Gavin Green on the Porsche 911 he got for Christmas

Published: 06 January 2010

What did you get for Christmas? I got a Porsche 911.

To be fair, it was ‘only’ for two weeks, and it was ‘only’ the basic Carrera. No fancy big rear wing, or turbo, or cabriolet, or paddle shift, or four-wheel drive. And that’s just fine.

With 911s, basic is always best

I have been driving, eulogising (and sometimes racing) 911s for almost 25 years. In that time, through endless upgrades, revisions, new variants, power and price increases, there have been a few important continua:

1. The basic shape
2. The brilliant flat-six engine, flung out back
3. The ‘lively’ handling
4. The continuing bold quest by Porsche engineers to defy the laws of physics
5. The jealousy and aggression of other motorists
6. The fewer options you choose, the better

Let us analyse that last point in more detail.

Pure styling

Big wings, which typically adorn higher-end 911s, ruin the design harmony. Always choose the model that looks like a sports car not a Boeing. Equally, the Cabriolet and Targa tops scar the elegant coupe roofline that is one of the 911’s greatest styling pleasures. Forget the sun and preserve the style.

Rear-wheel drive

The 911 driving experience is like no other. They are nervous, lively cars – hyperactive and interactive even at low speed. You are never a passenger in a 911.

The four-wheel drive gives more security, certainly; and allows for more confidence on winding or slippery roads. But it partly anaesthetises the driving experience. You might as well just buy an M3 or a GT-R or ‘normal’ front-engine coupe, and forget all those characterful Porsche foibles. Plus the Carrera 4 is wider and heavier than the normal rear-drive Carrera. The comparative lightness and smallness of the 911 are two of its greatest assets.

Naturally aspirated is best:

The new Turbo is a brilliant car, maybe the most complete 911 of all time. But the normal Carrera (345bhp, 0-62 in 4.9sec, £40,000 less) is fast enough. At full revs, bearing down on the redline, few engines sound more inspirational. The non-Turbo model is lighter and more agile. The normally aspirated engine is also more responsive. With its direct fuel injection, this is the most alert 911 motor ever.

Don’t bother with the ‘S’ either. Those extra 40bhp cost over £7000. You don’t need them. Save the money and smile.

Stick to the stick shift

You buy a 911 to drive it. It is probably the most animate, lively and responsive sports car on the road, at least among the high-end sportsters. That’s why I love it. Magnify, not minimise, the driving experience. The normal stick shift manual, complete with conventional clutch pedal, gives you more control. Porsche’s regular twin-clutch semi-auto ’box has confusing steering wheel-mounted gearshift rockers. The extra-money ‘paddles’ (first introduced on the Turbo) are much better and help (marginally) both speed and mpg. No matter: resist them.

Porsche 911s are all about feel, not measurement. They mix passion and technology, which is why they are more fun than any other German car. Stick with the stick. The more you interact with your 911, the more you will enjoy it.

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience