Exploring Porsche’s past, present and the future with a bunch of its sportscars, powered by a naturally aspirated engine, turbocharged petrol engines and an electric powertrain as well!
Sportscars make enthusiasts go weak in the knees and bring out that inner child in all of us who cannot stop admiring the sensuous lines, large wheels and of course the exhaust note. And when the talk is about sportscars, no conversation is complete without the mention of Porsche, a sportscar maker known for creating some of the finest sportscars in the world and also responsible for turning legions of men back into boys across generations!
In fact, there’s few sportscar makers who can boast the kind of storied past that Porsche does. Many of the younger enthusiasts who salivate at the sight of a Porsche today may not even know that the first ever Porsche, the Porsche 64 or Type 64, was developed using crucial mechanical components from the Volkswagen Beetle while the 356 (also the 911’s predecessor), used a rear-mid, 1.1-litre flat-four engine from the Beetle! It has been a long and illustrious journey for Porsche since then and the finesse and engineering that goes into the development of each Porsche makes them special, but there’s a lot more to it all than just finesse.
One reason is Porsche sticking to its guns, like the flat-six engine configuration. The 911 is widely regarded as one of the best sportscars in the world – for good reason, and if you didn’t know that you wouldn’t be reading these pages! And Porsche’s air-cooled flat-six motors will always be known as some of the greatest engines in the history of the automobile. I was even told by an old timer once, “You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard a Porsche powered by an air-cooled flat-six, barrelling down the main straight of a racetrack at full chat, exhaust note ricocheting off the empty grand stands.” But trying to find an air-cooled Porsche for this story proved to be futile.
And Porsche’s engines have evolved – air-cooled to liquid-cooled and naturally aspirate turbocharged petrol ones and well, no engine in the Taycan! So the start point for this feature is one of its last naturally aspirated engines, powering a 2016 Cayman S. I’ve always appreciated what the Cayman stands for, despite it being overshadowed by the 911, with its ease of driving and the pure, unadulterated fun. In fact owner Abhimanyu Bansal has taken it on innumerable road trips the deserts of Rajasthan, the hills in Uttarakhand and even the beaches of Goa! He has a special affinity for Porsches and is the founder of the Porsche Owners Club of India and Stuttgart Service in Delhi, which specialises in Porsches only.
Under the hood is a 3.4-litre, naturally aspirated flat-six engine putting out 325PS and 370Nm, sent to the rear wheels. Besides upgrades like a GT4 front bumper and Techart wing, this Cayman S currently runs a Stage 2 tune along with IPE gold headers and sounds glorious, almost like a race car. Throttle responses are urgent but very precise, offering excellent control. Acceleration is very quick and on empty stretches of tarmac the Cayman S pounced ahead, accelerating hard.
The stock car’s claimed 0-100kmph time was 4.6 seconds and I reckon this one is at least three-tenths quicker. Unlike its predecessors, the 981 Cayman S also felt sportier, angrier and closer to the flagship 911, yet retaining its core values of being an everyday sportscar. It offers good visibility, is surprisingly comfortable, has short overhangs and feels surprisingly nimble in traffic, adding to its likeable demeanour as an everyday sportscar. Of course, the naturally aspirated flat-six is a gem and the car’s biggest draw. Too bad they don’t make them like that anymore!
Next up is the big daddy, the 911 Turbo! It was the Turbo that showed the world the turbocharged, flat-six petrol engine’s potential. The air-cooled flat-six was a doing a great job, but Porsche was keen on launching a road-going 911 with a turbocharged petrol engine inspired by its race cars. And the 911 Turbo that was born in 1975 proved to be a huge hit with its scary performance, earning it the nickname ‘widow maker’! The 991.1 911 Turbo you see here is one of the finest Turbos in my books though and getting to drive it indeed felt special. Actually, it’s the upgrades that made it even more special, including a Techart tuning box and Capristo Decat full Titanium Exhaust system, fenders from the 911 GT3RS, bigger rims and custom paint job.
Peak power from the 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six is well over 700PS, up from the stock car’s 520PS! That’s comparable to the Lamborghini Aventador’s, powered by a naturally aspirated V12 and well, that’s the beauty of turbocharging! This engine also boasted special tech, like the dynamic boost function that kept the throttle valve open even after the driver lifted off the throttle, ensuring there’s no drop in the boost in between. The stock car claimed to do 0-100kmph in 3.1 seconds, but I’m told this one does it in less than 2.8 seconds. Few cars I’ve driven till date have had me grip the steering with a vice-like grip like this one!
It’s a car that will have the most seasoned of drivers grin like an idiot given how violent the acceleration can get and it really is mad fast. The 911 Turbo has thus never been about flamboyance, but has always stood for performance that borderlines insanity, coupled with brilliant dynamics. The kind of legacy this one boasts is perhaps unparalleled in the supercar world, as this in my books is the ultimate supercar for everyday use. Massive respect!
Let’s now move to the present, the 992 generation 911 Carrera S. This is the eighth generation version of the flagship and uses a lot more aluminium to shed weight without affecting strength. After the stomach churning 991 911 Turbo, this one’s 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged flat-six putting out 450PS and 530Nm felt a little docile, but with undertones of it packing in a hefty punch. Owned by Gaurav Tingre, co-founder of the Pune Supercar Club, this 911 is bone stock which allowed me to experience what the engine is all about. Power delivery is surprisingly friendly but prodding it has the motor bring forth its true character. Modern-day sportscars feature complicated electronic nannies but the 911’s electronics don’t really intrude and only help you harness its performance.
This being the S power is only sent to the rear wheels but there’s enough grip at all times and chucking it into fast bends without a care is easy-peasy. The stock exhaust isn’t as loud as the other two but sounds sonorous and deep. An eight-speed dual clutch puts the power down, while paddle shifters offer full control with excellent feel, especially in Sport mode. The whooshes and whistles from the twin turbos are very audible, adding to the theatrics. The current generation Porsches are perhaps the last of turbo-petrols – I suspect hybridisation will threaten to change things the next time around!
And finally, let’s take a look at Porsche’s future, represented by the Taycan. Having reviewed it just last month I can confirm the future is err… electric. I was initially concerned the Taycan might disappoint in this company but it proved me wrong as except for the missing theatrics and flat-six symphony, it is a true Porsche. It takes everything we love about Porsches and catapults those characteristics into the future with its dynamics, driver aids and performance.
I’d mentioned last month that I was sitting on the fence when it comes to electrification, but the Taycan makes me like the idea. It handles like a Porsche should, has the go to match its futuristic design (while retaining that classic Porsche silhouette) and stands for what the future of sportscars will be like, and also Porsche’s, as one of the world’s most iconic sportscar makers. For now though, I’m just trying to decide which of the three cars with the flat-sixes to I lower myself into, before things go silent.