1998 Porsche 911 Carrera S 993 vs. 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS 997.2

1998 Porsche 911 Carrera S 993 vs. 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS 997.2

Carrera widebodies Paul Cowland pits the revered 997 GTS against the classic 993 S, to see which is the best wide-hipped Carrera.The 993 Carrera S and 997 GTS offer girth, spec and the purity of normal aspiration. But which is the better driver’s car? Total 911 finds out…


Written by Paul Cowland

Photography by Chris Wallbank


WIDE BOYS

AIR-COOLED CLASSIC TAKES ON THE WATER-COOLED IDOL… WHICH WIDE-BODIED CARRERA IS THE DRIVER’S CHOICE?


1998 Porsche 911 Carrera S 993 vs. 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS 997.2

There’s a trusted adage in collector circles: if you’re looking for a bankable car then either the first or last ones off the production line are usually the ones to buy. Early cars of any core classic usually demonstrate the purity of the original vision, whereas the run-out models should presumably encompass how the model has evolved to its supposed zenith.

The other advantage of almost every final iteration is some kind of special edition. A little extra spec, a few bonus trinkets, or perhaps some unusual styling. Whenever a new model appears on the sales horizon, even manufacturers such as Porsche know that it never hurts to load the outgoing offering with additional kit. The result often makes for the ‘best in breed’ in many notable cases.


1998 Porsche 911 Carrera S 993 vs. 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS 997.2

It could be argued that the subject of this feature contains two immaculate examples of that phenomenon. The ‘sign-off’ 993 Carrera S gave enthusiasts the sensual wider body shape in a perfectly normally aspirated, air-cooled package that purists would lament the loss of for many years to come. The 997.2 GTS presents a very similar recipe, albeit with a little added coolant and perhaps a few more creature comforts. As the swan song for the perfectly proportioned 997, the GTS was utterly loaded with kit on top of the already-capable Carrera 2 (or 4) platform, creating one of the truly great GTs. These two cars perhaps represent some of the best of their lineage. And in these particular examples, the finest of their type. The 993 has covered a mere 8,000 or so miles, whereas the GTS has travelled just 6,000. In terms of being able to jump back in time to drive ‘as-new’ examples of these cars, this is as close as I’m ever going to get.


1998 Porsche 911 Carrera S 993 vs. 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS 997.2

It would be correct and proper at this point for me to point out an important fact in the interests of editorial integrity. This may not be the most objective article you’ll read on these hallowed pages. Why? Well, because the GTS belongs to me, while the 993 is owned by my good friend of 20-odd years, the respected tuner and all-round nice chap that is Iain Litchfield. A man who’s no stranger to making Porsche’s products look and work better, in all their forms, but not a man who normally buys classic cars just for fun.

Iain was switched on to these two models by one of his best customers, who was looking to refresh and downsize the most wonderful collection of cossetted cars. Having negotiated and paid a price that reflected the simply ridiculous condition of the 993, he was good enough to ask whether I’d like to find garage space for the flawless GTS. Despite not having the funds immediately available, I took a nanosecond to agree to the sale and quickly rustled up the finance required. In a one-off PTS colour of Riviera blue, with the spec you’re about to discover and with that mileage? In both of our cases, it would have been rude not to.


