By Shaun Keenan
I don't know if you've noticed, but 2013 is the year of the Porsche 911. Here at PRN Ignition, we began the celebration early.
While I am fully aware that snow is the last thing on most people's minds this time of year, any day is as good as the next to reflect upon some of the more exciting things I get to do as part of my job. That said, those times when you are allowed – no encouraged – to fling a brand new Porsche 911 around a closed course and not worry about kissing curbs, tire walls or cement barriers are few and far between.
Well, that's exactly what happened. In fact, it was still the dead of winter when I headed to the Saint-Donat region of Quebec where Porsche Camp4 Canada was in full swing at the renowned ice racing facility known as Mecaglisse.
Camp4 is a Porsche Driving Experience anybody can attend – even non Porsche owners are welcome – to have fun and learn car control by drifting around icy purpose-built tracks. Participants have access to many of the latest current Porsche models, including the Boxster S, Carrera 2S and the newest member of the 911 family, the C4S. In fact, barring a few customer cars that may have been delivered before this year's Camp4, we are lucky to have been amongst some of the first to drive the new C4S anywhere in Canada. And, we did it on ice baby!
Compared to the Carrera 4 models, the C4S has different front air intakes, a wider body in the rear (+44 mm total) and a light strip that connects the taillights, but what makes it so fun to drive in these conditions is the all-wheel drive system and Nokian winter tires equipped with 3 mm studs.
The copious amounts of traction combined with the short wheelbase, light weight and a robust powerband prove these cars at home in this environment far from the hot summer asphalt. So much so I experience far more traction than I ever thought possible at this time of year (far more than any other winter tire I've driven on, in fact) on a super-slick ice track no less.
All of the cars are sporting these tires; and, although studded tires like this are not road legal in most parts of Canada, the Porsches are. They make driving on the facility's three snow-covered road courses and large winter skid pad not only possible, but also extremely fun and satisfying.
I have attended the Porsche Sport Driving School (PSDS) at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama to learn from some the best instructors, including SCCA/IMSA veteran road racer Cass Whitehead, 2011 Rolex GT Champion Andrew Davis and even Porsche Racing legend Hurley Haywood to name a few.
I've turned many laps in a variety of Porsches, but Porsche Camp4 Canada just might be the most fun I've ever had in a Porsche, or any car for that matter.
911 by the numbers
“2012 was the most successful year in the history of our company,” says Matthias Müller, Porsche AG Chairman of the Executive Board. “The success that Porsche enjoys in the marketplace can be attributed very largely to our attractive product portfolio. We further enhanced this last year with the addition of several new, fascinating sports car models.”
Chief among them is the current 911. Sales of the new 911 alone, launched in December 2012, increased by 37.6% in its first full quarter, compared with sales of the predecessor model one year earlier.
Not only is Porsche coming off of its best year ever, the Stuttgart-based car maker is cautiously optimistic that 2013 will be an even better year. In 2012, global sales grew by 22% and, of the 151,999 vehicles produced, Porsche sold 143,096 of them, which is a solid 94%.
Porsche Cars Canada, importer and distributor of Porsche vehicles in Canada, recently had its best month ever, with April sales reaching 404 units, up 23.2% from the previous April record of 328, established last year.
Sales of the 911 lineup continued to show strength with 99 units, an increase of 13.8% reportedly. And, the April launch of the all-new 2014 Cayman has also allowed the model line to reach 32 vehicles, a jump of 88.2% over the prior year.
Production and Timeline
For a half century, the 911 has been the beating heart of the Porsche brand. Few sports cars can look back on such a long tradition and such continuity as the Porsche 911, which has been inspiring car enthusiasts the world over since debuting in September 1963 as the model 901 at the IAA International Automotive Show.
Like no other vehicle, the 911 reconciles apparent contradictions such as sportiness and everyday practicality, tradition and innovation, exclusivity and social acceptance, design and functionality. It is no wonder that each generation has written its own personal success story.
Ferry Porsche, son of the company's founder Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, famously described its unique qualities: “The 911 is the only car you could drive on an African safari or at Le Mans, to the theatre or through New York City traffic.”
Today, the 911 is considered the quintessential sports car, the benchmark for all others. It is also the central point of reference for all other Porsche series. From the Cayenne to the Panamera, every Porsche is the most sporting automobile in its category, and each carries a piece of the 911 philosophy.
As of March 2013, more than 820,000 Porsche 911s have been built, making it the most successful sports car in the world. For each of its seven generations, the engineers in Zuffenhausen and Weissach have reinvented it time and again to demonstrate the innovative power of Porsche to the world.
