 911 R may be nothing more than a cynical marketing stunt, rather than a true Porsche.