Opinion: Is the Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera over-hyped?

Even to people with scant interest in cars, the 3.2 Carrera is instantly recognisable as a Porsche 911. For enthusiasts of a certain generation, the Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera is the 911, an icon among icons.

It holds a special place in the hearts of many Porsche fans, as shown by the rapidly appreciating values. Yet I cannot for the life of me understand why so mainly people hold the 3.2 Carrera in such high esteem.

With 70,044 examples sold between 1984 and 1989, the 3.2 Carrera is easily the most successful 911 ever in terms of sales but this came at a time when it was the only 911 in Porsche’s range.

The model’s success coincided with a large period of worldwide economic growth: the Eighties was boom time in many of Porsche’s biggest market. It was the era of the Yuppie and the 3.2 Carrera quickly became their symbol.

Does the 3.2 Carrera deserve its overwhelmingly positive reputation?
Does the 3.2 Carrera deserve its overwhelmingly positive reputation?

In my mind, the 3.2 Carrera’s sales figures are not a result of the car’s excellence though. Porsche could have put a bigger engine in the 911 SC and it would have sold just as well thanks to the growing affluence of the decade.

But, by being in the right place at the right time, the 3.2 Carrera sold in the tens of thousands, putting plenty of brand new Porsche 911s out onto the roads and forcing the car and its silhouette into the public’s consciousness. 26 years later, this is undoubtedly one of the reason’s behind its popularity.

On top of this, the Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera was the car that signalled the continuation of the neinelfer legacy after Peter Schutz famously overturned his predecessor’s plans to stop 911 production in 1981.

Everything 911 that has subsequently rolled out of Werks II has the 3.2 Carrera’s success to thank for its very existence meaning that, within Porsche circles especially, the 3.2 Carrera has carved a very special place for itself within Zuffenhausen history.

The numbers say one thing but the shove from the 3.2-litre flat six doesn't back it up, says Josh.
The numbers say one thing but the shove from the 3.2-litre flat six doesn’t back it up, says Josh.

Yet the proof of any Porsche 911 is truly in the driving and I feel that the 3.2 Carrera just doesn’t stack up against its illustrious forebears and excellent successors enough to justify its overwhelmingly positive reputation.

The 3.2-litre engine was, at the time, the most powerful naturally aspirated 911 fitted to a production version however, thanks to the car’s 1,210kg base weight, it actually feels pretty gutless. ‘Slow’ is always a matter of degrees in Porsche 911s but the 3.2 Carrera often feels glacial, even if the figures suggest otherwise.

At the bottom of the rev range you would struggle to believe that the engine produced more torque than any production 911 that preceded it such is the lack of low-down shove.

Similarly, the power delivery is extremely linear compared to the previously peaky flat sixes, which removes the sudden kick-up-the-backside at high revs. Combined with the motor’s bassy rumble, it lacks the vicious, trebly character that makes earlier cars so enchanting.

The 3.2 Carrera is not dynamically outstanding enough to make it a Porsche 911 icon.
The 3.2 Carrera is not dynamically outstanding enough to make it a Porsche 911 icon.

Early cars featured the notoriously recalcitrant 915 gearbox however, while the five-speed G50 replacement was a huge improvement, it still suffers from a long throw that all helps to make the 911 3.2 Carrera feel quite sedate and mundane.

The extra mass (some 150kg more than many of the pre-impact generation 911s) also makes itself felt in the 3.2 Carrera’s dynamics. The steering – while feelsome – is much heavier than early cars while the chassis feels exponentially less nimble.

Inside, the interior saw little revision over the G-Series cars that preceded it and must have felt a little dated, especially by the time the 3.2 Carrera was being readied for replacement in the late Eighties.

The controls and various buttons continue to be scattered around the cockpit supposedly haphazardly while the steering wheel, with its off-centre rectangular hub certainly isn’t going to win any design awards.

Not a bad place to sit but there are plenty of better 911 cockpits both before and since.
Not a bad place to sit but there are plenty of better 911 cockpits both before and since.

I know that there was very little development time dedicated to the 3.2 Carrera but it doesn’t feel like much of an improvement over the 911 SC, especially given the former is held in much higher esteem.

Maybe the 3.2 Carrera’s dynamic deficiencies are outweighed by its historical significance and that is why some many people love this particular Porsche 911 but, for me, it is actually one of the most disappointing 911s. A true case of ‘don’t believe the hype’.

Do you agree with Josh? Is the 3.2 Carrera over-hyped? Join the debate in the comments section or head to our Faceboook or Twitter pages now.

Comments (16)

  • Gregor Park

    Which 911’s would Josh put ahead of the 3.2 Carrera?

