DRIVEN: Four special Porsche 911s models back-to-back on British country roads

Published Jul 24, 2023


The Porsche 911 is in many ways the world’s quintessential sports car.

Not only has it remained true to its heritage while modernising through each generation, but the sports car range also manages to marry everyday usability with grin-inducing driving pleasure.

But perhaps the ultimate secret to its success is the vast and versatile range of model variations on offer. It doesn’t matter who you are, chances are there’s a Porsche 911 model in the showroom that suits you down to a tee.

My driving partner and I were pondering these thoughts while blasting through the English countryside in West Sussex in a variety of different Porsche 911 models earlier this month.

We were part of the media contingent invited to the Goodwood Festival of Speed by the German sportscar maker. While the festival was a sensory feast all on its own - read more about it here - Porsche also gave us the chance to experience some of its modern cars on local B-roads.

As a baptism of fire, we started off with the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring and GT3 RS, as the rain gradually intensified in true British fashion, keeping us on our toes on those narrow country lanes.

The GT3 Touring is an interesting species of 911 and one that I’ve been itching to try out. It’s a high-revving GT car in the best possible way, but lacking that large fixed rear spoiler it’s a bit more subtle in the way that it comes across. Like it’s put on a smart suit and tie so the in-laws don’t think it’s a hooligan.

It still has a hidden rear spoiler that automatically deploys at speed, and the less showy GT model is further distinguished by silver trim on the side windows and a unique interior specification with special embroidery.

But when it comes to ripping up the tarmac, this is a GT3 in every sense of the word. It’s available in both six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic formats, and I was quite chuffed that our car had the former configuration.

This manual gearbox is a joy to stir, with its solid, thunky, carved-from-metal shifting action. Ditto the steering. This car feels gleefully involving and revving its 375kW, normally aspirated flat-six engine to that lofty 9 000rpm red line, on the odd occasion when you encounter a clear stretch of road, is surely one of life’s great pleasures.

Unlike the more hardcore GT3 RS that we’ll get to shortly, the Touring is fairly comfortable to pilot in everyday conditions, although the clutch, with its short take that makes for easy stalling if you’re not concentrating, does take some getting used to.

A R3 966 000, it costs the same as the regular GT3 and is a very compelling option in my opinion.

Next up was the GT3 RS, and this one inspired some trepidation as the heavens continued to open in the English countryside. As the most extreme member of the normally aspirated GT3 family, it is an uncompromising sports car that was purpose designed to minimise your lap times.

Porsche even redesigned the radiator to make space for an active aerodynamics package up front, while the rear end, which includes a massive two-part rear, provides up to 940kg of downforce at 200km/h.

Wider axles, track-tuned suspension and a modified version of the 4.0-litre flat-six with 386kW on tap all conspire to make it an amazingly proficient track car.

While not the fastest 911 on the market, the GT3 RS is hardcore in every sense of the word. But for everyday driving it’s a bit too extreme for my liking. Then again, I’m absolutely certain that the owner of this car has a different daily driver in their multi-car dream garage.

Next up was another, very special, 911 that I’d also been itching to drive ever since it was revealed to the world last year.

The Sport Classic is a car that goes right back to the sports car’s routes, while being more indulgent than outright puristic.

Making it even more special is that global production is limited to 1 250 units, and even if you can get past the fact that it’s the most expensive 911 ever, currently listed at R5.47 million on Porsche’s website, all units have already been spoken for. Sorry.

Its exterior design is tastefully retro, complete with gorgeous five-spoke wheels (20” front and 21” rear) that take inspiration from the classic ‘Fuchs’ design of yore, and there’s also a large ducktail rear spoiler and double bubble roof to set it apart from humbler 911s.

The cabin is a blast from the past too with its classic Pepita cloth, but enough of that, let’s take a drive.

Its interesting mechanical configuration sees a detuned version of the 911 Turbo’s 3.7-litre engine, with 405kW and 600Nm, powering the rear wheels through a seven-speed manual gearbox.

Having just hopped out of the GT3 models, the Sport Classic’s road manners immediately felt softer and more cosseting. It’s also a lot easier to get in and out of than the latter models’ deep buckets. What’s more, the clutch is more forgiving and the gearshift felt lighter and more buttery as I raced my way through the ratios.

It’s more of a luxury car than the aforementioned GTs, but any thoughts of it having gone soft go out the window when you floor the loud pedal for the first time. Detuned? It certainly doesn’t feel that way. The Sport Classic leaps forward with ferocious intensity, and can get quite twitchy in the wet if you’re not careful with your throttle inputs.

It’s a fascinating package that will do fine as a comfortable daily driver, as long as you show the necessary caution in the wet. It’s an intense car that evokes intense emotions, but somehow it didn’t exhilarate me the same way as the GT3 models did.

Yes, the GT3 RS is a bit too extreme for road driving, which is why if I could have packed any one of these three cars in my luggage back to Joburg it would have been the GT3 Touring. It’s thrilling, but not too showy. Hardcore but not too extreme for the street. Everything a 911 should be in other words.

Is Carrera T the purest of them all?

But that wasn’t the end of our modern 911 rendezvous in Sussex.

After strong winds led to the Saturday leg of the Goodwood Festival being cancelled, Porsche organised us some wheeltime with some of the less expensive models, including the Carrera T.

While based on the base Carrera and sharing its 283kW twin-turbo flat-six, the T is actually 35kg lighter thanks to things like reduced insulation, lighter glass, a smaller battery and the removal of the back seat. What’s more, you can choose between seven-speed manual and eight-speed PDK gearboxes.

Of course, we drove the manual version, and pared back as this car may seem, it wasn’t an unrefined experience by any means and in fact it felt a lot faster than its numbers suggest. It’s involving too, in every sense of the word.

If you’ve ever harped after a classic 911, this could be the ultimate modern equivalent. Being the T model it doesn’t carry that base Carrera stigma. It feels special, and at R2.46 million it costs just 200 grand more than the base Carrera.

The purest 911 of them all? Quite possibly.

IOL Motoring