1998 Porsche 911 Carrera S 993 vs. 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS 997.2

This road test, then, is perhaps a little different. Both of the testers concerned liked the subject matter so much that they actually put their money down. So bear that in mind as you read. This may not be the most critical piece you’ll ever encounter… Starting with the 993, we decide to use the wonderful back lanes around Iain’s Tewkesbury premises to give it room to stretch its rarely used legs. Even just sitting inside prior to take-off makes you realise what an incredible find this car is. Very few cars made over two decades ago still have that ‘new car’ smell, but this one does. Everywhere you look – the tautness of the leather, the perfectly aligned stitching on every seat, the utterly unmarked glass, bodywork and carpets – gives the impression that this car has been on this planet for a very easy six months, not the near-quarter of a century that it has. Starting the engine results in that familiar aircooled bark that takes you back to where it all began, before settling down into the sweetest of idles. As I sit and wait for it to warm up a little, it’s the lack of wear on any surface, combined with the tightness of every single control that really astonishes. We all know how well Porsches carry their miles, but whether it’s opening a door handle, flexing the accelerator or even just engaging first gear, there’s a resistance to every movement that tells you, in very real terms, this car is almost still being run-in. I’ve driven to the shoot in the 997, and having spent the previous day in my G-Series 1982 Flatnose and a friend’s 964, it’s interesting to see how the 993 feels like the vital link between those two very different eras. What’s crystal clear is its mechanical similarity to its forebears. The 993 may be the ultimate aircooled proposition, but what’s immediately obvious out on the road is that pure-bred heritage. As you sit there, looking through that familiar glass with the controls in their habitual place, this car really does feel like a machine from a different time. But it’s all the better for it.

With the temperature gauge now where we need it to be, it’s time to press on a little. Within reason, of course. I know what the invoice for this car was, and I’m driving accordingly. Over the flowing undulations and open corners of the textbook Gloucestershire lanes, the Carrera S begins to reveal its true talents. At low speeds it feels like the throwback that it is. You have to remember how out of step this mechanical approach was at the time, in the late 90s. A rear engine, air-cooled car really was a unique proposition dynamically then, but the second you start to press on it simply comes alive with a precision and deftness that reveals what an accomplishment the whole package was. Steering is superb with perfect weighting, offering an intuitive response to each lock input that means your muscle memory instinctively knows where to place it. It may be singing a tune that’s based on a very old melody, this car, but my word is it able to add an extra layer of harmony.

Each additional mile reinforces what I’d felt the second I got in. This is easily the finest air-cooled 911 I’ve ever driven, dynamically. It’s not turbo fast, of course, but what it does do is cover ground with that fantastic linear throttle, that in this speed camera-ridden world perhaps makes a little more sense.

What this car lacks in ultimate pace against its bigger brother, it more than makes up for in perfect delivery. Maybe I’m just getting older and slower, but on this day and on this road, it somehow just seems to make more sense.

Parking up and looking back at the car as snapper Chris Wallbank captures it, it’s also hard to argue that the Carrera S isn’t one of the most handsome of the breed, too. Shorn of its Turbo aerodynamics, you’re left with the purest evolution of that shape. The broad haunches add a little visual drama, but it’s all very discreet and tasteful. Enough to show those who know that this is a very special motor car, without making too much fuss. A car you can park anywhere after enjoying the most wonderful drive to get there. Jumping into the GTS may only be skipping one model generation, but it immediately feels like a very different kind of machine. What Porsche has always been exceptional at is carrying over the DNA from model to model. Not just in the critical area of aesthetics, but also in the feel of the controls and cabin architecture. That these two are siblings isn’t in doubt, but junior has clearly been spending a lot more time in the gym. Like the Carrera S, the GTS was loaded with kit, and also got the welcome addition of the Performance Pack giving 408bhp, and this really shows on the road, with an urgency that makes itself apparent, even before the factory-optioned quick shift has had time to loosen up into a decently fluid throw (it’s unfeasibly notchy from cold – something Porsche even alludes to on the Tequipment website!).

Anyone who’s made the jump from air- to water-cooled flat six will marvel at the way the factory managed to keep a very similar tone on the 3.8-litre motor, and with the Sports exhaust activated and the dampers set to soft, the GTS makes quite the case for itself as the ultimate cross-country machine. Again, it lacks the brutal punch of its big brother, the GT3, but what it offers instead is perhaps more compelling: the ability to deliver precise driving thrills at any speed, while being much easier to live with in the real world. The compliancy of the damping, even on these soon-to- be-swapped original, hard Bridgestones belies this car’s sporting purpose. Poor surfaces fail to phase it, even when pressing on at the legal limit, making this car a flattering conveyance for an averagely talented driver like me.

