For decades, people have continued to debate about the ultimate sports car. Is the best sports car in the world a high-priced exotic power roadster, hot hatch or even a muscle car? It looks like one person has an opinion dramatically different from the next person. There will probably never be a clear consensus on this matter. However, the question of the world`s best sports car is emotional.
So, if you look at things in a more rational way, you might be able to get a proper answer. The title of the ultimate sports car should go to the model with a long heritage of performance on the race track and on the street. They must meticulously engineer and improve the car with each generation. A legendary sports car should sell in high numbers and people in all parts of the globe should recognize it. A flat six legend comes with unique characteristics, design and engineering features.
When a car maker presents it, the ultimate sports car should create a landmark moment in car history. It should be a true legend of the industry. So far, there are only two such models in the sports car world that tick all the boxes. They are the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911. And since there is already a list of the top Corvettes here, it is time to cover the best Porsche 911s.
You will be amazed how the ill-handling, underpowered 911 evolved into one of the best driving all-around sports machines. Porsche did this through years of constant development, innovation and racing. So, read on to learn about the fascinating evolution of one of the most legendary cars of all time.
1964 Porsche 911
This list must begin with the first model, which Porsche introduced in late 1963. It debuted all their important design and mechanical features. Mainly, it had the characteristic sloping roofline and flat-six engine on the rear axle. After the success of the 356, Porsche was eager to introduce a bigger, more modern car. So they based it on the rear boxer engine concept they knew so well.
The 911 project was a serious task for engineers. Their new car should’ve been far more competent than the 356, which was basically an upgraded VW Beetle. So, they designed the new platform, along with a new suspension and overall design. The heart of the car was a 2.0-liter six-cylinder flat six engine with 130 HP. It also used a five-speed manual transaxle. Like to the 356 model, they conceived the new 911 as a 2+2 coupe with two tiny rear seats.
Despite a decent performance and warm reception by the fans, the new Porsche 911 was far from perfect. The car had serious handling issues because the car weighed more and had a heavier rear axle. This caused the front tires to lose grip. The 911 was also rust-prone and significantly more expensive than the outgoing 356.
1965 Porsche 912
Porsche was worried that the costly 911 would narrow their customer base and affect the sales. So they realized they needed an entry-level model for drivers who wanted a usable, everyday sports car which would be dependable, as well as economical. In those days, nobody thought about the economy of performance models, but Porsche knew it would be a good selling point.
So, in 1965, just after the end of Porsche 356 production, they released the new 912 model. It was a 911, but with a 2.0-liter, flat four-cylinder engine. It delivered 90 HP and a modest performance. The car was also significantly less expensive than the 911 and fuel efficient with 36 mpg.
Despite a slower performance, the Porsche 912 turned out to be a major hit for the factory. So, between 1969 and 1969, they made more than 32,000 cars. In fact, the 912 proved to be a savior of the whole 911 series. It helped secure the financial stability of the factory until buyers fully accepted the 911.
1967 Porsche 911 S
The first performance oriented 911 appeared in 1967 in the form of the 911 S, with S standing for “Sport.” It was an interesting car since it had the same 2.0-liter flat six as the ordinary 911. But this time, they tuned to a crazy 180 HP with a 7,200 rpm limit. Since it was light and powerful, the new engine gave it agility.
This produced a vivid performance with improved acceleration and top speed. The 911 S wasn’t a homologation special. However, it was the first above average model that showed the world the 911 was a capable car with great potential.
1967 Porsche 911 R
The story of Porsche’s incredible racing success with the 911 starts with the 1967 R model. It was one of the rarest 911s since they built only 23 of them. In fact, most buyers didn’t realize Porsche offered this model. The selling point of the 1967 Porsche 911 R was that it was a race car for the road in a lightweight, competition version.
It featured a fiberglass body, revised suspension and brakes and a 230 HP engine. The performance was impressive, due to its small weight. Those 23 buyers of this car are lucky they got the one that started 911’s racing career.
1973 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS
Today, the Carrera is the basic 911, but in 1973, it was a model they designated for a special, influential car. The name originated from the famous Carrera Panamericana Mexican road race which Porsche won in the mid-50’s. The factory wanted to commemorate their success by naming the new performance version they intended for homologation.
Ever since the late 60’s, the displacement of the 911 engines steadily grew. By 1973, the biggest was the 2.7-liter, which in RS trim delivered 210 HP. But the Carrera 2.7 RS was a fully lightweight car with a wider rear track and a revised suspension. It also came with racing instruments and distinctive rear ducktail spoiler.
The Carrera was the lightest, fastest 911 up to date and ready to conquer the world racing scene. Porsche only needed 500 of them, but since the car was so popular, they built 1,580 Carreras. Today, it is a highly-desirable collector’s car with an extremely high price tag.
