The Porsche World Roadshow offers prospective buyers the chance to sample the German performance brand’s full line-up in its natural setting: a closed road course where the full limits of each vehicle can be explored. This meant that when I was handed the keys to a trio of 2013 Porsche 911 models early one afternoon by a smiling driving instructor at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, I was able to put Porsche’s 50th anniversary flagship to the test without fear of losing my license.
The 991 generation Porsche 911 family is based around the Carrera and the Carrera 4, which are respectively the two- and all-wheel drive versions of the 911 coupe. Yes, there are the Turbo and Cabriolet variants, but the majority of sales stem from the Carrera bloodline. I piloted the Carrera, the Carrera S, and the Carrera 4S back-to-back, which gave me a rare chance to glean the subtle differences between these vaunted sports cars.
As most aficionados know, the Porsche 911 has historically hung its engine out behind the rear axle, and the 2013 design is no different. Whether 3.4-liters in the base Carrera or 3.8-liters in either version of the S, it’s impossible to miss the impact of the flat-six’s positioning from behind the wheel. Turning the car into a corner was an experience fraught with communication between my hands, my right foot, and the 911’s chassis, which continually asked for assurance that I knew what I was doing. Fortunately, I was able to approximate one-one-hundredth of the driving skill I observed in the professional Porsche pilots and keep the car on course even as speeds increased throughout the day.
This is not to say that the 2013 Porsche 911 suffers from any kind of handling defect that makes it a frightening choice for track use. On the contrary, I found myself delighted by the way momentum and gravity were reframed when asking the 911 to change direction, as the vehicle is above and beyond competent when driven at speed. It’s just that the conversation between the pavement and the person providing the steering and throttle inputs occurs in a very different language than is typically spoken by a front-front or front-rear engine layout.
Once mastered, the rear-mounted symphony of speed can accelerate the 2013 Porsche 911 to a shockingly high peak, thanks to the presence of 350 horsepower and 287 lb-ft of torque in the base model coupe and 400 horses and 325 lb-ft of torque for the 911 S and 4S. A snazzy seven-speed manual transmission is included free of charge with the car, but the vehicles I drove were equipped with the optional, and extremely impressive, PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The PDK unit seemed to somehow telepathically see the track through my eyes, adjusting its shifting algorithms to change cogs at precisely the correct millisecond and allowing me to concentrate on getting used to the engine’s exotic location.
It is difficult to draw a distinct line between the base and S versions of the Carrera when looking at them from a pure speed standpoint, although the S felt more willing to breathe deeply on the track’s longest straightaway. Detecting the presence of all-wheel drive in the Porsche 911 4S, however, was a much easier task, as even the brand’s trick new electric power steering system – so transparent on the two-wheel drive coupe – couldn’t mask the slight heaviness that driving all four corners imparted to the steering wheel. Supplementary confidence on corner exit was the reward for this slight numbing of the car’s dynamics, but the two-wheel drive 911 remained more engaging to drive over the course of the day.
Porsche continues to build one of the most desirable sports cars on the market with the 2013 Porsche 911. With so many flavors of the model available – and more on the way in the form of the Turbo, the GT2, and the GT3 – it’s almost certain that track-day warriors will be able to find a version of the rear-engined marvel that appeals to their specific high performance requirements.