Such is the lot of a motoring journalist that he usually becomes rather blasé about the more expensive cars he drives yet at the same time hyper-critical, perhaps trying to avoid the impression that he might be trying to be too kind to the particular manufacturer. However, every so often the lot of Motor Sport’s staff includes a car which provokes uninhibited enthusiasm and unavoidable eulogies and more often than not the cause of the pleasure is the Porsche 911 badge on the tail. To us, as enthusiastic drivers, Porsche 911s are the instigators of a search through our little black book of superlatives in an inadequate attempt to describe the qualities which provide almost unbeatable engineering quality, exquisite handling and roadholding, magnificent performance, indeed in most of our minds the finest all-round road car in the World.
If Porsches have had one failing in the past it has been that the engines have been somewhat inflexible (more than somewhat in the case of the 2-litre 911S), necessitating considerable stirring of the five-speed gearbox, perhaps enjoyable on the open road, but tiresome in traffic. As capacity has crept up from 2-litre to 2.2-litre to 2.4-litre the torque and thus flexibility has improved and now the introduction of the 2.7-litre flat-six engine for the 911 and 911S, the capacity which was first tried and tested on the Carrera, has created a veritable velvet glove, certainly in the case of our 911 road-test car, quite amazingly easy to drive so that even grandmother stepping out of her Minor 1000 wouldn’t find herself in too much deep water, indeed would probably love the car. At the other end of the scale few up-andcoming racing drivers would wish to be without one as a road car if they had the chance and the choice. To remove the velvet glove reveals not a particularly vicious iron hand in 911 guise (the range has been simplified, the 911T and E being replaced by the 911)—the 911S and the 2.7 Carrera, or even more so, the 3-litre Carrera should you be so lucky as to acquire one of the five right-hand-drive cars to be imported into this country, provide a more angry specification. In fact the 2.7-litre engine is a few brake horsepower down on the old 2.4-litre 911E, the version which is more readily comparable, being quoted at 150 b.h.p.
On the other hand, torque has risen to 168 lb. ft. DIN at a modest 3,800 r.p.m., the real object of extracting the extra capacity by increasing the bore to 90 mm. while retaining the same 70.4-mm. stroke. The result is that while standing-start stop-watch figures may have suffered fractionally, overall performance would almost certainly be found to have been improved were it possible to do a back-to-back test between the 2.4 911E and the 2.7 911 over a reasonably long and varied stretch of road.
Porsche quote a 0-100 k.p.h. (62 m.p.h.) acceleration time of 8.5 sec., and a maximum speed of 130 m.p.h. for this “ordinary” 911 and if ever there was justification for regarding performance figures as meaningless, this is it. If standing-start acceleration is insisted upon as a criterion then it should be remembered that whereas the 911’s “on paper” figures are poorer than, just to take an example, a BMW 3.0 CSi, the Porsche’s rear engine and suspension provide such outstanding traction that its maximum acceleration can be achieved on almost any surface except mud and sheet ice; even in dry conditions dramatic wheelspin usually occurs when trying to indulge in maximum acceleration with conventional layout performance cars like the CSi, so encouraging restraint and wasting performance potential. No such restraints are required with the Porsche, which can have its full potential released all the time without embarrassment. Still, that is neither here nor there; what I found so remarkable about the 911 and the proof of real all-round performance was the way in which I was able to average 70 m.p.h. without exceeding 75 m.p.h. on winding “B” roads in mid-Wales. More significantly the 2.7-litre engine called for nothing more than 4th and 5th gears to achieve this, when most certainly 3rd and even 2nd gear would have been required with the smaller engines. I might add that this brief spell as a lawabiding citizen was occasioned by the ravages on my wife’s stomach of the very high “g” forces caused by the Porsche’s limpet-like road-holding when progressing rather more meteorically. Again, on the subject of figures, 130 m.p.h. is nothing out of the ordinary in 1974; what is not reflected in this is that the 911 has a chassis designed for a 170-m.p.h. maximum speed, that the air-cooled flat-six engine regards 130 m.p.h. as a happy maximum cruising speed and that Porsche engineering makes such a speed comfortable, relaxing and safe. To cruise at similar speeds in some cars I can think of is almost like pitting a cockleshell against a Force 10 gale. To extend the simile would be to liken the Porsche to the Queen Elizabeth II in Force 6. It is the sort of performance which allowed me to cover two 200-mile journeys in two hours each without exceeding 110 m.p.h, more than half-a-dozen times and to arrive at journey’s end more relaxed and happily satisfied than at the beginning. This caused our much-travelled and similarly blasé photographer, who was equally comfortable and relaxed in the passenger seat, to remark, unfacetiously, “This beats flying,” The Porsche is that sort of motor car.
