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First drive: Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.

First drive: Porsche 911 R
Stick and pedals add old-school edge to Porsche 911 R.

 



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Porsche 911 R

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

An evolutionary backwards step and GT3/GT3 RS mash-up create the Porsche 911 R, a throwback visually and physically to racers of old, even if the company is calling it a road car.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Porsche 911 R
Price: 136,901
Engine: 4.0-litre flat-six petrol
Body style: two-door, two-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 308g/km (Band M, 1,100 per year)
Combined economy: 21.2mpg
Top speed: 201mph
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds
Power: 500hp at 8,250rpm
Torque: 460Nm at 6,250rpm

What's this?

Porsche's GT mongrel, a crossbreed mixing elements of its GT3 and GT3 RS relations, but adding more into the formula to create a unique proposition. It started life as a 991 GT3 development hack, specifically a manual car to test alongside the eventual production PDK model, though Andreas Preuninger, Porsche's GT department boss, describes the development hack as the car that just wouldn't go away, and the one that he and his staff always sought excuses for to drive. From it an idea gestated, evolving from a manual GT3 into a car borrowing elements from the later RS, so, along with the GT3's narrow body it features the magnesium roof of the GT3, lighter rear window, and, most significantly, the RS's 4.0-litre 500hp flat-six.

It doesn't look like a traditional GT department car, which was deliberate, as the 911 R, despite the R badge, is a road car first and foremost. So there are no wings you can see, the airflow managed by clever underbody work instead, allowing it to offer up a profile that's evocative of the original 911 R from the late '60s. Porsche has added to that by offering the modern R with coloured stripes. With less weight than either the GT3 or GT3 RS, the 911 R is a more purist machine, though it's not all about raw speed here, as track times are not the goal; instead it's all about interaction and driver appeal. That explains the six-speed manual transmission and third pedal, the 911 R old-school in not just its looks, then, but also its engagement.

How does it drive?

The car that Porsche enthusiasts have been willing the company to make since the 911 GT3 went to PDK paddle-shifted auto, the 911 R is an evolutionary backwards step, but for all the right reasons. The promise is of more control, more interactivity, more engagement and, crucially, more fun, from the 911 R, and that's exactly what it delivers. With 500hp (a number Preuninger reckons is enough for road cars), it'll reach 62mph in 3.8 seconds and comfortably run past its quoted 201mph top speed. The numbers are, ultimately, inconsequential; it was always going to be quick given the loss of mass (1,445kg all-in) and the fitment of that fast revving naturally aspirated flat-six. It's more about how it delivers its performance, and, specifically, the demands on you to do so. That six-speed manual is elemental in that, giving you complete control over the car, with no electronic brains second-guessing or over-ruling you.

The result is, unsurprisingly, sensational. The engine is freer of voice because of its different induction system, the titanium exhaust and the loss of even more sound deadening between it and you. It fills the rear, unseated compartment with a glorious mechanical symphony, with an exotic racer's edge at high revs, and the chatter of the clutch release bearing at idle. It's delightfully, refreshingly retro that element, the noises adding to the physicality of the R, defining it and marking it out as special. Nothing is muted here, from the engine that powers it, to the way it steers, the 911 R's steering among the sharpest, most communicative systems we've experienced since they all went electrically assisted, its response immediate and crisp. It's aided in its turn-in by rear-wheel steer, giving the R's nose the sort of incisive turn-in that defined its great predecessor, the 997 GT3 RS 4.0, only here it's sharper still.

The suspension rides with a sophistication that's deeply impressive given its obvious focus, though it's best left in its Normal setting on the road - stiffening it up only adds unnecessary frequency to the proceedings. Beside that, and the options for traction and stability controls, the R is devoid of the sort of push-button selectivity of so many of its contemporaries, the Sport button only activating the rev match throttle blips should you want it. While it works impeccably, if you've bought into the R it's more than likely you'll want to roll off the brake and blip the throttle yourself, the pedal spacing facilitating that, the engine's enthusiasm for revs helping even more so.

While the manual transmission is undoubtedly among the car's defining elements, it's the R's incredible immediacy to any input that's so appealing. With the single mass flywheel option that 4.0-litre's so determined to chase the red line it's intoxicating, though it's a shame then that the six ratios aren't a bit shorter to allow you to do so (legally) more readily. The gearshift itself is very good rather than brilliant, its weighting fine, though for sheer mechanical precision it's slightly behind its 997 predecessors. It's marginal though, and a huge leap on from the still reluctant seven-speeder that Porsche offers in the standard Carreras. The six-speed unit will see further use, it almost certain to be offered in future GT3 and GT3 RS models.

Overall, it's an absorbing driving experience, whether you're wringing every last bit out of it, or merely short-shifting in traffic. The manual transmission isn't the only retro element in its make up though, as the chassis feels more alive, more mobile than its GT relations' - or even standard Carreras. There's plenty of grip, but when it is relinquished it's an easily read transition, it feeling like an older 911 in this regard. Given Preuninger says that this car is his answer to those buyers seeking driver thrills in the classic marketplace that's not really surprising. Yet for all its old-school thrills and engagement, the 911 R retains very much contemporary performance.

Verdict

The 911 R is a car that shifts convention by looking backwards and focusing on the driver and the interaction with them, over simple digits on a stopwatch and nothing else. It's more relevant as a result, and brilliant. It's just a shame that Porsche is only building 991 examples and they're already sold out. That the demand for it is so high though is revealing, and there's the promise that all that development in the six-speed manual won't be limited to just those cars wearing stripes and a 911 R badge, either.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 8 Jun 2016









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2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.

2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Porsche 911 R. Image by Richard Pardon.








 

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