Now, we’re not about to break into an impromptu rendition of happy birthday, but we should probably all take a moment to wish the Porsche 911 many happy returns.
You see, it turned 60 years old in September 2023 and we thought, instead of getting it a card and a disappointing present, we would gather up some of the current family for the ultimate 911 road trip. As a gift to the 911 of course – nothing to do with us having a lovely time in some fantastic sports cars.
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Anyway, let’s run through the cars we have here. It’ll be whistlestop because you know them all already…
911 Carrera T
Manual gearbox, that’s basically all you need to know. The Carrera T sits between the standard Carrera and the Carrera S in the 911 range and it might just be the sweet spot. It’s a little bit lighter and a little bit sportier than a standard Carrera, with 380bhp from its twin-turbo flat-six.
911 Turbo S
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The Turbo S is often forgotten about these days. The 911 family is constantly growing, and the GT division cars and special editions get all the headlines, but we probably shouldn’t forget about a near £200,000 supercar with 641bhp.
You know all about this thing by now. It’s a lifted 911 with chunky tyres, a roof rack and spotlights. Of course, it’s completely excellent, but with a starting price of £173,000 before options (and there are many) it certainly isn’t cheap.
911 GT3 RS
The big-ticket item. The 911 GT3 RS. We have some pretty special plans for that car on this trip, and before you get lost looking at the majesty of that swan neck rear wing, it’s worth reminding yourself that this thing has a naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat-six that revs to 9,000rpm and makes 518bhp. And it produces 860kg of downforce at 177mph. The most extreme road-going 911 that Porsche has ever built?
718 Spyder RS
Clearly this isn’t a 911, but the engine started life in a 911 GT3 so we’ll allow it to hang around with its big brothers for now. A grand total of 493bhp and a noise that could bring a tear to Adele’s eye should help to tempt us from the rear-engined stuff too.
And yes, this is technically the roofless version of the Cayman GT4 RS, but so much work has gone in to make it much more than that. In fact, the revised suspension set-up means it’s roughly 50 per cent softer (or should that be less firm?) than the magical Cayman. Should be a decent road trip car then…
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We kick off in Nice on the French Riviera, which sounds fancy but it’s December so it’s cold and raining. Because of that, I start off in the Dakar. Our plan is to take the coastal road to Monaco, but after a wrong turn we end up ploughing straight through the centre of Nice. Still, a good way to discover that the Dakar’s long travel suspension and tall tyre sidewalls make it the perfect 911 for navigating South of France speed bumps.
On sweeping coastal roads the Dakar’s appetite for body roll and 475bhp make it fun to drive at legal speeds, and when we do eventually reach Monaco it’s the off roader that’s getting the most attention. Although that may be partly to do with the fact that we’ve picked up a Christmas tree en route and it’s currently strapped to the roof rack along with some spare tyres.
We attempt a couple of laps of the Grand Prix circuit, but Monaco’s traffic is so bad that we’re not exactly close to lap record territory. Probably not far off Formula E race pace though. And anyway, while dodging Renault Twizys and Citroen Amis (which thankfully manage to stay on all four wheels), I’m again struck by how useable the Dakar is. This is probably the ultimate all-rounder, with good visibility and no need to worry about kerbing a wheel. It’d be my 911 city car of choice.
Later in the evening we make a break from the congestion for an overnight stop in Sanremo, Italy. With less traffic and more tunnels, the 718 Spyder RS shines. The noise is actually very different to that from the Cayman GT4 RS. It’s less shrill and more melodic at the top end, like the lack of a roof is allowing the noise to dissipate rather than firing it around your head and straight back into your ear holes a la Cayman. Still, I rather like that about the GT4 RS. But despite the edge being taken off, you do still get the brilliant induction noise in the Spyder RS. There are new air intakes mounted just behind each headrest, and both of them are real so the noise isn’t affected by which side of the road your country drives on.
The next morning, I swap into the Carrera T to head northeast towards Genoa. Again, we mostly take the scenic route, but even the motorways in this part of Italy come with some decent corners. The seven-speed manual gearbox with its 10mm shorter knob (no laughing at the back) makes shifting gears a joy, and the standard sports exhaust means there’s a soundtrack to accompany the work you’re putting in. A fantastic road-going 911.
Although if you’re looking to cover big distances in a short amount of time, it’s the four-wheel drive Turbo S you’ll want. We hop into it for a motorway blast to Milan, and it’s quiet, composed and comfortable. It’s also monstrously quick when the turbos kick in and accelerates like nothing else here.
The reason for ending up in Milan isn’t for a quick visit to the Duomo, but rather a visit to a different place of worship: the Temple of Speed.
It’s my first time at Monza, so I’m delighted to find that the surface is damp and muddy (rally cars were tearing up the circuit just a couple of weeks earlier) with the temperature firmly in single digits. Oh, and it’s closed so that we can lap the GT3 RS. Quite a senior circuit for an extremely senior car.
Although, while the GT3 RS might look a bit serious with its aggressive aero and fat Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport R tyres, it’s actually remarkably friendly. There’s plenty of grip even in these conditions, particularly in quicker corners where the aero glues you to the circuit, and even in slower sections when that grip does give way the resulting oversteer is progressive and easy to collect. Helps that the GT3 RS has huge amounts of configurability once in Track mode too, so you can retain some traction/stability control and set the dampers to their softest setting to deal with Monza’s sausage kerbs.
And then there’s the engine. That free-revving flat-six delivers its power smoothly and with maximum aural drama, and even though there’s only 518bhp (a full 123bhp less than the Turbo S) it’ll still manage 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds. It’s certainly quick enough, and this 992-gen GT3 RS feels so at-home on a circuit. Regrettably we don’t go near the DRS.
Still, the whole road trip just serves to prove the breadth of the 911 range. Considering both use the same car as their starting point, looking at the Dakar and the GT3 RS side-by-side is like trying to compare off-road apples with track-driving oranges. And if you think about how far the 911 has come in 60 years, just imagine where Porsche will take it in the next 60.