Not only performance attracts superlatives: on the first of those 100-m.p.h. average Journeys the 911 consumed petrol at the rate of 20.64 m.p.g. On the second journey, perhaps because of slightly more favourable conditions, the average was 21.85 n1.15.8., while on the faster part of that journey into Wales the average was 21.58 m.p.g. A similar average was maintained on the daily 50-mile round trip to the office, encompassing motorway, single and dual carriageway main roads and a long crawl into the City of London; my TR6, at last properly tuned, is averaging a miserable 17.6 m.p.g. for the same journey accomplished slightly more slowly. To gild the economy lily, the 911 runs on two-star, 91-octane petrol! Unfortunately few garages could supply less than three-star, usually added to the 17.5-gallon tank by disbelieving attendants who more than once tried to direct me to the five-star pump. Over a total of more than 1,200 miles consumption averaged 21.4 m.p.g.
But the sheer economical practicality of this remarkable car doesn’t end there. That this Porsche is meant for pleasurable and purposeful driving rather than the one-upmanship of most exotica is indicated yet again by the 12,000-mile service intervals, only routine checks on hydraulic fluids, pressures in the 185/70 VR 15 Michelin tyres and brake pad wear being required in between. The oil level can be checked without moving from the driver’s seat, a gauge giving the necessary indication from the tank for the dry-sump system when the engine is at tickover and working temperature. I added only one pint of oil in 1,200 miles, although another one or two pints would have been required when I returned the car. This sensible between-service performance makes the Porsche ideal transport either for the wealthy executive averaging 1,000 miles per week on business or for that high-speed holiday trip to the South of France. Compare it with 2,500-mile service intervals for the Aston Martin V8! And it is even an exceptionally easy shape to wash.
This Porsche invoked confidence immediately the key was turned for the first time each morning. The new Bosch K-Jetronic injection introduced for the 911 and 911S 2.7litre models takes care of cold start mixture problems automatically and all the driver has to do is pull up the hand-throttle between the seats and fire up. The test car would fire immediately, then stop, but fire again on the next touch of the key to run as smoothly as it would when warm, about three-quarters hand throttle being advisable to avoid “flame out” when the accelerator pedal was lifted during the first couple of miles. As a matter of habit I employed a touch of hand-throttle whenever the car had stood for more than quarter-of-an-hour to ensure first-time starting and immediate tick-over. K-Jetronic injection employs neither mechanical nor electrical injection pump, relying for its control on inlet pressure and providing a continuous supply of the optimum amount of fuel/air mixture to the combustion chambers via valves directly into the inlet manifolds. There is automatic compensation for load conditions and barometric pressure and height. This efficient system, combined with a new piston crown designed to induce turbulence of the mixture, is instrumental in reducing emissions and allowing for the use of low-lead fuels.
