Porsche spices up a Sixties star

The new 911 is an old idea made sublime, says Hamish McRae
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Indy Lifestyle Online

So when the paper was offered a 911 Carrera to test it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. Would the love affair be rekindled, or is it a bit absurd to drive on British roads a car that can reach 175 mph? Of course, a 2005 car is utterly different from a 1960s one. Though the 911 broadly retains the body shape of the first 911 of 1963, it is a new design. The original air-cooled 911 soldiered on in various guises until it was replaced by the new series, with a water-cooled engine, in 1998. The latest is the second-generation version of this series.

While the new car is vastly more powerful than the original 911 and even more so that the 912, which had the flat four from the 356 series, it feels curiously familiar. It is partly the way you sit, quite low but with exactly the same relationship with the controls. But it is more the sense of balance as you drive. Porsches are cars that use sophisticated engineering to create an aura of simplicity for the driver.

The 911 is sublime. Of course it is hugely powerful and hugely expensive. There is no rational way of justifying either. But it is a joy to drive. It does what you want it to do as soon as you think it. So you think you want to change lanes on the motorway. You make a slight movement of your wrist and you are there. You want to overtake but you are in the wrong gear. Doesn't matter. There is so much power that you are past anyway. You go into a corner a bit faster than you intended. A flick of the wrist and you are round it.

Once you are given this sense of response you tend to want to respond by driving the car decently: not particularly to race, but, rather, to get to the destination as swiftly and comfortably as you can. Occasionally that means using the power.

The engine has only 3.6 litres to produce its 325bhp, which is remarkable for a normally aspirated engine. More remarkable is the very flat torque curve between 3,000 and 6,000 rpm. So when you do want the performance it just pours on the power in a steady flow.

So do I want one? I'm not sure. There is a problem. The car is designed to tell you everything about the conditions you are driving in, and that includes the road. That is fine on German roads with surfaces like billiard tables. It is not so good on the surfaces we have in Britain.

The 911 is terrible on speed bumps. However slowly you drive over them you are in danger of scraping its underside, and it is virtually impossible to get over without touching the spoiler at the front. That makes driving in London a real misery unless you plan to avoid bumps. Actually it is quite a good argument for not living in a bump-prone borough.

But if you don't live in London and have to drive a lot, you fundamentally like cars - and you can afford it - the 911 is hugely tempting. It solves the whole problem of what to drive because you can't really find anything that makes driving more of a delight. Even going round the M25 becomes a pleasure rather than a chore.

But don't buy a new one. These cars are so beautifully built that, unless you are into status, wait a year or three for depreciation to kick in. And I think I'd like to drive a late air-cooled 911 before going for a liquid-cooled version. Nevertheless, Porsches are as wonderful as ever.

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