So what about the 911s? Steve is impressed by the Turbo’s seamless integration. He has a point; the Turbo is the only car that feels like a factory car, and the only one that has zero failures over two days. Even its tire pressures were perfect, and it was picked up on 24-hour notice from its owner, not S Car Go. The Cayman’s power-steering pump eventually started to groan due to a leaky fitting, a known failure in hard-tracked 987s, while the 997S’s forward HREs got so hot they let go of their center caps. Niggles, maybe, but niggles that remind us of two golden rules: shop the aftermarket wisely and pick vendors who will help if niggles crop up. HRE did, offering to send new, custom center caps.
Bob loves the Turbo’s thrust, and names it the car he’d pick, but only to live with day in, day out. I can see why. It’s one of those rare aftermarket cars that doesn’t feel like one. But its chassis could do to feel a little less factory, because the current Turbo is just too soft, too uninvolving. “Man, it’s like Porsche lit steering feel on fire and threw it out the window!” opines Jared. “Do they all drive like that?” Sadly, Jared, they do.
So it’s a straight fight between the 997S and the Cayman S. Raw thrills and addictive speed versus scalpel-sharp handling and pure, undiluted fun. It’s a hard pick. The Cayman has held its head far higher than expected given its credentials. It’s the mildest car and the most accessible. But, pushed hard, the RS350 is scintillating. Just as a Porsche should be.
Trouble is, Jared’s 997S is more scintillating. It’s an incredible car, a furious 911 so different than the Carrera S it started life as. It’s the rarest of modified cars: one that gels. This is a four-wheeled hurricane of a car — raw, immediate, lightning quick. It’s also one of the best leaned-on Porsches I’ve driven, deeply addictive for its adrenaline rush and handling highs.
So the 997S wins by a nose. Or, rather, a limited-slip diff. The Cayman may have the best platform, but a spinning inside rear is its Achilles’ heel when the chips are down. Fortunately, that’s a relatively easy fix. The next upgrade would be better dampers, Motons or similar. A Cayman with this 997S’s setup brilliance might add up to our favorite Porsche chassis of all time. Then, and only then, we’d start to think about more power. For his part, Bob’s certain such a Cayman would have been enough to win. He should know, having driven Farnbacher Loles’ 3.8-liter Cayman GTR (Excellence September, 2006) with its limited-slip diff and extensive suspension tweaks, a car that could still be built for less than what Jared’s got in his 997S. In fairness to 997 Turbos everywhere, time on the Loop in Werks’ K1 tells me it would have been a real contender. But now we’re dealing with what might have been rather than what is.
No, on this day, the least powerful car grabs a moral victory while the most powerful trails. Where the Cayman and Turbo feel like sharper versions of their former selves, the 997S is a car transformed. It demonstrates, once more, that the 911 can be tweaked to yield incredible performance and an all-consuming experience, too. This Carrera S shows there is enough potential in every 997 to answer a challenge from the world’s best engineers, Porsche’s included. So, is it GT3 good? Time to turn a page and find out…