2016 Porsche 911 R first drive review
The 911 is already a class-leading performance car, but could the new R - a car aimed squarely at keen drivers - be the best of the best? Jon Quirk finds out
- Ultimate road-going version of current 911 limited to 991 units globally
- Prices start at £136,901 with all examples already sold out
- Rear-wheel drive, GT3 RS engine, bespoke six-speed manual gearbox
The details are mouth-watering: a rear-wheel drive 911 that uses the 4.0-litre, naturally aspirated flat-six from the track-honed GT3 RS, but without that car’s extreme aero. It features a specially developed six-speed manual gearbox, not only shaving 20kg over the PDK gearbox used in the GT3 RS, but re-establishing a level of driver connection that was considered lost in the pursuit of ruthless efficiency.
Lap times may be of little concern for the R, but there are a further 30kg of weight savings over an RS - carbon fibre front wings and nose, a titanium exhaust, carbon ceramic brakes, less sound insulation - to make it the most responsive and entertaining road-going 911 on sale. It also boasts carbon ceramic brakes, a sports exhaust and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard, and even does without air conditioning and a radio, although both are no-cost options.
As soon as you open the driver’s door, the simplicity of the cabin reaffirms that sense of occasion. There is no radio, no rear seats and the rear windows are made from perspex. Your eyes glance the cloth door handles but are drawn to a gorgeous pair of (optional) fixed carbon seats from the 918 Spyder, trimmed in brown leather and retro hound’s-tooth fabric. There’s also a plaque on the dashboard telling you which of the 991 lucky owners you are.
Auto Trader was testing car number ‘000’, which is a prototype designation to prevent any customer cars being harmed in the delivery of this review. Turn the key – we told you it was old-school – and the engine fires into a rich, sonorous blare. The GT3 RS donor engine develops 493bhp at 8250rpm with 339lb ft at 6250rpm and from inside, you can hear every metallic connection.
The 0-62mph time is quoted as 3.8 seconds which, judging from the blurry view of Scotland out of the windscreen, is entirely believable. Top speed is a monstrous 201mph because although the engine offers the same wonderful linearity that graces all naturally aspirated 911 engines, what’s notable here is the step in power at higher revs, where flexing the needle beyond 7000rpm delivers another punch in the windpipe. It’s savage. The six-speed manual gearbox is a welcome addition to the experience, too: it’s short in throw and well married to three well spaced and weighted pedals to make the shifts feel much more engaging. Regardless of the tenths of seconds you may lose over a PDK transmission, it’s an area of the car you’d really enjoy mastering, without the need for the standard rev matching function in Sport mode.
What makes the 911 R such a compelling road car, however, is that it feels both raw and still utterly usable, with a superb driving position, superlight steering that is consistently weighted, plus a suspension that has suppleness and composure even on broken surfaces. This truly is a 911 that’s usable and engaging at all times; as eventful in the straights as it feels alive in the slow speed corners.
- Model: Porsche 911 R
- Price: £136,901
- Engine: 4.0-litre flat six, six-speed manual
- Power/Torque: 493bhp / 339lb ft
- 0-62mph: 3.8secs
- Top speed: 201mph
- Economy: 21.2mpg
- CO2/BIK tax liability: 308g/km
- Boot space: 115-litres (front)
More challenging to live with but for pure driving thrills, only Lotus gets close to matching Porsche for handling clarity and performance
BMW M3 30 Yahre Special Edition
Another stealthily dressed option in severely limited supply, with 444bhp and just 500 cars being sold worldwide.
Porsche 911 Turbo S
Equally impressive Porsche, albeit in an immense techno-engineering feat kind of way. Easier to acquire too, with recalibrate-your-senses levels of performance