THE TOYS JUST GET BIGGERText and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
The honest truth: boys never really grow up; our toys just get bigger and better. Even the biggest and strongest men deep down in their hearts know they are still boys. We want to play, we want to feel happy and we want to have the best toys. For petrolheads this equates to faster, more expensive and more exclusive cars. Neill is one of these boys and this is his toy – the Porsche 997.1 Carrera 2S.
For as long as I’ve known Neil, he’s always surrounded himself by beautiful cars, yet he never seemed to hold on to any of them for too long. When I tried to find out the reason for it the explanation was simple: “why not, I just get bored”. Having owned super-fast, exciting and amazing handling cars before like Subaru Impreza WRX STI P1, Lotus Exige, bonkers drag-spec VW Beetle and many others Neil finally decided to purchase and try out one of the all-time greatest sports cars out there – the Porsche 911. Surely he’d hold on to this.
There are no perfect cars out there; however, there are ones that are as close to the perfection as possible – Porsche 911 is one of them. For more than fifty years the German luxurious car manufacturer has been releasing and perfecting the 911 and with every new model they release they become faster, better handling, more responsive and more luxurious. So what's the previous generation 997 like?
Porsches are confusing – FACT! So Neil’s Porsche is a Porsche 911, well not really – it’s a 997. Erm, ok technically a 997.1 as it’s generation 1 not the facelift model that is called 997.2. It also is a Carrera, but not Carrera as such it is a Carrera S meaning it's sportier. Also it is Carrera 2S as it is 2 wheel drive so not Carrera 4S that means it is four wheel drive. Are you lost yet? I was…
The Porsche 997 replaced the 996 model in 2005 and was in production until 2012 when it was replaced with the current generation of 911 code named – 991. The 997 upgrades included exterior and interior changes, lower drag coefficient, improved handling and performance. The 997 became the most successful selling 911 of all time.
The motoring press gave nothing but positive reviews upon its announcement. Whilst the 997 was vastly based on the 996 model, it was a major improvement and received raving reviews from all motoring journalists, including one of the biggest “anti-Porschers” - Jeremy Clarkson himself. The car was revised in the later years of the production; therefore, these cars are known as 997 GEN 1 and 997 Gen 2 (997.1 and 997.2). The Porsche 997.2 received a larger air intake in the front bumper, new front and rear lights, new direct fuel injection engines and a PDK gearbox.
The Porsche 997 was truly the perfect 911 with phenomenal handling allowing really smooth transitions and perfect weight balance. It was the sports car everybody aimed to be. Whilst many autmotive manufacturers chase the numbers - fastest 0-60mph times or top speed or most amount of horsepower, the Porsche 911 just aims to be the best sports car it can in the hands of any driver. And it succeeds at this so well.
Porsche 911 may just be the longest running production model in the world and it also is one of the most successful cars ever built. Its appearance hasn’t changed much since the first model left the factory. Each new model receives small visual alterations; however, the main lines remain the same, so there was no surprise the overall shape didn’t change significantly from the previous Porsche 996 model that was launched in 1999.
First and most noticeable design change on the 997 are the headlights. Porsche decided to get rid of the horrendous broken egg-yolk headlights and return to its original 911 style headlights.
Despite the plus size"curves" on this car it actually is shorter than the previous model but the aggressive lines are really exagurated witht he help of the beautiful aero kit on this. Finding a manual version of this car with aero kit proved to be very complicated as Neil admitted.
Step inside the Porsche 997 and you’re greeted into a subtle, yet functional and welcoming interior. Porsche had never tried too hard to impress anybody with fancy buttons, dials or gadgets – the interiors are very simple and they always have been; their focus was and still is aimed at the driving experience. Don’t get me wrong though, everything you need is there – beautiful leather sporty seats, a great looking gear knob and comfy and well positioned pedals and most importantly a grippy and beautiful steering wheel that is not overfilled with complicated buttons. The dashboard features simplistic gauges whilst the centre console now welcomes an all-in-one media unit featuring Bluetooth and sat-nav. Neil’s Porsche also came equipped with an amazing Bose audio system for the times when you want to relax and take it easy. To me that is just perfection.
The Porsche 997.1 Carrera 2S was powered by a magnificent naturally aspirated flat 6 3.8 litre power unit producing eye watering 350hp. This was coupled to a wonderful mechanical 6 speed manual gearbox that delivers the power to the rear wheels.
In standard form the Carrera S is capable of accelerating from 0–60mph in 4.7 seconds and could reach a top speed of 186 mph (not that we could test it). With basic breathing mods and an engine map Neil’s Porsche is producing over 370hp. The 3.8 unit in the Carrera S is far more voracious and responsive than its 3.6 alternative and becomes super aggressive around 2500 rpm when its variable intake-valve timing (similar to that of VTEC, VANOS and VVTI) lets the fat lady really sing and come alive.
The engine and gearbox really work toghether in a symphony and makes you want to push the car any time you drive it. Porsche really had thought through every detail, focusing on performance and perfection, e.g having the car in sports mode alters the accelerator pedal movement improving the response that can help when pushing the 997 on the track.
If there was anything to nit-pick regarding this wonderful car's performance, it’d be the exhaust note; despite having a very expensive exhaust upgrade (Kline full system) the 3.8 unit is still not the most beautiful sounding engine compared to the older air cooled cousins; sadly, even Neil agrees with me on this one.
The Porsche 997 Carrera S came equipped with beautiful 19" "Lobster Claws" alloy wheels that Neil has wrapped in Michelin's finest rubber (235/35/19 - front and 295/30/19 on the rear).
The 997 came equipped with the all-new Porsche Active Suspension Management system (PASM) with adaptive dampers improving the ride comfort and offering sharper handling. The dampers were designed along the respectable Bilstein suspension gurus and offered “normal” or “sport” settings based on vertical suspension movements and longitudinal and lateral acceleration. The revised rear suspension geometry and wider track allowed for wider tire set up meaning the car offered more grip and traction than ever.
There were no corners cut on this car; to help with the stopping power the 997 offered a choice of 2 amazing set ups: beautiful 330mm cross-drilled discs borrowed from the previous Turbo model or the optional ceramic brakes. And unless the 997 was destined for track, most of the time the standard brakes were more than enough.
It wasn’t personal Porsche, you were great! Neil’s ideology really is great advice to all of us: life is too short to be boring, so why not – try as many cars as you can in your life. Have fun, enjoy the things you love.
Hold on... what? Neil never intended to keep this car long and was in a hunt for an AMG beast already, when he realised something. It turns out this just may be the perfect sports car out there. After weeks of driving Neil admitted this car never seized to impress him. There is that magical smile that you get when you get in a very special car, and that smile is still there. And I am glad this decision was made as to me the Porsche 911 always has been the benchmark for any sports car.