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.

Porsche 964 static
A mix of classic yet modern, the 964 has a strong appeal for many 911 enthusiasts.

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.

Porsche 964 driving
Dynamically, Josh feels the 964 is up there as one of the best 911 generations.

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’.

Porsche 993 static
Aesthetically, the Porsche 993 divides opinion.

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.

Porsche 993 driving
The 993’s driving experience is good. But Josh prefers 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?

Is the 964 better than the 993? Have your say in the comments below, or head to our Facebook and Twitter pages to join the debate now.

[PIC]

Comments (26)

  • Ernest Johansmeier

    I have always been a huge fan of the 964. Now 20+ years later, they are getting the recognition they deserve. I think they are 1000 times better looking than a 993, which looks awkward and an after thought.

  • Alain El Hage Moussa

    The 964?is the most engaging Porsche experience ever.
    It’s the one you truly feel connected to.
    You are part of the car and that is mainly due to the intense feed back you get from all its parts.

  • Steve Rolfe

    I love my 964 – wouldn’t trade it for anything. I would also add, that the 964 Tiptronic is a really drivable ‘in traffic’ car – not just a weekend warrior.

  • Alejandro San Martin

    993. The best 911 by far.

  • SJW

    From a build quality POV, yes,……the 964 was the last of the hand-built cars. Performance-wise, the 993 is superior in every respect. Each person has their own preference and both are really great cars.

  • Simon Milton

    Josh looks like an accountant turned lumberjack

  • tl

    Josh must be kidding … the 993 was the best of the air-cooled cars and is widely regarded as the pinnacle of 911 evolution.

  • tl

    Tiptronic … nuff said!

  • tl

    The 993 was the last of the hand built cars. Read the book … Excellence was expected.

  • tl

    The 964 has the fat bumper look that was fixed with the 993 design.

  • SJW

    I did read the book and spoke with Ludvigsen several years ago about it. Porsche started using robots for PART of the chassis spot welding on the 993’s. Later cars were all assembled and welded via automation.

    No robots were used in any part of the 964’s assembly.

  • UberFisch

    That watch…..

  • Alex

    I have had the opportunity to own a 993 first and then a 964. My feeling tells me that 993 is a more “modern” car to drive as comparing to the 964. The technology advancement in 993 let me drive the car faster without feeling losing control. The grip from the back wheels are enormous and it gives instant acceleration every time when you press the gas paddle. I feel the 964 has a slightly different personality and perhaps because it is tuned towards race car driving behaviour. As I am not a race car driver, I cannot unlash the wildness (or fun) of the 964. As I learn more about traditional sports car day by day, I start to appreciate the characteristic of 964. In my mind, the 964 design inherits the traditional sport car character and you do need more intensively engage with the car to appreciate its characteristic. The 993 is “modernised” and you can drive very fast and feel very safe and you don’t need to be an extreme sport car enthusiast to get the fun out from it. Depending on what state of mind your in or stage in your life, you will appreciate them differently. I wish I can own both, you can go wild with 964 once in a while and 993 for everyday comfort use. The similarity of both models is their engines play the same musical note that is unmistaken from any air-cooled 911. Forget Bose or Burmester!

  • Basil Tan

    I think the 964 is certainly a very nice air-cooled 911, however, I am still bias towards the 993 as it handles better (for me at least) and I prefer the overall design/shape. I have enjoyed a 993 C2 for more than 3 years while living in Singapore and now I managed to find an excellent example of a 993 Turbo in Malaysia and it is unbeatable in terms of driving experience….what can I say : )

  • Is the Porsche 964 Carrera a better car than the 993? Simple answer, NO….

  • Geoff

    Don’t knock what you don’t know mate to many do this and
    rubbish great cars. All the faults talked about the Tip 964, I have yet to find them.

  • Alejandro

    It’s a rather contentious issue, deciding on the “better” 911 of either the 964 or the 993. For this matter may I paraphrase from the wisest man alive: “Give the 964’s the vote on classical, ‘purist look’, while give the 993’s the award for the better handling (for an air-cooled 911)”.

    The 964 is unmistakable the better looking of the two (if you honor the classics). I can recall back when it was launched late 1980’s, the “new” 964s were criticized for their overly “modern” look, and cried sacrilege back then. Mainly in lieu of the then derided “fat bumpers”. Boy, how times do change.

    Certainly even non-car persons can attest the overkill solid quality of a 964 the instant they open a door and close it again with a most reassuring “ka-chomp” sound akin a precision Swiss watch. This feature alone is worth the price for a well-cared 964.

    On the other hand, even with the “revo-evolutionary” step from the “classic” 911 to the 964, a few years later Porsche re-designs their flagship model into the 993: The latest and greatest handling air-cooled 911. A modern multi-link rear suspension made handling a bit less of a chore, while still rewarding the driver who dares to find the gripping limits of its rear wheels. It even kept the thick, granite-like steel build and no-nonsense mechanical “serviceability” of the 964. What more could you ask for? Oh, yeah. The headlamps were streamlined in search for a more aerodynamic profile. And, yeah. The 993’s steering wheel is just fugly. So? So it was the 964’s.

