There’s a misconception that the most expensive most powerful version of a car is always the best. However, I’ve long maintained that this is not always the case. Take the Gen1 Porsche 997, for instance; the smaller 3.6-litre engine was a free-revving and eager unit that, for me, made the car more fun and more, well, 911-like than the larger 3.8 engine used in the Carrera S.
My friend Kevin Yeung in Hong Kong came to the same conclusion, not only with the 997 but, interestingly, also when he test drove the new 991. He found the base 3.4-litre to be more involving than the 3.8, and has kindly agreed for me to share his thoughts with you here:
Having been somewhat disappointed by Porsche’s 991S 3.8 (tried one with PDK “paddles”, sport chrono package), I was initially suspicious of the 991’s merits. After all, the 991S had everything going for it; good looks, being exceptionally well made and incredibly rapid (7m 40s flat time around Green Hell in a PDK). It still came across as being synthetic and way too engineered for me. In some areas, it was just blatantly artificial (991s now have a sound processor tube that channels induction noise into the cabin – problem is; the “sound” drops abruptly once you lift off the throttle – most unnatural). Rolling on fat 20 inch rims didn’t do the all new electronic steering any favors in terms of road feel – to my hands, the 997’s delicious communication was lost – the 991 just felt “wooden”.
In conclusion, the 991S was missing a load of Porsche’s magic – last witnessed on the mesmerizingly 997 GTS.
Personally, I’ve always been a sucker for base cars especially for daily drivers. Besides my old F355 Spider, the car my wife and I enjoyed the longest and certainly used the most was our “base” 997 Cabriolet 3.6 tiptronic. We thoroughly enjoyed our 4 wonderful years with it and sold it the day before Jonathan was born in 2010. In our neck of the woods; along the Southside of the island, our little “base” soft top held it’s own – keeping up with (and dusting) 997 Turbos, Ferrari 430s and even Gallardos. The pesky minibuses were much harder to shake:-)
Sorry, too much reminiscing the 997 was just that good. Fast forward back to the “base” 991. What’s it like? First off, like all 991s, it cabin is stunning – absolutely first class. Modern, beautifully well made and most importantly intuitive to use. Select “Sport” and the PDK seamlessly gets us going. The calibration of the 991’s PDK is spot on!!! The “base” 991 used the “active” steering wheel with “button shifters.” Being accustomed to the previous generation tiptronic, I liked them. For fun, I agree the buttons are not as “satisfying” as the F1 type paddles.
The “base” 991’s 3.4 engine was as mellow, flexible and cultured as the 3.8’s but obviously the available torque/power was different. Still the 3.4 hustles as you can quickly build up revs as you listen to the engine harden. Glorious stuff!!! You can throw that “sound tube” out the window now!
The base 991 riding on 19 inch wheels paired with non adjustable suspension demolished chunks off Shek O Road. This set up was far more honest and engaging than the 991S which had the PDCC chassis control system and PASM active suspension. Even in the wet, the trickiest sections couldn’t faze its SUPREMELY confident – AND compliant chassis. No doubt the 991’s wide front track and “longer” wheel base insured that it remained planted.
However in the wet, I always try to enjoy a little “low speed” tail out action. Frustratingly, unsticking the rear end of a 991 (even in the wet) is VERY difficult when compared to the 997 which always felt alive and agile, not to mention the 964 which is always ready to have tail out fun. It comes down to grip – the 991 simply has too much for me to have fun at lower speeds.
For a weekend toy, the 991 (both base and S) have lost a little too much of the trill that made previous 911’s so incredibly engaging and unique to drive. In the past Porsche’s Engineers were brought in to “tame” the “wild” “widow maker”. Now it seems the Engineers have taken over and created “their” 991 and then tried to “engineer safe BUT sufficient fun” for us. I fear by doing so that they killed the character of the once fabled 911. For a weekend blast, I’ll pass.
For day to day, I’d take it in a heartbeat! You have to understand, I do admire the 991, particularly the “base” model. I drive my cars daily and sincerely appreciate all the goodness that Porsche has packed into into the world’s most desirable “daily” sports car. It’s incredible performance is always accessible and I know it will be really easy to live with. I have yet to try a Cabriolet – the one we would get. A test drive would be way too dangerous, especially if I endured a long hard day and then cocoon myself in the 991’s perfect cabin, drop the top and cruise home to get my cheque book….
Good night all. Do try the new “base” 991. But I understand that there are still a few ultra desirable brand new 997 GTS4s available. Compare them. You can’t go wrong either way!!!