One night a 993 911, the next a new 991...

With apologies to The Cure, it’s 12:19 on a Saturday night and the Porsche tinks under the street light. Tink, tink, tink…

And I’m standing at my kitchen sink remembering where I’ve been. And the Porsche tinks, tink, tink…

Okay, I’m not clever enough to keep this up. The Porsche that’s tinking and tonking outside my front door is dissipating the heat from the last 400km. In 16 hours I’m due to board a jet to Germany and view, sit in and discuss the new 911. No driving. That will come in a month or so.

And I’m very nervous. Remember that.

The 911 that’s cooling and contracting is not the outgoing 997 model, but an air-cooled 993 Carrera 4S. To celebrate its 60 years in Australia, Porsche Cars Australia (PCA) bought various models of 911 history and handed them out to select media outlets.

Last week I lost my 930-virginity, driving a 1984 G-Series Carrera and this weekend it’s the 993. Can you imagine Holden handing over the keys to a 1984 VK Commodore Vacationer or Toyota offering a steer in a new-for 84 Tarago? Nope, neither can I.

For many, the 993 is the 911. Still air-cooled and with a bodyshell that can trace its origins back to the 1963 original. While this is not the first time I’ve driven a 993, it’s the first time I’ve really driven one. Four hundred proper kays. Tight corners, fast sweepers, late night, no traffic.

The initial throttle tip-in is abrupt and the floor-hinged clutch has a strange roll-over point but master these nuances and the 993 is as fast as a modern car but with old-school tactility and slim-pillared visibility. Sure, the ergonomics would give a Lexus engineer nightmares and the headlights can’t match today’s bi-xenon, adaptive, active search beacons.

The brakes are powerful but require proper pressure and modulation. The nose goes light at speed and will wash into understeer if you’re too early onto the throttle in a corner. The steering’s heavy at parking speeds and will not tolerate one-finger-twirling even at 60km/h.

You must drive the 993. And I love it for that reason, as I do the soon-to-be-replaced 997.

As the last air-cooled 911, the 993 is sainted. The bigger, more-refined, water-cooled 996 that followed is the 911 people like to forget. At the 997’s international launch in 2005, Porsche was very keen to forget the fried-egg headlights of the 996 and stress that the 997’s design language recalled the beloved 993.

And now we have the 991 a car with no links to the Butzi Porsche-designed original. To be honest, even the 997’s links to the first 911 were tenuous. In fact, only the GT cars could trace the lineage of their engines back to the Hans Mezger-designed flat-six and when the last of the GT3 RS 4.0s are built later this year, that link will be severed for good.

Why does this matter? Ferrari 458 Italia fans don’t seem to care that it can’t trace its origin to the Dino. Nor do HSV owners lament that the GTS doesn’t share a little-known grommet with the VB Commodore. The 911 is different. The 991 is only the third genuinely new 911 in the model’s 48 year history.

But why am I nervous? Because the 991 might just be a step too far from what I think is the 911’s brief. The 100mm longer wheelbase will almost certainly mean a better ride and more secure handling. But the interior looks too luxurious, too GT. And the bombshell? The 991 has electro-hydraulic steering.

With no drive I’ll have to believe for now Porsche’s promise that you can’t tell the difference between the new set-up and the old, wonderfully tactile steering of 911’s past. Steering feel has been a 911 trademark to rival the rear-mounted flat-six.

Here’s hoping an icon hasn’t been destroyed. Here’s hoping the 991 is a 911 you drive just for the hell of it.


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