Every generation was special in some way.
These days, there's rarely such a thing as a bad Porsche, and the 911 Turbo certainly doesn't fall into that very small category. It's a machine that pushes the boundaries of what can be done with a rear-engined Boxer-driven motor and is a car that is arguably more important than any other in the Stuttgart-based automaker's lineup. Such brilliance attracts brilliance, and Walter Rohrl, the legendary rally driver, is one of the few people whose skills behind a wheel and opinion of how a car should be cannot ever be questioned. Thus, hearing his take on each generation of the 911 Turbo is most welcome.
This was the first of all 911 Turbos and was a real game-changer for the sports car manufacturer. However, because Porsche doggedly refused to shift away from a rear-engined setup, the 930 is often referred to as the Widowmaker, after yuppies and stock brokers regularly wound up in ditches trying to impresses their mistresses. For someone who knows how to make the most of it, however, it's actually pretty good. Rohrl says that it was "a fantastic challenge for skilled drivers." As a skilled driver himself, Rohrl was perfectly poised to fulfill "a personal dream" when he purchased one for himself in 1979.
Even if you don't know much about cars, you probably recognize the 964 shape as the one that Mike Lawry drove in the original Bad Boys. Even a Ferrari 550/575 from Bad Boys II couldn't live up to the iconic image of the 964 in the first film. However, as Rohrl makes note, the earliest versions of the 964 Turbo, with their 3.3-liter engines were not as loved as later models. The 964 may be one of the most beautiful 911s ever and one of the most sought-after at the moment, but it was little more than an aesthetic upgrade. When the 3.6-liter version came out, it became truly special, earning its place as "a dream car to this day" for the rally legend.
One of the true game-changers for the range, much like the 930, the 993 was the first all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo. It needed this system because it was now producing around 402 horsepower and was at risk of becoming a real widowmaker itself. Fortunately, Rohrl himself had quite a bit of input in the development of this car, culminating in him bestowing upon it the highest praise: "The 993 Turbo is simply fantastic to drive and can hardly be beaten when it comes to driving dynamics." We're sure Rohrl's comments would have angered many purists since Porsche fans despise change, but the greatest seed of discord was sown with the next generation, and it had nothing to do with the way the car drove.
It was time for Porsche to experiment, but rather than messing with the way the car handled, Porsche decided to see if its classic styling cues could be modernized. They could, but this was not the car to do it with. While the proportions and shape are still good, many hated the 'fried-egg' headlights, and the result was a backlash from fans that saw things change back to simpler design principles with the following generation. Worse still, the available Tiptronic automatic gearbox that was introduced for the first time in a Turbo "significantly blunted the power output of [414 horsepower]."
"The 997 generation above all represented a step forward into modern times in terms of the visual styling. Even today the car has hardly aged - it continues to embody the aesthetics of a modern Porsche." So Porsche was back to winning its fans over, at least in terms of the styling but what of the car underneath the sheet metal? Well, the mesmerizingly brilliant PDK dual-clutch transmission debuted, and with 493 hp on tap, it was a lot of fun. Rohrl continues: "Even today I still cannot find anything negative to say, and I always enjoy sitting behind the wheel of a 997 Turbo. There is a marvelously analog feeling to the set-up of the steering, running gear and brakes." High praise indeed.
It was at this point in the 911's life that we realized for certain that Porsche loves to confuse us with its model designations and code names. How on Earth does 991 come after 997? Odd naming conventions aside, this model truly carried the spirit of the original Turbos thanks to its very large hips. By this time, Porsche worked hard on every generation to ensure that a rear-engined layout could continue to perform well, even with more power than ever before. To that end, this generation saw the introduction of rear-wheel steering. "991 Turbo models set such a high standard in terms of driving dynamics that it is hard to believe that it's possible to improve anything here. [...] It's just incredible." We can't help but agree, Walter.
45 years of refinement and innovation has led to this, the 992 Turbo. As you can tell from Rohrl's comments on the 991, it seemed that there was nothing left to improve on the 911 Turbo. "I simply could not imagine how it would be possible to further enhance the experience offered by the previous generation. But when I drive the 992 Turbo, [...] it is quite incredible. It has improved once more in so many dimensions that it leaves me almost speechless." As Rohrl continues, it drives at the level of a supercar but without the risk associated with early 911s. "You can put anyone behind the wheel without having to be afraid."
Some lament that the car is so good at being good, but we'd rather be able to predict where the tail of the car will face after jabbing on the throttle. And if Porsches are meant to be driven, isn't better drivability always a good thing? As times change and regulations become ever stricter, we're just thankful that Porsche has stuck to its guns and given us the greatest sports cars in the world.