Opinion: Was the Nineties the best decade of Porsche 911s?
As you saw earlier this week, the Nineties hold a special place the memories of the Total 911 team. We all grew up fawning over Zuffenhausen’s spectacular sports cars from this decade of Blur, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.
Mechanically, the current Porsche 911s rolling out of the famed Werks II building have never been better (at least from an objective standpoint). Yet, the 911s of the 1990s hold a special place in my heart.
Is it just nostalgia talking if I say “the Nineties was the best decade for the Porsche 911?” Or, is there merit in the theory that Zuffenhausen’s output between 1990 and 1999 is up there with the very best of the 911’s 51-year history?
The decade started well with the release of the Porsche 964 Carrera 2, a car that rectified the Carrera 4’s understeery foibles with a return to the classic rear-drive layout.
Having driven a Porsche 964 C2 recently (before acrimoniously proclaiming it a better car than the 993), the level of feel and interaction provided is a world away from the slight numbness that can often be felt in the water-cooled generations.
Porsche 911s from the Nineties seem to strike that fantastic mix of involvement and ease of use. Where Porsches from the Eighties (and earlier) can feel somewhat agricultural in comparison, the dawn of power steering made 911s a true everyday prospect.
Similarly, compared to Noughties 911s, Zuffenhausen’s engineers managed to provide Porsche 911s that still retained bags of steering feel, with perfect weighting and carefully metered feedback through the wheel.
The Nineties is also best remembered as the final era of air-cooled Porsche 911s. While hostilities between air and water-cooled fans have eased in recent years, there is still something wonderful knowing your flat six is cooled the same way as Ferry’s original 1963 car.
An air-cooled Porsche 911 at full chat is a sound worthy of Royal Albert Hall and the Nineties provided enthusiasts with the last chance to buy such an aural experience from new, with the 993 Turbo S the last such car to leave the production line in 1998.
There is also a purity to the styling of Nineties Porsche 911s that is maybe only rivalled by the Sixties. While impact bumpers spoiled much of the Seventies and the Eighties, by the time of the 964 (yes, I know it was released in 1989), the designers at Porsche began finding elegant approaches to improving the 911s shape.
While the Porsche 964 shares much of its aesthetic appeal with the classic-shelled 911s that preceded it, the Porsche 993 is one of the most enduring 911s ever created. From some angles it is, quite simply, perfect.
In comparison to today’s fare, both 964s and 993s also retain the dainty proportions that appeal to so many Porsche 911 enthusiasts. The latest 991s are undeniably bloated, whereas 911s of the Nineties still look capable of threading the eye of the needle at warp factor seven.
My rose-tinted ramblings would not be complete without mention of Nineties Rennsports either. After 1974, 911 RS fans had to wait 17 years for de facto Rennsport Porsche 911 (ignoring the motorsport-purposed SC RS).
Not one to do things by halves, the Porsche 964 Carrera RS hit the scene with an emphatic ‘bang’. It restored one of the most evocative badges in 911 folklore and, in true RS spirit feature extensive weight-saving measures. It is no wonder it is so strongly celebrated today.
Similarly, the Porsche 993 Carrera RS that succeeded it is possibly the ultimate embodiment of a Rennsport 911: visually captivating, aurally enthralling and with handling to match, Editor, Lee is still grinning from ear-to-ear after his issue 119 test drive.
Of course, my argument for imploring you to consider the Nineties as the best Porsche 911 decade has, so far, strongly been rooted in the air-cooled cars and their strong classical ties.
The Nineties also saw Porsche look to the future with the introduction of the water-cooled 996. While its looks and reliability in M96 are deservedly questioned, Zuffenhausen needed to modernise the 911 formula if it was going to survive and turn a profit.
Therefore, the Nineties is also an incredibly important decade for the 911 at large, sewing the seeds for future models. After all, if it wasn’t for the introduction of the Porsche 996 GT3 in 1998, we’d never have been awed by the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 12 years later. Surely, that makes Nineties 911s worthy of the plaudits, no?