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.

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