    Porsche, like any carmaker, designs their cars to entice drivers into buying their product right now. They didn’t designed in 1993 their 993 to future-proof car collectors some 25 years into the future. That’s a bonus. They were competing against the sleekness of Ferrari’s Testarossa (Miami Vice) and catering connoisseurs for the likeness to their über 911: the 959. The 993, as whole, really made sense back then and more so today.

    There was no way on Earth that Porsche could had justified an upright headlamps arrangement right in the middle of the 1990s. That is, unless they were looking to be valued for a Morgan-esque “tradition”, instead of being valued for what Porsches have always been good at: making rewarding sports cars with the greatest technology currently available. If you wanted “classic” headlamps back in 1993, why not considered buying an old Beetle? Oh! Now you remember why… Revolution!

  • Robert tongue

    having owned a 964 C4 a 996 GT3 CS mk1 and a 997 Turbo Gen 1 I can say that the 997 was blindingly quick but only felt special at 8/10s the GT3 CS was a gokart but with its single mass flywheel and race seats not an everyday road car. And the Red manual 964 left a more lasting impression on my drive from Switzerland to the south of france .. I was also pleased to get back into the 964 after using an early tiptronic boxster loan car while my 964 was in for service The 964 felt sold nimble and small.. even if it didn’t have the speed of the turbo or GT3 , ultimately more usable and therefore more fun ! which is why I am in the market for a 964 coupe again

  • Ronald Swift

    Well, is the 964 better?

    Absolutely, but not for the fluff reasons included in this article which has it all wrong.

    The 964 is better because its a better design from the suspension to the engine its superior to the 993. You can look at the specs on paper and think the 993 is the superior car. However, if you actually knew anything about mechanical design inside the motor you would find they are almost identical.

    So, why is the 964 superior to the 993? Well, both suffer from the same problem called emissions and the 993’s new cylinder heads do run a bit cooler then the previous generation due to some oil channels having an effect on temperature. However, those oil channels are required because of the hydraulic lifters. Which, might sound good because of no valve adjustments but they require softer ramp rates and cannot cope with sustained high RPM or high lift use like the previous generation. The 964 setup allows for more aggressive camshaft designs and better high RPM control. This means, that the 964 motor has far more easily gained potential then the 993

    The emissions problem regardless of car should go out the window. If you own a 964 or 993 you need to remove the catalyst and a free flowing exhaust will also help. Help what you say? Keeping your motor alive. The high temps/back pressure of the catalyst cause for increased cylinder head temps. This is why you see such exotic materials used in the heads but even with those materials heat will cause valve guide/valve seal issues to come early.

    Also, when it comes to suspension the front end is identical but the multi-link rear on the 993 leaves alot to be desired. While its overal grip level is higher when properly adjusted it fails to communicated to the driver in the way of a 964. How many 993’s have properly adjusted suspension? I am going to guess less then 25% because most people don”t know of the kinematic toe adjustment or don’t understand how to properly adjust it.

  • Stephen Bucksey

    OK having owned (in vintage order but not ownership order)a 3.2 carrera, 964 c4, 993 C2s, 996 c2 and C4S, 997 c2 and C4, 997 turbo 1 and 2, 997 GTS,991 GT3…….they are all different and it depends on what you look for …interestingly the only 2 I still have are the 964 and 993….lucky me.
    Both are suspended on KW v3 and sensible road mods and I can say I have a preference for drivability and the leaning towards torque that this brings …. my vote is with the 964……if I get down to one I suspect it’ll be the keeper ….. it gives me the elegant Porsche experience of a lazy torquey tourer and a massively quick and agile mad sunday car

  • JT

    If you need someone to proofread your next article, I’m available at reasonable rates. Here are two for free – Likes? Lacks. Coupled…. with?

  • Richard Harrold

    Hipsters…

  • Stephen Bucksey

    Got both fortunately ….a C4 964 and a C2 993 … If it had to be one it’d be the 964 .. Less BHP but torque down at the bottom end …preciseness on the road IMHO is better even with two extra wheels driving …and then there’s the classic feel….

  • Gene Whitman

    But due to financial stresses on Porsche, in order to save money, the 964 body was scaled back, not as ‘overbuilt’ as the SC and Carreras.

  • boslapet

    Had 993s for about 10 years now, and recently bought a 964 C2 manual. The 964 is a very different car, much more tail-happy and chuck-able.
    Porschwise, the 993 is more beautiful and easier to live with day-to-day, the 964 is a hoot, demanding that you grab it by the scruff of the neck. It’s the old story: Horses for courses 🙂

  • GLK

    People wax on about the 993 being better “performance-wise” but, that depends on how you define performance. The 964 is a more tactile car that requires a more sophisticated level of appreciation. The 993 is a car in which any idiot can pretend he’s a race car driver with the added bonus of the 993 being seriously ugly. So you 993 fellas keep making excuses, the knowledgable out there know what’s up.