Mid-week long read: past master
Bidding a fond farewell to the inimitable 991.
In a bittersweet moment at Zuffenhausen, the last 991 generation 911 has just rolled off the production line, bringing the most successful series of our evergreen sports car to a close. Although the 992 has been in production for almost a year, high demand for the final iterations of its predecessor have kept our engineers very busy, and the last 911 Speedster has just been completed, rounding out a remarkable total run of 233,540 cars.
“Porsche stands for both tradition and innovation,” said Michael Steiner, Chief Research and Development Officer Porsche AG. “This is reflected nowhere more clearly than in the core of the brand – the 911. The 911 replaced the 356 in 1963 and, in the decades that followed, our rear engine model grew into an unrivalled sports car icon. The 991 generation in particular has set new standards in terms of performance, drivability and efficiency. It fills me with pride, as well as a touch of sadness, to have to send it off into retirement. For myself, I can say that the 991 has given me enormous pleasure.”
Launched in 2011, the 991 was one of the biggest development steps in the history of the 911. Nearly 90 per cent of components were new or had undergone substantial redevelopment. Thanks to a lightweight monocoque made of an innovative aluminium-steel composite, it was the first time that a new 911 had weighed less than its predecessor. The chassis, which benefitted from a 100 millimetre-longer wheelbase than the model that it replaced, could be equipped with a new, optional roll stabilisation system – Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) – and set a new benchmark for high-speed handling.
The Cabriolet followed in the spring of 2012 with another innovation. When closed, the lightweight magnesium bows made it possible for the roof to achieve a coupé-like curve that had never been seen before, and its silhouette was unaltered even at high speeds.
The new 911 Targa, which came out at the end of that year, was equally spectacular. Like the original Targa from the mid-1960s, the new model had the trademark metal hoop instead of B-pillars. But this time, at the push of a button, the front section of the roof could be stowed automatically behind the seats.
The innovations continued with the arrival of the new 911 Turbo, which saw the first active aerodynamics on a 911 and the debut of particulate filter-equipped turbo engines. The 991 also proved the ideal basis for limited edition models and high-performance specials. Porsche celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 911 in 2013 with an exclusively equipped celebratory model, of which only 1,963 examples were built. And in 2016, the 500 PS, naturally-aspirated 911 R arrived, its lightweight body and manual gearbox evoking memories of the road-legal racers of the same name that first appeared in 1967. Two other highly focussed new offerings with classic predecessors also made an appearance the following year: the 911 T and GT3 with Touring package.
By happy coincidence, the one-millionth 911 ever made arrived in 2017 too, and like Ferry Porsche’s first company 911, the one-off commemorative model was painted in Irish Green and boasted leather and Pepita seats. In the same year, Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur presented the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series with 446 kW (607 PS) and spectacular Golden Yellow Metallic paintwork.
But there was still more to come. The fastest and most powerful road-going 911 built to date also arrived in 2017 in the form of the 515 kW (700 PS; Fuel consumption combined: 11.8 l/100 km; CO2 emissions: 269 g/km) 911 GT2 RS. Its naturally aspirated sister, the GT3 RS, followed a few months later and both cars soon claimed outright records around the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife.
By now the 991’s replacement was in the late stages of development, but to mark Porsche’s 70th anniversary in the summer of 2018, one final model was created. The limited edition 911 Speedster embodied many of the virtues of the earliest Porsche models, with lightweight construction, efficiency and an absolute purity of purpose. Using the underpinnings of the GT3, but shrouded in the design cues that are a feature of all our Speedsters, the ultimate incarnation of this remarkable series became a fitting swan song to a much-loved 911. So long 991. You will be missed.