As the whirring rasp of this new 2.7-litre engine hurtled this bright red machine along at three-figure speeds or ticked over in London traffic without fear of over-heating nor, with this latest engine, fear of plug fouling, unlike the 2-litre 911 our Production Manager used to run, it occurred to me, why on earth should man try to find an oil-consuming alternative to the internal combustion engine when Porsche’s internal combustion engine already achieves practically everything required of those alternatives? My idea of Utopia would be to have Porsche 911s as the Environmental People’s Car. …
The Porsche 911 series has been described sufficiently in previous Motor Sportss to make a detailed description superfluous. Externally this latest model can be distinguished by the slightly cumbersome-looking “5 m.p.h.” bumpers, which in the cases of the 911 and 911S hide crushable tubes, replaced by shock-absorbers on the Carrera. Highly attractive new alloy wheels are fitted to the 911, while the 911S and Carrera retain the traditional shiny spokes. An additional four gallons capacity is included in the fuel tank, its 17.5 gallons offering a range of 350 to 400 miles between stops, but necessitating the adoption of an emergency “space-saver” tyre on a steel spare wheel. Consequently, in the event of a puncture, the punctured tyre cannot be placed in the wheel well and should the boot be full a polythene bag is provided so that this wheel can be carried on the frontseat passenger’s lap to the next garage! A neat portable air-compressor worked from inside the fuse-box in the boot or from the cigarette lighter is provided for inflating the spare.
Other detail changes include the fitting of an almost two-gallon washer bottle, filled from underneath the petrol filler-cap in the front wing, released from inside the car, the inclusion of Repa inertia reel seat-belts as standard, fresh-air vents/side window demisters at the facia extremities and improved seat with high backs. The road-test car had most comfortable cloth upholstery, a no-cost option which added to the feeling of being Part of the car, that secret ingredient which only Porsche and perhaps the Ferrari Dino manage to fully achieve in a production car. Those familiar, perfectly-positioned pedals Pivoting in the floor are retained, the two rear seats will take a couple of maturing Children comfortably, two adults in discomfort or a single sideways adult reasonably comfortably or will told down separately to provide a luggage platform. Nowadays the Porsche gearbox is of conventional H-pattern with 5th up to the right and the test car’s was rather notchy from 1st to 2nd. Indicated speeds in the gears on an obviously very optimistic speedometer at the 6,250 r.p.m. red line were 35 m.p.h., 63 m.p.h., 89 m.p.h. and 120 m.p.h. Though maximum power occurred at 5,700 r.p.m. it was quite unnecessary to use much more than that for rapid progress.
Apart from being slow to warm up, the 11.1-inch diameter front discs and 11.4-inch diameter rear discs, all ventilated, were impeccable, tremendous feel being encouraged by the lack of a servo yet the pressure required remaining moderate and with no sign of the front wheel locking which dogged early 911s. The McPherson strut/torsion-bar front suspension and semi-trailing arms at the rear with anti-roll bars front and rear remain unchanged as does the perfection of the so-positive steering. Boge shock-absorbers are fitted to the 911 and Koni to the 911S.
I am tired of hearing people tell me how bad they believe Porsche road-holding to be in the wet; at three-figure speeds on wet roads I found it impeccable and while I know, though haven’t personally proved, that a standard Porsche will spin very quickly once adhesion is lost, it would require a suicidal idiot to reach such a stupid situation on public roads. If any particularly pointed criticism can be levelled at the Porsche it is regarding the heater, which can vary between a foot-singeing blast to freezing cold without the heat control being moved, engine revs. and forward progress dictating the performance of the exhaust heat exchangers.
If any manufacturer can improve on the Porsche for a combination of quality of finish, performance, handling and road-holding, economy and real practicality, then I look forward to hearing from them. The Ferrari Dino is perhaps superior in road-holding and looks, but in other respects it doesn’t prevent the Porsche being the finest two-seater GT car in the World, not just for grand touring, but for practical every-day use too. And for 90% of potential Porsche owners there should be no need to pay more than the £6,249 demanded for the 911 simply for the snob value of an “S” suffix: its performance is more than adequate and its flexibility infinitely pleasurable.—C.R.