Long term tests

Porsche 911 Carrera 2

A quieter engine and solid suspension for this 911

What are you driving now, then?’ It’s the question I always get asked, for obvious reasons. But even after six months with our Polar Silver 993 Carrera, I could never just deadpan back, ‘911’. God knows how long it takes for that answer to seem natural, how long before you don’t involuntarily break into an idiotic grin as you excitedly blurt out the numbers. I pray that one day I’ll find out. Every now and then there are dreamlike days here at Evo Towers. As I write this there’s a Bentley Continental GT outside, parked beside a BMW M6. Next to that? A Pagani Zonda. We all appreciate that this isn’t real life, but things turned particularly surreal for me the day Harry decided to buy a 993 Carrera to pitch against the new Cayman S (evo 085) – and then asked me to run it on the Fast Fleet for the following six months, maybe more… P737 HEC was one of a handful of 993s ordered with the puny standard 16in wheels, which seemed to introduce a bit too much stodge into the steering while also making the otherwise svelte outline look heavy and slightly out-of-proportion. Therefore our first major expense was to replace the 16s with a set of 17in ‘Cup’ alloys (£500) fitted with Bridgestone S02A tyres (£716.75), and my first drive in our new 911 was a quick blast to a local tyre fitter to swap the rims. I think I fell in love about 15 seconds into that journey. Things got even better with the bigger rims and fresh, stiffer-sidewalled rubber, the 993 feeling more connected to the surface. The ride suffered a tiny bit, but it was by no means a jarring, camber-hunting experience. In fact, the 993 really flowed over any road, with just the odd crack back through the steering and suspension over the worst potholes. This was a 911 you could really bend to your will – once you’d built up an open dialogue with that engine slung behind you, of course… And what an engine. Not as vocal as you might expect (quieter, for example, than a new 911 or Boxster), but creamy smooth and capable of flinging the 993 along at big speeds. Our car was a VarioRam model with 285bhp (earlier 993s have 272bhp), and although it was not quite as torquey as you might expect, the 3.6-litre flat-six had real bite at high revs. Contemporary road tests put the 0-60mph time in the low fives, with 0-100 around the 12sec mark. Still very, very respectable and, ten years on, PHEC still felt good for those figures. Porsche horses have always felt a big stronger than others, and it seems they have more stamina, too. For day-to-day use, the 993 rarely disappointed. Some found the driving position, with the pedals noticeably offset to the left, a little uncomfortable, but it wasn’t an issue for me, particularly as the throttle and brake were millimetre-perfect for heel-and-toeing. The front boot wasn’t nearly as accommodating as in modern, water-cooled 911s, but as the rear seats served better as extra luggage space than actual seats, this wasn’t really a problem. The interior was, admittedly, painfully old-fashioned, but I thought it was fantastic, better than the 997’s bland button-fest, certainly. It wore its 90,000 miles well, too. The leather was aged, but there was no cracking or hardening, and the carpets looked as fresh as the day the car rolled off the line. It was almost boringly flawless. If you’re looking to spend around £25,000 and are worried that a ten-year-old car will feel horribly tired, think again. Like any other cherished example, no doubt, this 993 felt incredibly fit and still oozed integrity. That’s not to say it was a cheap car to run. In our 9000 miles with PHEC it was treated to two services, the first of which cost £906.43 at Porsche Centre Silverstone, the most recent, at renowned specialist Autofarm, coming in at £1059.56. Having said that, I never added a drop of oil between services, those Bridgestones are still legal despite lots of hard-driven miles, and that second bill included new track-rod ends to cure violent steering vibrations over bumpy roads (a common 993 fault). Take a look at that depreciation figure and the running costs don’t seem so bad, either. But enough of the practical stuff. What you really need to know is that the 993 is a mesmerising, enchanting, brilliantly usable and simply thrilling car to live with. It’s so good at the everyday stuff that you sometimes take it for granted, but it only takes one turn off the clogged main roads to remind you of that 911 magic. The steering feels a shade slow and not very talkative at first, but soon you tune-in to its messages and can then start to work the front tyres hard. Its basic balance is mild understeer, but because of the flow of information and that unique rear-engined feel, it doesn’t seem boring. In fact, if you never managed to get the rear engine and tyres starting to dictate the car’s attitude, you’d still feel intimately involved in the process of negotiating a great road. Step beyond that first limit, though, and a whole world of new thrills opens up. It took me a while to get to this stage on the road (despite a few laps at the Bedford Autodrome which revealed an incredibly forgiving chassis), but once I got confident killing that understeer with a lift on turn-in and learnt not to panic when the tail edged wide, the 993 just got better and better. I really slid the car whenever the opportunity presented itself (well, it’d be rude not too), but more usually it was a matter of dealing with small, precise slip angles. It’s a uniquely malleable chassis, and because the 993 isn’t as grippy as modern 911s you can reach this level of interactivity more of the time. PHEC was awesome fun on track, too. Tricky in braking zones (that engine weaves around behind you), but very quick and amazingly forgiving when you got it on opposite lock. I never thought I’d be bouncing off the lock-stops, but that seemed to be its natural stance. Lapping Bedford’s West Circuit just a few tenths slower than the Cayman S proved it was effective, too. My only really bad memory of PHEC wasn’t the car’s fault at all. Waking up one morning to find ‘MINE BITCH’ scrawled into the bonnet’s paintwork ranks as the most depressing moment I’ve had with any long-termer. I won’t dwell on it now, simply because you can’t rationalise something like that. So, just one blip, entirely of somebody else’s making, in over 9000 miles and ten months. Running most cars is a series of peaks and troughs, but the 993 started at the top of its game and never dipped once. I enjoyed every single minute of it, and although I’m sad it’s gone, I’m just grateful for the memories. I’ve promised myself that one day there’ll be another 911 parked outside my house. And next time it’ll be for keeps.

Running Costs

Date acquiredAugust 2005
Total mileage9015
Duration of test10 months
Average MPG23.5mpg
Servicing costs£1965.99
Consumables£716.75 (four Bridgestone S02A tyres)
Extra costs£500 (17in Cup alloys)
Price new£24,000

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