Porschephiles are a complex group. Always concerned with facts and figures — most of them consider themselves to be level-headed and rational — but still desiring an emotional feel; they’re not the easiest to please. For the contingent which concerns themselves more with the romance of driving a car, Porsche has released a simple, lighthearted version of the GT3: the 911 R.
Sharing the suspension and the motor from the GT3 is a fantastic way to start any build. Where the machine is most appealing to purists is in the choice of transmission. Reverting back to a conventional, stick-and-clutch manual, the 911 R offers more driver involvement than the PDK-only GT3 and GT3 RS. As the affable head of Porsche GT cars, Andreas Preuninger notes, “this was a call from the customer group which liked the 996 and 997 GT cars. They wanted to keep their involvement by changing the cogs themselves.”
The choice of a slower-shifting but more involving gearbox says much about the car’s ethos. The 911 R is not designed for the ultimate handling and raw performance, but rather, is intended for fun on the street. The choice of transmission has one other benefit: it’s much lighter than the PDK.
Through a reduction of nearly 150 pounds under the GT3, the 911 R possesses a lively, responsive chassis that is sure to get the blood pumping. Those savings come from carbon fiber fenders, a perspex rear window, a titanium exhaust, the aforementioned gearbox and a few other, subtle tweaks. In fact, subtlety is a term that can be used to describe the exterior and aesthetics of the stylish ride.
Without the imposing rear wing from the GT3, the 911 R looks much simpler; almost understated. Those with an eye for pure performance cars would recognize the massive, well-filling wheels, the carbon brakes and the diffuser, but it doesn’t scream racecar the way some models do. Without the massive wing and splitter package to keep the car stable, the aerodynamicists tired long hours over implementing a diffuser to keep it planted. Porsche 911s, due to their weight distribution, can become slightly nervous at high speed if not balanced with an aerodynamic element.
For a car that emphasizes simplicity and understatement, it’s strange that Porsche has retained the controversial rear wheel-steering system. The added influence of this system is a turnoff in many’s eyes, but the car needs to be agile. Unfortunately, the 991 chassis is much longer than the preceding generations. Therefore, to help it rotate, the rear wheel-steering was retained, but Porsche being Porsche, they tried the car without the rear steering to see what it felt like. Preuninger described the resulting package as “a truck.”
Though Porsche often gets nailed for building cold, scientific machines that are only designed to go fast around a track, this particular model disproves that notion. As a response to their avid fans who aren’t comfortable with the go-fast mindset that is, apparently, robbing the cars of their soul, Porsche took what made their quickest cars, and made them a little more human.