Top five Porsche drives of 2015 – Lee’s picks

The past twelve months have been exceptional for Total 911. In the year we hosted our inaugural Total 911 Awards, we also got behind the wheel of some truly exquisite 911s in our bid to provide you with world-leading Porsche journalism across our website, magazine and digital specials.

While that may sound a tad self-indulgent, it goes without saying the biggest delight we have here is sharing our experiences at the wheel of such great steers exclusively with you, our fanatical Total 911 readership. So, here’s the top five Porsche 911s I’ve had the pleasure of steering this year:

5) Porsche 911T 2.0-litre

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Surprised? So was I. Back in issue 127 we got behind the wheel of the first and last 911T to chart the evolution of the first entry-level 911. By the end of the test, I actually found favour with the short wheelbase, 2.0-litre variant over the (slightly) more contemporary 2.4. To get the 911T moving, you have to live in the final third of the rev range, really wringing its neck to get anywhere near ‘fast’.

The best thing is, this sensation can be achieved well within legal speed limits on the road and, complete with the early T’s ‘dogleg’ first gear and a cool rasp on induction from the carburettors, this classic 911 has bundles of charm. It’s no daily driver but the thrill of driving the first T was only bettered by four other Porsches for me this year.

4) Porsche 3.2 Speedster

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Speedsters: you either love ‘em or you don’t. I’ve long found peace with this 911’s altered silhouette and am fascinated by the degree of engineering that’s been plied into making this car aesthetically pleasing and practical to own (have you ever seen the brilliantly-shaped door glass on an air-cooled 911 Speedster?).

Our group test of every Porsche Speedster in issue 129 made for an exciting comparison along the Sussex Downs, but the 3.2 Speedster was the one I was most enamoured with. Despite not drawing on the original 356’s spartan-inspired interior as with the later 964, the 3.2’s more agricultural approach to the 911 was most enchanting, complemented of course by that amenable G50 gearbox. It’s the perfect boulevard cruiser.

3) Porsche 991 GT3

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Thanks to the 2014 recall (we won’t talk about the 2015 recall just yet) I didn’t get the chance to climb behind the wheel of this latest GT3 until summer with our head-to-head test with the 997.2 GT3 RS in issue 131.

The wait was well worth it: the 991 GT3 is a sublime machine that’s blessed with breathtaking pace and exquisite poise – not to mention that ungodly exhaust howl every time the crank spins up to 9,000rpm. Feeling unshakable through corners, the 991 GT3 feels unlike any other 911, so much so that its performance remit feels almost omnipotent at times.

2) Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0

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I should start by saying the 997.2 GT3 RS is possibly my favourite 911 steer, ever. We’ve been lucky enough to jump into one many times in recent years at Total 911, on both road and track. Compared to the 991 GT3, it’s the thinking man’s race car, dictated by a peaky engine, manual gearbox and passive rear axle. As shown by our head-to-head in issue 125, the 997 RS 4.0 is a masterly evolution of the 3.8, benefiting from increased torque low down in the rev range, tweaked aero for improved downforce, and a stiffer chassis courtesy of rose jointing at the rear.

Far more than merely a low-numbers automotive mural, this is an outstanding performance weapon that’s surprisingly tractable on road, too. I can fully believe Walter Rohl’s claim that he commuted to work in his RS 4.0 test car every day for six months. Unbelievable – and there’s only one Rennsport that’s better.

1) Porsche 997.2 GT3 RS 4.1 by SharkWerks

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Slightly controversial, I know, but SharkWerks’ brilliant take on the Gen2 997 GT3 RS (which, as I’ve just said, is one of the best ever performance 911s in my view) is comfortably my number one drive of 2015. SharkWerks’ RS 4.1 was our cover car of issue 122, so I know it had good form ahead of my visit to California in September, yet the sheer intensity of its driving experience was beyond captivating.

Throttle response is astoundingly quick and this vastly reworked flat six gets shifting quickly with noticeably more torque availabe at low revs than even the factory RS 4.0. However, the real magic is how SharkWerks’ 4.1 still retains the Mezger’s peaky nature and sense of occasion as that needle zips relentlessly around the tacho, pulling strongly all the way to a heady 7,950rpm.

My drive was only 30 minutes long but that was enough – any longer and I’ll have likely got too carried away by its eagerness to rev so robustly, so relentlessly. It’s not just an improvement on the factory 3.8-litre Rennsport, and it’s not just better than the coveted 997 RS 4.0 either. I don’t make the statement lightly when I say this is most likely the best Porsche 911 I’ve ever driven. Peddling it was my greatest pleasure of 2015.

What five 911s have you most enjoyed reading about in Total 911 this year? Comment below or tweet us @Total911.

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