The le­gend lives on in the clas­sic 911

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES - Fred­eric Manby

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.

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