Opinion: Is the Porsche 964 Carrera a better car than the 993?
Over the years, many of Zuffenhausen’s detractors have labelled Porsche’s 50-year development of the 911 platform lazy, no doubt driven by the model’s period of aesthetic stagnation seen during the mid-Seventies and Eighties.
However, while the same stick is often used to beat the Porsche 911 today, to those of us in the know, it is clear to see both the visual and mechanical advances made by the team at Porscheplatz as each new 911 generation is unveiled.
Porsche wouldn’t release a new 911 platform if it didn’t truly believe it to be better than its predecessor, with the current Porsche 991 a strong case in point. Technologically at least, the jump forward from the 997 is akin to the change from air to water-cooling.
Having now driven every generation of Porsche 911 though, the thought occurred to me that, during Zuffenhausen’s first real period of neunelfer revolution, they may not have actually made a stride forward with one particular generation switch.
Upon its release in 1989 (initially in Carrera 4 guise) the Porsche 964 marked the biggest change to the 911 in its then-25-year history, with the engineers in Stuttgart claiming 85 per cent of the new sports car’s componentry had been revised.
The Porsche 964 Carrera has taken some time to reach the level of respect it now commands but, driving one today, it is hard to see why. It is an instantly invigorating experience.
Steering a 964 is intuitive, with the lithe chassis ably coping with any twist or turn you throw at it. Turn in is instant, with the feedback from wheel keeping you in constant communication with the road surface.
Its excellent dynamics are aided by the wonderful M64 flat six engine, which provides a swell of torque low down, while retaining that wonderful howling Porsche 911 soundtrack at the upper reaches of the rev counter.
The icing on the cake is the car’s charming mix of classic 911 silhouette and modern touches. The Porsche 964 is a truly usable day-to-day proposition while still retaining the aesthetic and dynamic engagement so prized by Porsche ‘purists’.
By comparison, the Porsche 993 Carrera – the 964’s equally revolutionary successor – is, from the front at least, almost unrecognisable as a 911. 1993 certainly brought about an abrupt aesthetic change of direction at Zuffenhausen.
I’m never sure if I actually like the 993’s styling. From certain front-on angles it looks flabby, while the sweeping curves lack some of the aggressiveness of the 964. It looks like a less purposeful machine from the outside.
To a degree, this is mirrored in the driving experience. The multi-link rear suspension gives prodigious amounts of grip and feel however, this creates much more understeer in the middle of corners than the 964.
The Porsche 993 can still be an engaging drive, mainly thanks to its excellent steering, but it lacks the liveliness that makes its predecessor so captivating. Coupled with the noticeable pedal offset and the ugly steering wheel and I’d rather be in the 964’s cockpit.
While the 993’s engine betters the M64 in all of the usual ‘Top Trump’ areas, subjectively, there feels like there is less punch in the mid-range (maximum torque does arrive 200rpm higher in the 993). Because of this, the 964 feels faster, even if a stopwatch would deny this.
Therefore, having driven both, the point I am making is: did Porsche actually go backwards with the 993? Is the 964 actually a better, more enjoyable car? I’m inclined to think so. What do you think?