1975 Porsche 911 Turbo 930
Despite the market and racing success of the 911 in the early 70’s, the general automotive climate was not especially performance-oriented. The oil embargo, economic recession and quest for fuel efficiency demanded safer, environmentally-friendly cars. This atmosphere threatened to kill the sports car segment.
So Porsche introduced a new generation called the 930 featuring the same basic layout and a new, improved design. They gave it bigger engines, but the real news was the 1975 930 Turbo. Faced with the government-imposed restrictions, Porsche needed to boost power and performance yet still retain normal displacement. So, turbocharging proved to be the perfect solution.
The 911 Turbo 930 boosted 260 HP from its 3.0-liter flat six along with signature air cooling, a big rear wing and a wider rear track. It was notorious for its ill-handling capabilities, but it delivered exhilarating performance in times when they nearly banned performance cars were. The Turbo 930 started a legendary breed of lighting fast Porsches.
1983 Porsche 911 Convertible
Porsche first offered the 911 Convertible in 1983, almost 20 years after they presented the 911. Since 1965, customers could buy the Targa, a T-top styled model with a removable central section of the roof. But, a proper convertible wasn’t a part of the 911 range.
The reason is that a 911 convertible wasn’t possible due to the construction of the car and the position of the engine. Other obstacles included the torsion rigidity and immense production costs of the 911. The factory wasn’t interested in investing large amounts of time and money into developing a convertible model. And the Targa was already selling in satisfying numbers.
However, in the late 70’s, Porsche realized they needed a full convertible for the demanding American market. They started fine tuning the chassis, adding structural enforcements to the body. So, finally, in 1983, the car world received the first factory built 911 Convertible. This body version is still available and a legend of its own.
1982 Porsche 911 Turbo Flachbau Slant Nose
The demand for a 911 Turbo soared in the early 80’s so Porsche needed something to rejuvenate the model. They introduced an M505 option in the legendary Flachbau or Slant Nose front end. It also came with pop up headlights and better aerodynamics.
But besides the new design, the Flachbau featured even more power, thanks to its 3.3-liter turbocharged flat six with 330 HP. The car was not only brutally fast, but also expensive so it had a limited market. For this reason, the original Slant Nose models still highly popular today.
1984 Porsche 911 SC/RS
By the early 80’s, the 911 was an established legend in motorsports, with more than 10 years of worldwide racing success. The 911 was dominant on the race tracks and endurance races. But, with the SC/RS version, it also became a great rally car, too.
Independent teams realized the 911’s weight distribution made it extremely competent on snow, mud or sand since the rear weight helped the car grip better. This turned the 911 into a rally car, so the factory decided to introduce a special version for dirt racing they called the SC/RS.
The SC/RS featured a heavy-duty suspension, chassis reinforcements, a modified body and a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated flat six with around 255 HP. Porsche made only 20 of those rally beasts, but their rally program paid dividends with a Paris Dakar win, although with the 959 model.
1987 RUF CTR Yellowbird
This car is not an official Porsche product, but as a tuner-designed and produced car, it is an important piece of 911 history. All through the Porsche 911 production, independent tuning companies introduced numerous versions with more power or design enhancements. This showed the 911, as a concept, had big potential. But, the German tuning house RUF was on another level. Their Yellowbird was far more powerful, faster and agile than anything on the market in the late 80’s.
They introduced it in 1987, and the Yellowbird was a highly tuned 911 featuring numerous upgrades. It had a special aerodynamic kit, NACA intercooler intake ducts, a big rear wing, a large front bumper and special wheels. The biggest news was the turbocharged 3.2-liter flat six with a whopping 469 HP and 408 lb-ft. This made the Yellowbird one of the fastest cars of the era. The 0 to 60 mph acceleration was possible in just 3.65 seconds and its top speed was an unbelievable 213 mph.
The Yellowbird was brutally expensive and extremely rare. They built 29 from scratch and converted a few others from customer’s cars. The Yellowbird showed that the 911 concept was, and still is, extremely capable, extracting much power from its flat six engine.
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 964
In 1989, the Porsche 911 received the first major revision since the early 60’s and a new chassis code: 964. The new model was 85 percent new and improved, including the platform, design, interior, engines and suspension. The Turbo and convertible models continued, but there was an interesting addition to the mainline offer in the form of the Carrera 4.
The Carrera 4 was the first 911 they equipped with all-wheel drive as standard. Although the AWD system cured some of the handling problems all 911s experienced, it added weight, affecting its performance. This was a big step forward and a big achievement for Porsche’s engineers. The Carrera 4 turned out to be an influential and important model in 911 history.
1992 Porsche 911 Carrera RS/RS America
Porsche knew the 964 chassis had big potential. They wanted to produce a stripped out model to extract every last bit of performance and driving dynamics. So in the early 90’s, they introduced the Carrera RS. It had a 3.8-liter flat six engine with 300 HP and a sub-five-second 0 to 60 mph time.