As the successor to the Porsche 356, the 911 won the hearts of sports car enthusiasts from the outset. Unveiled at the Frankfurt IAA Motor Show in 1963 as the 901 and renamed the 911 for its launch in 1964, the air-cooled, six-cylinder boxer engine delivered 130 hp, giving it an impressive top speed of 210 km/h. In 1965, the Porsche 912 was offered as a smaller four-cylinder option, followed by the 911 Targa and semiautomatic Sportomatic four-speed transmission in ‘66. The 911 became more powerful as displacement increased, to 2.2 litres in 1969 and 2.4 litres in 1971. The 911 Carrera RS 2.7 of 1972 included a 210-hp engine and weighed less than 1,000 kg – the epitome of a dream car to this day.
The 911 received its first full makeover 10 years after its premiere and was produced longer than any other 911 generation. One of the most important milestones in the 911 timeline was the 1974 unveiling of the first Porsche 911 Turbo. The three-litre 260-hp engine and enormous rear spoiler became synonymous to the Porsche identity. The next performance jump came in 1977 with the intercooler-equipped 911 Turbo 3.3, including a best in class 300 hp. Starting in 1982, fresh air enthusiasts could also order the 911 as a Cabriolet.
Just when automotive experts were predicting the end of an era, Porsche came out with the 911 Carrera 4 in 1988. The platform was radically renewed with an air-cooled, 250-hp 3.6-litre boxer engine, ABS, Tiptronic shifting, power steering, airbags, a redesigned chassis, automatic extending rear wing and Porsche’s first AWD system, among other things. In addition to Carrera Coupé, Cabriolet and Targa versions, in 1990, customers could also order the 964 Turbo. Initially powered by the 3.3-litre boxer engine, in 1992 the Turbo was upgraded to a 360-hp, 3.6-litre power plant.
The 911 type-993 was a smooth, elegantly-styled design, integrated bumpers and low-slung front bumpers, made possible with the new headlight design. The 993 quickly gained a reputation for exceptional dependability and reliability. It was also agile, thanks to a newly designed aluminum chassis. The 1995 Turbo was the first to have a bi-turbo engine, giving it the lowest-emission stock automotive powertrain in the world in 1995. The Porsche GT2 was released for high-performance enthusiasts, as was the 911 Targa, featuring an electric glass roof that slid under the rear window. But the 993s legacy undoubtedly stands as being the last of the air-cooled 911s.
The 996 represented a major turning point in the history of the 911; it was an entirely new automobile. It was the first water-cooled boxer engine and, thanks to its four-valve cylinder heads, it achieved 300 hp and broke new ground in noise and fuel consumption ratings. The exterior was a reinterpretation of the classic 911 with a lower drag coefficient of 0.3 (cW). The most obvious change was the integrated turn-signal headlights. Drivers also experienced a new cockpit focused on comfort to match the sporty characteristics. The 996 launched an unprecedented product line with a whole series of new variations. The 1999 911 GT3 became a highlight of the model range, keeping the tradition of the Carrera RS race car alive. The 911 GT2 was the first car equipped with ceramic brakes as standard and was marketed as an extreme sports vehicle in the fall of 2000.
Porsche unveiled the new 911 Carrera and 911 Carrera S Type-997s in July 2004. The oval headlights and separate blinkers were a return to older 911 models, but the 997 was also a higher-performance vehicle. The 3.6-litre boxer engine turned out 325 hp, while the 3.8-litre engine of the Carrera S managed an incredible 355 hp. The chassis was reworked also; the Carrera S coming with Porsche Active Suspension as standard equipment. In 2006, Porsche introduced the 911 Turbo, the first gasoline production automobile to include a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry. An update in 2008 made the 997 even more efficient, with direct fuel injection and a dual clutch transmission. Altogether, the Carrera, Targa, Cabriolet, Turbo, GTS, special models and road versions of GT racecars totaled 24 different versions of the 911.
Known internally as the 991, Porsche’s newest model represents the greatest technical leap of the 911. The new generation continues to raise performance while being more fuel efficient than its predecessors, due in part to the world’s first seven-speed manual transmission, hybrid steel/aluminum construction and Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control anti-roll system. The brand-new suspension is met with a longer wheelbase, wider track and larger tires for an even sportier and more comfortable driving experience, while the GT3 includes active-rear wheel steering, another first for a Porsche production car. The 991 continues to push the boundaries of innovation and performance, while the silhouette holds true to the heritage styling of the 911. Who says change is always a good thing anyways?
It is the best 911 of all time... until the next generation.