Like Iain’s 993, the cabin on the GTS is a delight, and with the wonderful options of Sports Chrono, Alcantra and Carbon packs, it’s a very pleasant place to be. This car was also ordered with the factory limited-slip differential, making it perhaps the ultimate GTS spec for those that don’t mind the slightly lairier 993 launch shade that it wears, and with that vibrant hue even extending on to the centre tunnel console as yet another option ticked, it’s very much one man’s vision that I’m very happy to share. Driving the two cars, it’s very hard to choose between them. Were it a straight fight, the endless pull of the raucous 3.8 in the GTS, combined with its clever damping means that it would probably win the race between two points on the map. And while the 993 shows its age developmentally on the same drive, its visceral enjoyment, lighter weight and purity of design means that you really don’t care about your speed. You’re just too busy enjoying the tactility of it all along the way.

With regards to the thorny subject of the scant use these two have seen, I’ve never previously been a fan of buying low-mileage cars, because they often need to be kept that way if you want to retain their value. However, after spending a day with these two flawless examples, I can begin to see the appeal. There’s a lot to be said for a car that drives ‘as new’, even if your plan is to then go forward and undo that to a degree. There’s no point having a car that good and not using it, right?

As for which one I’d take home, as much as I fell in love with Iain’s 993 on the day, to me it’s just a little too much like my ’82 Cabriolet. Not that this is a bad thing you understand, but the huge leap forward that the GTS brings to the party, combined with its sweetness of controls, balance and all-round usability makes it the perfect 911, in my eyes. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Thanks With thanks to Litchfield Motors (litchfieldmotors.com) and Fast ‘n’ Funded (fastnfunded.co.uk)for their help with this article.

ABOVE Iain Litchfield (left) and Paul Cowland (right) discuss the nuances of Porsche body shapes in Litchfield Motors’ workshop

  • Model 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS 997.2
  • Year 2011

Engine

  • Capacity 3,800cc
  • Compression ratio 12.5:1
  • Maximum power 408bhp @ 7,300rpm
  • Maximum torque 420Nm @ 4,200-5,600rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed manual

Suspension

  • Front Independent; MacPherson strut; anti-roll bar
  • Rear Independent; multi-link; anti-roll bar

Wheels & tyres

  • Front 8.5x19-inch; 235/35 ZR 19
  • Rear 11x19-inch; 305/30 ZR 19

Dimensions

  • Length 4,435mm
  • Width 1,852mm
  • Weight 1,420kg

Performance

  • 0-62mph 4.2 seconds (Sport Chrono)
  • Top speed 190mph

“That these two are siblings isn’t in doubt, but junior has clearly been spending a lot more time in the gym”

FAR LEFT A rear-drive Coupe with manual transmission means this is the most focussed and rare 997 GTS derivative

RIGHT The 997 GTS represents the swan song of the 997 generation 911, and came with the Porsche Powerkit that produced 408bhp

  • Model 1998 Porsche 911 Carrera S 993
  • Year 1998

Engine

  • Capacity 3,600cc
  • Compression Ratio 11.3:1
  • Maximum power 285bhp @ 6,100rpm
  • Maximum torque 340Nm @ 5,250rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed manual

Suspension

  • Front Independent; MacPherson strut; anti-roll bar
  • Rear Independent; multi-link; anti-roll bar

Wheels & tyres

Front 7x17-inch; 205/50 ZR 17

Rear 9x17-inch; 255/40 ZR 17

Dimensions

Length 4,245mm

Width 1,795mm

Weight 1,450kg

Performance

0-62mph 5.4 seconds

Top speed 168mph

LEFT The air-cooled engine of the 993 Carrera S is capable of achieving 285bhp, and features VarioRam induction

RIGHT The 993’s interior is pared back significantly compared to the 997, its Sports seats offering good lateral hold

“It may be singing a tune that’s based on a very old melody, but my word is it able to add an extra layer of harmony”

Article type:
Review
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