It also featured a lightweight body and a turbo suspension. Although it lacked the usual luxury items, it also had a naturally-aspirated engine. They weren’t planning to sell the Carrera RS in America, but Porsche fans from the U.S. demanded Porsche homologate this model.
So, in 1993, Porsche introduced the fabulous RS to America, selling it exclusively in the U.S. This model had more luxury features than a regular RS, but retained the same performance numbers.
1994 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 993
In 1993, Porsche introduced the next generation of 911 with internal chassis code 993. This was an improvement over the 964 mostly in design, materials and equipment. The basic components, transmissions and engines remained the same. The 993 generation turned out to be the last air-cooled generation of the 911.
Some Porsche enthusiasts think it is the last classic 911 model. The 993 had several interesting models, but the Carrera 4S was one of the best driver versions. It featured a turbo chassis, suspension and braking, along with intelligent all-wheel drive. They paired it with a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter flat six and 285-300 HP.
1992 Porsche 911 GT2 993
One of the craziest classic 911s is the 993 GT2 which debuted in 1993. Porsche designed it to be a homologation special. The GT2 featured a turbo engine with 450 HP and a stripped out interior. It also came with a full race car roll cage and an aerodynamically enhanced design.
Porsche only made 57 of those crazy 911s. Today, a perfect GT2 costs over $2.5 million.
2004 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 996
When the 996 generation of 911 debuted in 1998, Porsche purists were shocked. Their beloved car lost one of its defining characteristics: air cooling. The reason was simple. Air cooling could no longer cope with the rising power of engines and the demanding engineering of Porsche cars. The engines had to go with regular water cooling, which is far more efficient throughout car history.
Some say the 911 lost some of its appeal, but this was a smart move since it allowed the engineers to develop the car even further. One of the best models of 996 series is the GT3 RS. While some Porsche fans don’t like the 996 series, but the GT3 RS has universal praise. This was an even more extreme version of the GT3 model.
It featured a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter engine, dry sump, forged pistons and race-derived engine internals. The result was 381 HP and a brutal performance. And since the prices of GT3 and GT3 RS models are relatively affordable, those cars are perfect for all Porsche enthusiasts.
2010 Porsche 911 GT2 RS 997
The 997 generation brought many improvements over the 996 and Porsche purists finally accepted water cooled engines. With modern technology and electronics, the company concentrated on making 911 the fastest sports car available on the market. And one of the cars that helped this was the fantastic 997 GT2 RS from 2010.
This was and still is an interesting machine. Since the early 90’s, turbo models have had all-wheel drive to tame the brutal power. It also kept the car on the road. But, the 2010 GT2 RS had 620 turbocharged HP and rear-wheel drive.
Porsche wanted to keep this as a pure analog supercar. So they gave it a six-speed manual transmission. They also included a driving setting to turn everything off, making you wrestle 620 HP on your own.
2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0
If you think this car is just more of the same, think again. The GT2 RS is a turbocharged monster they designed to break records. In fact, it became the fastest 911 of the time. But the GT3 RS 4.0 is a track-oriented weapon with a naturally aspirated 4-liter engine. This is the largest flat six they ever installed in 911.
The 4.0-liter engine comes with titanium rods and a host of racing components. The power is equally impressive at 125 HP per liter, giving it a total output of 500 HP. The six-speed manual is standard, so sublime driving dynamics are part of the package.
2016 Porsche 911 R 991
Sports cars are getting heavier with every generation and electronic aids are slowly taking control of driving. Porsche as a technical company was always at the forefront of new technologies, never hesitating to put it in its cars. In recent years, critics have often stated that the 911 has become a driving robot. They complained that it has left its driver’s car role, so Porsche decided to introduce the 991 R.
The R stands as a reminder of those ultra-rare, lightweight models from the late 60s, with the same philosophy behind the car. It has a lightweight body, no luxuries and cloth seats. It comes with a naturally aspirated engine delivering 493 HP and a six-speed manual transmission.
Basically, this is a perfect blend of modern technology and old-school driving feel with just one flaw. Porsche built only 991 of them, all of which sold out quickly. So, if you want one today, be ready to pay a cool $1 million.
2018 Porsche 911 GT3
The announcement of every GT3 model is a special moment in Porsche history. And car fans have just received the news of a new, improved 2018/19 GT3 model. The GT3 is a greatest hits compilation of all the best components of current models.
In this updated form, you can expect a 530 HP engine, a lightning fast PDK transmission with a six-speed manual option. It comes with a full roll cage and Michelin Pilot Cup 2 racing tires. Surprisingly, it also includes a fire extinguisher, since this is practically a race car for the streets.
These are the flat-six legends – 19 best Porsche 911s ever built – with amazing performance numbers. Some are expensive, while others are reasonably affordable. But they all share one thing: Porsche’s attention to detail and impressive performance numbers.