The brand new Porsche 911 is here. But before you wield the typical ‘it looks the same!’ criticism, we thought it an ideal time for a whistle stop tour of the cars that went before it.
Have a click through the 55-year history of the Porsche 911, and tell us: what’s your favourite era?
The early years (1963-1973)
The 901 concept of 1963 heralded the start of a production run even Porsche probably didn’t expect to reach – and no doubt surpass – six decades. Trivia fans can rejoice at the fact the name changed form 901 to 911 to avoid potential fisticuffs with Peugeot.
It was designed as a larger, more practical version of the 356 with an extra pair of seats. As such, critics were quick to pounce on its lack of focus.
Early 911s used two-litre engines with as little as 130bhp, though they also weighed bang on a tonne. Both engine sizes and power outputs swelled over the next decade, culminating in perhaps the most coveted of all early 911s, the 210bhp 2.7 Carrera RS.
The G-series (1973-1989)
Each new iteration of 911 was internally codenamed with a letter of the alphabet, but it wasn’t until reaching G that there was a discernable difference in styling and tech, and the dawn of a new generation.
The G-Series ran for a long time, too, debuting in 1973 and only being replaced in 1989. The most significant move made in this time was the introduction of turbocharging to the 911, the Turbo you see above arriving in 1975 with a mighty 260bhp powering the rear wheels. Back then, though, turbochargers were saved for only the fastest 911s…
The 964 (1989-1994)
The 964, to give it its internal codename, arrived at the very end of the 1980s, bringing with it some mildly updated styling but a whole heap of new tech.
In fact, it was 85 per cent new. Four-wheel drive arrived for the first time, as did other tech goodies like power steering, ABS brakes and airbags.
Until recently, second-hand examples of these could be picked up exceedingly cheap, its design viewed retrospectively as the least attractive in 911 history. Many are now becoming donor cars for Singer products, though, while the stripped-out 964 RS is spiralling in value in recognition of it being one of the focused 911 products ever.
The 993 (1994-1998)
We’re going to stick with Porsche’s internal model codes, both to avoid confusion and because they’re reasonably well known among car nerds. The 993 arrived just five years after the 964, and is still regarded by many Porsche die-hards as the prettiest and best-judged of the lot.
It was the last 911 with an air-cooled engine, while it also introduced perhaps the lairiest car in 911 history to drive, the GT2. It’s a badge that’s continued service since, of course, but the original perhaps best displayed those tail-happy tendencies brought about by the 911’s infamously unconventional rear-engine layout. Small wonder it earned itself the nickname ‘Widow Maker’.
The 996 (1998-2001)
Following such a loved generation of car, the 1998 arrival of the water-cooled 996 was met with grumbles and cries of ‘it’s lost its character’, something of a running theme for new-generation 911s and the implacable Porsche aficionados they’ve tried to please.
Those nonplussed by the change in hardware were probably upset by the looks, the 911 gaining its first major styling change, not dissimilar to the cheaper Boxster and notable for its – shock horror! – non-elliptical headlights.
The 996 also marked the exponential growth in 911 variants, but when that also goes hand-in-hand with the first ever GT3 being launched, that’s far from bad news.
The 996.2 (2001-2004)
Water-cooled 911s also kicked off the habit of major mid-life updates. The 996 received its big facelift in 2001, with attempts to appease critics of its styling, an updated interior and a new glass-roofed Targa variant, though it was nothing like as stylish as its ancestors.
The mk2 996 also marked the arrival of another 911 GT2, and while it was a bit less hairy than its Nineties namesake, it was still a 315kph, turbocharged 911 without the safety of a four-wheel-drive system. Senior.
The 997 (2004-2008)
Round headlights made a swift return in 2004, with the arrival of an all-new 911 generation. Its shape was broadly the same as the 996, but its detailing more delicate. All had more than 300bhp, while a new GT2 entered unchartered territory with 530bhp.
Once again, though, claims of diminishing of character greeted the 997’s arrival, with purists grumbling about less feelsome steering and the softening of the 911’s, um, exciting edges thanks to stronger grip.
The 997.2 (2008-2011)
The looks barely changed, but there were bigger changes afoot underneath them for the updated 997. More efficient direct injection engines marked the first nod to more environmentally caring 911s, while the PDK twin-clutch gearbox arrived. Immediate response wasn’t rapturous, but after Porsche fitted the double-clutcher with proper paddles, its appeal over the clunky old Tiptronic automatic was clear.
The 911 reached its only recently unsurpassed power peak thanks to the utterly ludicrous 611bhp GT2 RS, while arguably the best ever 911 – the GT3 RS 4.0 – also landed in this generation, too. No wonder its successor faced such a tough time…
The 991 (2011-2015)
The 991 arrived in 2011, and while it may have been coined the prettiest 911 in decades, nothing could save it from a wrath of criticism for its new electric steering.
Still, there’s been plenty to distract from that, with an amazingly new round-edged GT car character in the regular Carrera models, and a new level of savagery with the bonkers GT3 RS. The Targa is also cool again.
It will go down in history as the last of the 911s to have naturally aspirated Carreras that rev to the heavens…
The 991.2 (2015-2018)
…and that’s because of the 991’s big update, which saw 3-litre flat-six turbo engines in the Carrera models, ensuring all but the GT3 and GT3 RS created their power with the help of forced induction.
It’s a move that initially upset the purists, but then so was electric steering, PDK, water-cooling, and so much more. And the 991.2 enjoyed some rather big moments: the one millionth Porsche 911, the arrival of the most powerful 911 yet, the 691bhp GT2 RS (and some ‘Ring records to go with it) and a couple of new variants in the shape of the lovely Carrera T and the even lovelier 935 track special, the 991.2’s swansong.
The 992 (2018 onwards)
See? It doesn’t look the same. The basic silhouette hasn’t changed but there’s a big styling leap in the shape of the long light bar at the back and full track widths for all models, not just the four-wheel-drive and motorsport cars.
For now, it’s relatively conventional, with the Carrera models carrying over the same 3-litre flat-six turbo engines, albeit with lower emissions yet more power, in typically clever Porsche fashion. But this could be the first generation of 911 that goes hybrid. Read more about it right here.