Why 2015 is the most important year ever for the Porsche 911

As any fastidious Porsche enthusiast will tell you, the history of the 911 is fascinating. Rarely in the tapestry of any other automotive icon has the threat of failure sat so close to unrivalled success over such a prolonged period of time. Make no mistake, Zuffenhausen’s darling sportscar has been as decorated as threatened over the past 51 years.

Of course, the silver lining here is that the 911 has triumphed time after time and so, more than half a century after critics first suggested Porsche’s rear-engined, rear-drive sportscar concept wouldn’t be successful, the car still sits resplendent in the showrooms of Official Porsche Centres the world over. However, I feel that the greatest challenge for the Porsche 911 is yet to come and, worse still, the danger is imminent.

Forever a sportscar for the traditionalist, the 911 has throughout its lifetime had to balance the inevitable evolution (that comes naturally in a competitive automotive industry) with satisfying the purist beliefs of the traditionalist, which accounts for the 911s core market.

It's all but confirmed that 2015 will be the year the 911 range goes turbocharged.
It’s all but confirmed that 2015 will be the year the 911 range goes turbocharged.

The move to water-cooling at the turn of the century is perhaps the most prominent of these battles. Put simply, Porsche had to adapt or die, with the air-cooled engines proving too expensive to make while falling foul of ever-stringent emissions regulations.

The cost-cutting formula to save the company meant the new 911 (the 996) had to share engineering and aesthetical parts with the Boxster. The move saved Porsche, but the caveat is that many purists resent the 996 to this day, with rock-bottom market values reflecting as such.

While the furore over water-cooled engines in 911s has died down in principle since, the move to turbocharged engines next year will ensure a new torrent of controversy is bestowed on the 911s legacy.

The changes to the 911's lineage brought about by the 996 still rankles with purists today.
The changes to the 911’s lineage brought about by the 996 still rankles with purists today.

Porsche’s move to utilising turbocharged engines across the 911 range in 2015 is real, so do not believe otherwise. You’ll have seen our exclusive spy shots of the next generation in testing throughout the year on total911.com, and our spies have heard the unmistakable sound of a forced-induction flat six to go with the images too. Zuffenhausen simply needs to conform to ever-tighter EU emissions regulations and so turbocharging is the only feasible way for its sportscars in the medium term. Expect the 3.4-litre engine in the current 991 Carrera then to be replaced by a 2.9-litre turbocharged unit in the facelift model, which is rumoured to be revealed at next year’s Frankfurt motor show.

That high-revving flat six is the visceral moniker that has defined the 911 for many, but that is all set to change in the new year. Of course, it’ll totally reinvent the ideology of the 911, despite the company having vast experience at turbocharging (the 911 Turbo’s 40-year existence is all the proof you’ll need).

And, as if that wasn’t enough for you, next year will also see the first Rennsport 911 released without a manual gearbox. The 991 GT3 RS can be expected early in 2015 and like the 991 GT3, will come with a compulsory PDK gearbox. This similar move with the GT3’s transmission caused huge uproar among purists upon its announcement in 2013, but the fanfare has since died down as we all came to realise just how good the GT3 PDK is. If you’re still sceptical about the technology then I’d bet it’s because you just haven’t tried it yet.

The GT3's PDK-only transmission ruffled feathers upon release, but many have now warmed to the innovation.
The GT3’s PDK-only transmission ruffled feathers upon release, but many have now warmed to the innovation.

That said, the fact that the Rennsport 911 will not be available with a manual gearbox as of next year highlights just how far the 911 has evolved. That it comes in the same year as the 911 goes turbocharged is just unfortunate. I merely hope therefore that two such prodigious moves in the same year won’t act as the simultaneous hammer blows that ultimately spoil the magic – and the legacy – of the iconic Porsche 911 as we know it.

Do you agree? Have your say in the comments below, or head to our Facebook and Twitter pages to join the debate now.

Comments (3)

  • Craig Adams

    Back when it came time to trade in my beloved and power kitted 997.1 C4S, the local Porsche Centre kindly loan me a 997 Turbo S for the day. I hated it.

    It was almost unbelievable how far removed it was from a proper sports car. The extra weight was immediately noticeable, and the car lacked that magic feeling that it was dancing on it’s toes.

    Power delivery was brutal, they claim those turbos are lag free, but that’s utter nonsense. When the power did kick on, it overwhelmed the whole experience. Instead of threading the car along the road, the combination of extra weight, and turbo lag followed by a colossal slug of torque, turned ‘progress’ into something altogether more jerky, which necessitated prodigious use of the brakes.

    The PDK transmission only accentuated its faults. In auto mode every gear change was lag inducing. Manually changing gears made it possible to keep those turbos spinning, but compelled me to drive everywhere like a thoughtless hooligan on a death trip, whose only hope of salvation was to empty the fuel tank before encountering a fiery oblivion.

    Overtaking was accomplished with such brute force that it felt as though any cars being passed were blown into the weeds. I kept expecting to glance in the mirror and see their smouldering wrecks littering the verge.

    This was a car for bullies. With it’s ridiculous “look at me” rear wing and sledgehammer motor it was anything but discreet, except for the strangely muffled engine note. Driving it was an experience all right, just not a particularly enjoyable one.

    Back at the dealers, I didn’t know quite what to say without sounding ungrateful. I felt like someone who’d won a free holiday to Disneyland and spent to entire time throwing up on the roller coaster.

    The dealer could tell something was amiss, so I told him it was amazing but just really lacked soul. He seemed puzzled and resorted to telling me that it was a future collectors item, and would ultimately appreciate in value. Ironic given that he was addressing someone who’d driven a C4S so long and hard that the wheels had all but fallen off.

    He dismissively sent me out in a 991C4S. Within 10 minutes I was smitten. I even cut the test drive short to rush back and do the deal. It’s the best thing I’ve ever driven (at least on 4 wheels). It’s everything that’s right about the 997, albeit minus a lively steering, but oh so much more. It’s far better balanced, and it has a better engine, it’s feels a lot more agile, and it’s just begs you to slide it round corners. It’s an absolute hoot.

    F**k the turbo. If this is what Porsche are planning then they’ve lost the plot. If it’s a problem with emissions across the range then start building diesel superminis, honestly anything but vandalise the real 911: the naturally aspirated one.

    If they blow these cars, then I’ll have no option but to buy two end of line GTS’ and stick one in the garage for when I wear out the other one. But if turbo crapness becomes the only option, then I’ll probably end up buying that new Merc, because at least then I won’t be stuck with a car that looks like the best car I ever owned but feels nothing like it 🙁

  • Charlie Dunn

    Very well said Craig. Now on my 4th 911 (1st was a base 1966 model). 2013 C4S is my best ever and I’m now at an age it will be my last, so no need to buy and store a spare. I am happy to join a new generation of “purists”.

  • BG

    turbos are gt cars not sports cars. love all my gt3s from 996 to 991