Top five Porsche drives of 2016 – Lee’s picks
Politically speaking, the year 2016 looks like it may be judged unfavorably by many, but when it comes to 365 days of driving truly exquisite Porsche 911s, you certainly won’t hear me complaining. Encompassing a wide variety of Neunelfers from early air-cooled legends to modern day greats, the top five I’ve had the privilege of driving for you range from lightweight, naturally-aspirated flat sixes to twin-turbocharged, all-wheel-drive behemoths. It just goes to show, the 911’s ability to enthral comes in many forms and reaches far and wide into all manner of automotive tastes. What other car can honestly match it?
Our test drives always appear in lavish detail in Total 911 magazine of course, but keep an eye on our YouTube channel for even more access to all manner of Zuffenhausen’s greatest ever sports car – because next year is going to be our biggest and best yet. Now, in reverse order, here’s my top five Porsche 911 drives of 2016:
5) 2.7 Carrera MFI Targa
The 2.7 RS is the halo 911 for many reasons, but in sharing its 210bhp flat six with mechanical fuel injection, the G-series 2.7 Carrera holds much admiration among those in the know. Our 2016 look at the lineage of the 911 Targa presented us with a 2.7 MFI example from Canford Classics, and I was captivated by its performance. A willingness to rev freely, with quick steering and a firm yet forgiving suspension made for an enlivening drive. Wonderfully direct with a turn of pace that belies its added Targa weight, it’s by far the best roll-hooped 911 derivative, in my opinion.
4) 964 RS N/GT
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly overawed by the 964 RS. I just don’t think it’s anywhere near as special as other Rennsports, its drive easily mimicked by a lesser Carrera 2 with only a few choice tweaks. However, the hardcore N/GT is a marked step up. Its spartan interior, amplified acoustics and firm suspension are pure race car traits in a 911 equipped with license plates. What’s not to like?
I was lucky enough to drive two this year, this Maritime blue example sold at Silverstone Auctions’ Porsche sale, and a special 1 of 20 N/GT Racing Package from issue 139. I was enthralled by the sheer pedigree of the N/GT but also its tactility, something that’s missing from many modern Neunelfers.
3) 996 GT3 RS
One of the last Rennsports for me to drive, our test against the 996 GT2 in issue 143 showed me the 996 is also one of the most underrated. Building from the 996.2 GT3’s tantalising package, on paper the RS received only minimalist weight saving and no power increase, yet the reality is thanks to a revised suspension and stiffer engine mounts, the RS is a different yet reassuringly compliant beast.
Best of all, as the last Rennsport bereft of any real driver aids, it’s just you, the open road and 381 untamed horses. With every driver input directly affecting the car’s behaviour, when you drive the 996 GT3 RS you wear it like a glove, so to speak; a fabulous, classic experience for a 911 with such relative modernity.
Is it a true Neunelfer? With a flat six boxer engine mounted aft of the rear axle, it’s certainly hard to argue otherwise. Porsche’s quintessential supercar was the yardstick for automotive excellence for decades, its overarching 911 influence shaping subsequent Neunelfer generations in turn. Only when walking around it and taking a seat inside do you truly appreciate the amalgamation of G-series, 964 and even 993 componentry on the car.
As I found out in issue 142, the 959 comfortably has the ability to embarrass newer generations of sports car, boasting active suspension, all-wheel-drive with active torque distribution, twin turbocharging and a lightweight body construction in its arsenal. It’s as scintillating to drive today as it was back in… 1986. Yep, despite all that tech, the 959 is 30 years old – yet still feels utterly indomitable as a driving machine.
1) 911 R
I can only apologise for finishing with a naturally obvious choice. The 911 R may have topped the majority of group tests and ‘best drive’ countdowns for this year, but it’s with good reason. Even away from a backdrop of capable but uninvolving 991 GT3s and GT3 RSs, the 911 R is a breath of fresh air, a true ‘best of’ in terms of parts resulting in a machine with breathtaking sporting pedigree.
Fast, frenetic and completely intoxicating by its very nature, the R is the most special Neunelfer since the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 of 2010, and for me will be the 911 of the decade. Driving it on deserted Scottish roads last May was one of my greatest privileges of 2016.
What five 911s have you most enjoyed reading about in Total 911 this year? Comment below or tweet us@Total911