This article was first published in 2006.
At what point in a car’s life should you stop
judging it against new cars and instead start considering it a classic? That’s a
contentious point but we reckon the early Nineties Porsche 911 now fits the
‘classic’ analysis. And better still, it’s well enough equipped and sufficiently
user-friendly to drive every day. Think of that: classic Porsche shape,
excellent performance, very good handling and still with the conveniences like
climate control and cruise we now take for granted.
Open the door of the Porsche and the first thing
you should do is to shut it again. Huh? Well, how else are you going to
experience the absolute solidity of the body shell? It’s a cliché but the doors
really do shut like those to a bank vault.
Open them again (they open very wide) and step
down into the leather seats. They’re form-fitting, firm but comfortable.
And the cabin? It’s tiny! You can easily reach
across to the other door, leg-room (especially on the passenger side) isn’t
huge, and the rear seats are laughably small. Far better to fold the rear
backrests forward to increase in-cabin storage space – and you’re going to need
that, cos the front boot is hopeless. Another indicator of how small the
interior is can be seen in the way the large clear dashboard dials and radio
stretch way over into the passenger territory – in fact, the radio volume knob
can barely be reached by the driver...
With the bulbous (bloated?) shapes of recent
Porsches, it’s a real shock to feel how compact a car the 964 is. And it’s
compact not only in dimensions – at 1350kg, it’s also not carrying a lot of
mass. Well, not when there’s 3.6 litres of air-cooled, flat six engine to push
it along. Three-point-six litres is a damn big engine for this size of car – and
that’s exactly how it feels on the road.
Forget notions of highly strung screamers, engines
that need a bunch of revs on board before they’ll do anything. The Porsche six
is nothing like that. Peak torque of 310Nm may be developed at 4800 rpm but we
can tell you that there are plenty of Newton-metres available everywhere between
2000 rpm and the redline of 6800 rpm. In fact, the engine is so unfussed that
it’ll happy lug around suburban corners in second gear – even in third gear at a
And like all cars that have engines with very flat
torque curves, the Porsche is a deceptively unhurried car in feel. The factory
figure might be 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds but without the instant rush of torque
that comes with turbo boost or VTEC-style abrupt cam changes, in the 996 it’s
simply a case of putting your foot down and feeling a linear push that goes on
until you reach the redline and change gears. Whereupon the push starts all over
There’s nothing in the engine response, the
gear-change of the 5-speed box (the travel’s a bit long but not excessively so)
or clutch feel that make the Porsche any more difficult to drive than any other
manual trans car. Yes, you can be up near peak power snatching gears – but
equally well you can be doddering through city traffic.
And the ride is another revelation. Riding on 16
inch rims on this car (bigger wheels were available as options), the test car
had an excellent ride. At the back there are 225/50s and the front runs 205/55s.
Fluid, well damped and with plenty of travel, the ride is light years away from
expectations. Again, a car you could drive every day without a hint of back
ache. In this model coil springs replaced the previous 911 torsion bars, with
MacPherson struts at the front and alloy semi trailing arms to be found at the
rear. Handling? In this two-wheel drive version (four wheel drive was also
available), lift-off oversteer is there for the asking – but in the brief
sampling we were able to have, the handling was communicative and grippy.
The brakes need a good push (they’re 4-piston
fixed calipers and ventilated discs with ABS) and the power-assisted steering is
certainly not light. However, there is a cohesion to the weight of the controls
– nothing feels ill-matched. But the same generosity cannot be stretched to the
pedal placement – not only are they waaay offset to the centre of the car but
they’re so close together than I had to remove my shoes... and I’d worn narrow
shoes for this very reason!
In addition to the climate and cruise, you also
get a full driver’s electric seat (partial electrics on the passenger side),
automatically popping up rear spoiler, 8-speaker sound and electric windows.
Significantly, you don’t get any airbags.
The 964 feels like it will last a long time. In
addition to the obvious body quality, panels are galvanised both sides and
Porsche mechanicals have an excellent reputation for durability. This car was
for sale from QSM in Queensland for AUD$69,000 and drove perfectly.
Sixty-nine grand is still a bunch of cash but not
only are you buying a classic (and it’s a car that will always be seen as a
classic!) but you’re also getting transport that you could have fun in every
day. What a sweety!
www.qsm.com.au Thanks to QSM for
making this car available to us.