The legend lives on in the classic 911
SHANGHAI Show, April: Porsche announced that it wants to increase its world network to 900 dealers by 2015 – up from 700 at the moment.
It expects sales to pass 100,000 this year. Last year, it sold 97,000, of which 22,600 were the Panamera fourdoor – its success a rebuke to critical comment on its shape. In a year it could be selling 28,000 of them, or one in four of all Porsches.
The big seller is still the Cayenne all-roader – an earlier break with tradition which still has its fierce critics. Its success may actually have saved Porsche.
Somewhere in Britain: I am driving my favourite Porsche, the latest 911, the classic 2+2 coupé in its cheapest, rear-wheel-drive, 3.6-litre specification with a manual gearbox.
Known as the Carrera 2, it costs £67,270. You can add a seven-speed PDK auto shift (£69,658) or all-wheel-drive (£71,883) or a 3.8 engine (from £76,172 with rwd). Top price is £133,552 for the Turbo Cabriolet with 4x4 traction.
Together, they constitute the most successful sports car in competition history, probably the most recognisable sports car and the longest in production, with honourable exception for the Morgan.
The entry-level 911 is a stunning car. With 345 bhp, it can reach 180 miles an hour, passing the 62mph mark in just 4.9 seconds. Fuel consumption on the official combined test is nudging 30mpg, with 225g/km of CO2.
For the record, the vastly more expensive 3.8 model gains 40bhp, a dollop of torque, reduces the 0-62mph time to 4.7 seconds and can reach 188mph. Its economy drops to 27.4mpg and CO2 is now 242g/km. I know. Why would you bother spending almost £9,000 for those gains?
The answer, as ever, is if you can afford it, then you will, tossing in the doubleclutch PDK gearbox which nicks a fifth of a second off the 0-62mph time but with a penalty of two miles an hour from top speed. Some tradeoff, eh.
I was chatting to someone in the The Boltmakers Arms one night I had the 911 on trial, about the point of cars like this. Why would you need a faster car than the 3.6-litre Carrera? Equally, why do you need a car as fast? The answer to each question is “you don’t”. And neither do I.
Obtusely, though, it is my favourite car, I had forgotten how noisy they are. There was a tremendous roar from the tyres. The ride was harder hitting over patched roads than I remembered from the last outing in a 911.
The test car was fitted with a sports exhaust system, which only gets really loud when you select the loud button. It is a more agreeable noise than the din from the wheels.
At £1,465, it is an expensive piece of aural vanity, identified visually by revised exit pipes. Another £1,311 went on the navigation, plus £534 for a telephone link, £227 for a “universal audio interface” (no idea what that was), £311 for sports front seats, £122 for floor mats and £235 for a rear wiper. This latter is the only extra I’d spend my money on. It helps when driving in rain, especially when reversing.
List price as tested: £71,475 of which a fifth goes in VAT.
The 911 is a remarkable car. It is about the same size as a Ford Focus (a bit longer and lower) and rather heavier. The flat six-cylinder engine is in the tail, under the vented cover.
The rear seats are dog-sized. Their back rests fold flat to make a storage platform but there is a substantial luggage hole under the bonnet.
The petrol filler is on the front wing, where it has been since this car evolved from the pre-war Volkswagen Beetle.
I confess to some road rage problems created by the car. I had one conversation with an overtaken motorist who took the trouble to tell me I’d cut in so sharply he could look down on the roof of the Porsche.
Well, from a lofty 4x4, that was not surprising. Best to apologise for any discomfort, so I did.
I mentioned this to a woman who drives a 911. She said it’s the car they object to, not the way it is being driven.
No doubt there is some truth in this, but such a fast and agile and compact car does allow/tempt moves that would be hazardous in a slower, clumsier car.
Result: one looks like a dare devil.
Answer: get an Impreza WRX, with an image that fits such behaviour and a driver profile that does not invite rebuke.
Anyway, I settled down to doing nothing to irritate anyone. I cruised. I was overtaken by, among other things, a black Discovery going very well.
The engine pulls marvellously. I took my gym-master for a spin and impressed him with the way it picks up speed in, say, fourth gear at 30mph. There was the almost obligatory sprint through the gears.
I believe as many people as possible should experience the thrill of an accelerating 911, even the slowest one.
FAVOURITE THING: Porsche’s unbeatable 911.