  • Jose Archer

    I completly disagree with you, the 3.2 carrera is one of the best 911 ever, and for some people probably the best one, even for today standards is still a very fast car, much faster than the sc.( super carrera)
    The handling is outstanding as the reliability is bulletproof with some still crusing today with 300.000 km and even more.
    I understand that you prefer the s.c, is more easy to drive, is lighter and the looks are very similar, but the 3.2 was great a improvement that gave to G.model the perfect car and the best porsche made in the 80’s. The brakes were much better (the brakes of the sc are not good)the bosch injection was much better, and was the first porsche 911 that you could actualy drive everyday.

  • john duong

    That is why they call this magazine Total964 magazine.

  • Geeee

    Totally greed! i have a very early ’86 Carrera 3.2 with 212.000 km on it….still a 6 sec 0-100 kmh car after we bought brand new directly in Stuttgart…the improove between the SC and the 3.2 is very little but is consistant!! You actually feel the 30 cv more and the 3.2 instead of the 3.0 when you drive an SC and when you drive a Carrera. Acceleration, speed and handling, everything is much proper on the 3.2. The same engine is very different in terms of performance and reliability. This is the fact because i see a lot of 3.2 still used as daily cars. SC are more for events and collectors (like the 3.2). I believe that if you drive the car with wisdom and attention the car can very surprend you. I’ve already drove a perfect mint condition ’84 911 SC fully restored in Porsche and an ’84 untouched 3.2 Carrera with 250.000 km….and the 3.2 still performing more than the SC…after 32 years….

  • Geeee

    So, i totally disagree with the article

  • Steven Crawford Pidcock

    Absolute rubbish. The 3.2 is a beautifully balanced car with more than enough performance and torque. It’s no GT3 but that is to miss the point, superbly communicative chassis, intoxicating soundtrack, beautifully built. An icon.

  • Robert Spinello

    My uncle has had em all 60s 912, 70 911S, 73 911T, 88 3.2. 99 convt…etc. He said the same thing..the 3.2 felt heavy..I’m going with a 76-77 911S or a 911SC as my first Porsche.

  • Robert Spinello

    My uncle has had em all 60s 912, 70 911S, 73 911T, 88 3.2. 99 convt…etc. He said the same thing..the 3.2 felt heavy..I’m going with a 76-77 911S or a 911SC as my first Porsche. Price is important too as they are more similar than not anyway.

  • Robert Spinello

    I want a Porsche that I can drive once or twice a week that doesn’t break the bank..so a 911SC it is.

  • Robert Spinello

    Probably all of them after 1969!

  • Steven Crawford Pidcock

    Because the 3.2 is worth more. It’s a better car you see.

  • Steven Crawford Pidcock

    I have owned 3 3.2’s and covered 100k miles in them.
    One of them, featured in 911 and Porsche world and had a 993 engine and many other upgrades effected by Nineister in Warrington.
    This car was easily the best of the three but to use the word glacial is ridiculous. Standard for standard car the SC isn’t in the same league. It isn’t just on paper. My cars were all lightened to an extent but nothing extreme and I never met or drove an SC that was as quick or with brakes that were as good.
    The 3.2 along with my 996.2 GT3 and current 996.2 C2 are my favourites. Of course the 3.2’s are glacial and the 996 C2 has a rubbish engine that will explode or score its bores. The GT3 wasn’t a “proper” 911 because it’s headlights are the “wrong” shape.
    I clearly like underdogs !
    Worst 911 series? The lumpen and boring 997 C2 and S models. Do not feel like a 911 at all. Had them both. 3 months each. Then there’s the 964. Always disliked the shape (bumpers). Always will. Drove the RS. Marvellous.
    Any 911 can be criticised but to spank the 3.2 is real blasphemy !

  • Steven Crawford Pidcock

    Earlier cars felt more visceral but are relics from a bygone age. In a straight line even the best of the old 911 series is hardly a true high performance car by modern standards. Lovely things of course and charming and perhaps a great investment. Many 911 fans can not afford really old ones or more recent ones. Many were stuck in the 3.2 cars and now many are in the same position with the 996 series. I have zero experience of the 991 but have owned 997, S and 996. I prefer the look and experience of the 996 all day. Can’t afford a 991 and the 3.2 in standard form just isn’t quick enough after the other cars I have owned, even as a 3.2 nut I could not justify paying £50K for a good standard one. They are simply not special enough

  • Steven Crawford Pidcock

    Big mistake. Huge.

  • Steven Crawford Pidcock

    Me too. It’s total garbage.

  • Steven Crawford Pidcock

    Whatever he drives I expect 😂😂