Opinion: the 911 R is the 991 we’ve all been waiting for
Porsche purists, you are not in a hazy daydream: rub your eyes and pinch yourself, because this is reality – Porsche HAS affixed a manual gearbox to its current Rennsport flat six engine. This revelation has arrived in the form of the new 911 R, a road car ‘built for corners’ and a fitting homage to the original R, a homologated competition special, which celebrates its 50th birthday in 2017.
In fairness, we’ve expected the 991 R for some time now and, frankly, the day of its arrival simply couldn’t come soon enough. Right from the introduction of the 991-generation’s motorsport platform with the GT3 in 2013, long-time Porsche aficionados have had to get used to the absence of that all-important third pedal in the footwell, replaced by paddleshift on the steering wheel as the GT3 platform went PDK only. It was the same story for the Rennsport model revealed last year, too.
While the argument that PDK is necessary in order to improve lap times is true, I can’t help but feel this has been to the detriment of what has for years made Porsche different to other sports car manufacturers. See, Zuffenhausen’s philosophy has always been ‘It’s not how fast you go, it’s how you get there’. It’s why the tachometer is mounted centrally in the instrument panel of any 911, after all.
To that ilk, GT and Rennsport 911s have always celebrated the ‘pure’ driving experience in its most exhilarating light and while the 991 GT3 and 991 GT3 RS are brilliant cars, there’s no getting away from the fact they’re just not as exciting to pilot as their forebears, unless you’re on the very limit. Purists agree and have long called on Porsche for a return of the traditional shifter, a wish that’s been administered with the 991R unveiled at the 86th Geneva International Motor Show this week. Even better, this short-shift manual ‘box has just six forward gears, doing away with the long 7th ratio found on all 991 Carreras.
The entire premise of the 911R is refreshingly palatable. Weighing 1,370kilograms (that’s 50kilograms lighter than the 991 GT3 RS), the 991R is a true lightweight by modern standards. The small GT steering wheel has done away with its multi-function gubbins, and the option of a lightweight flywheel mated to what could be the last naturally aspirated Porsche flat six further enhances its purist sporting intent.
Porsche could have gone further with its traditional, lightweight intentions, though. The R’s active rear axle no doubt aids stability in the absence of any fixed rear wing, but the caveat here is added weight. Conversely, PCCBs are a lightweight option over cast iron ‘Big Red’ brakes, but the reality is PCCBs just aren’t necessary on a car for the road, and take away a degree of feel for the driver too (the lack of pedal travel required to scrub speed makes heel and toe difficult).
Regardless, the 991R has answered the prayers of those wishing for a ‘proper’ performance Porsche 911 again and is arguably the most exciting model since the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 of 2010. Lets just hope this latest engineering marvel will be used for spirited road use as it was intended – though with Porsche 918 owners given first choice for buying one of the 991 available, I’m not holding my breath.
Do you agree? Comment below or tweet us @Total911 with your thoughts.