All my life I have had a passion for the Porsche brand and the 911 in particular. There is just something about the 911 that I love. Perhaps it is the classic lines of the car. Or it could be its long history in motorsports. Or the fact that the basic design of the car is just so wrong with its rear mounted air cooled engine, awkward aerodynamics, ergonomics that defy all logic and tricky handling (at least on the earlier models). Maybe it’s because they are hand crafted and look and sound like no other car on earth. Whatever that reason is, I love it and when I had the chance to drive one I could not pass up the opportunity.
The 1995-1998 993 series of the 911 range was the last of the air cooled and some say real 911’s. Some people think that the 993 is the best looking series of all the 911’s including ones from today. I have to agree the 993, especially in wide body form (the Turbo, C4S and C2S) is in my opinion one of the best looking cars ever produced. The proportions are correct, the curves are stunning and sexy and who can resist that sound. It is the automotive equivalent of porn.
The first impression walking up to the 911 C4S is how small the car actually is in the metal. It really is small and that should not be a surprise since the basic shape and dimensions of the 993 date back to the first 911’s from the mid 60’s. This is not a bad thing, small is good in the sports car world and in times of bigger and bigger vehicles in order to meet both safety and comfort standards its refreshing to climb into a car that is smaller, lighter, and simpler.
Once inside you might be surprised to find a rather simple if not outdated interior. Having a basic design layout from the original car from the 60’s can shock some people. Personally I think of it as classic Porsche and its part of experience, others will not agree. Whatever your opinions might be of the interior design of the 993, undeniably it is well made and has fine materials and workmanship throughout. On the other hand this is a Porsche and is meant to be driven and an old outdated interior can be forgiven. But the ergonomics are quirky. For example, the ignition key is on the left, not a big deal just different. But other things are a bit more of a pain. The pedals are offset to the centre of the car and are very close together. It takes some getting use too but eventually after a few minutes of the feeling that you have two left feet you become accustom to it. And although the 993 has gauges coming out of it ying yang you have to have x-ray vision or be a contortionist to read all of them with the exception of the central tachometer. With all these obstacles a 911 is not the car you want to drive for the first time at night! But all these quirks seem to disappear once you turn the ignition key.
The sound of and air cooled flat 6 Porsche engine is like no other in the world. Just like a Rotary engine and a Ford V8 has a distinct yet pleasurable sound. The flat 6 Porsche has it own unique melody. Adding to the experience is the fact that all the mechanical and exhaust noise is behind you. Since the engine is air cooled you tend to hear mechanical noises that are normally muffled on traditional water cooled engines. It isn’t bad or offensive just different. You also tend to hear the massive cooling fan doing its job as the RPM’s rise.
On the road the 993 feels solid and well planted. It rides firm but not jarring. The steering and handling are incredibly direct and give you a feeling of incredible confidence. The 993 is as thrilling to drive around town as it is when pushed to its limits. Being a simple car there is no electronic aids with the exception of ABS. The vehicle has a mechanical feel to it that many modern cars lack and a fun factor that is sadly missing in the high performance cars of today. You can toss this car into a corner and mash the gas with full confidence. There is plenty of grip and although you can feel the weight of the engine behind you it never feels like it could get too out of hand. The all wheel drive system probably helps in this regard but it never feels intrusive like most systems. Just about every all wheel drive vehicle I have driven suffers from under steer but not this car. Just neutral and direct are the feelings transmitted through the car. Power isn’t on the same level as my 2003 Cobra but the grip afforded by the all wheel drive allows the driver to rev the engine to 4000 RPM and dump the clutch for maximum off the line performance. Although this is not a recommended practice for longevity sake but it does show the amount of grip the C4S has.
The 1995-1998 993 marked and end of an era for Porsche and the beginning of something new. Even though this generation of 911 has some unavoidable shortcomings it is probably the best way to experience the original concept from the 60’s with modern handling, power and conveniences. No matter what year 911 you may choose you will be driving the best sports car ever conceived in my opinion.