Electric Sunshine

Also from Issue 176

  • 908/3 Driven on the Street!
  • First RHD 356 Coupe
  • Spec 911. vs. GT3 RS vs. GT3 Cup
  • 2007 911 GT3 RSR on track
  • The Fourth Glöckler
  • Infamous Mulholland 911 Street Racer
  • 170-mph 924 Autobahn Sleeper
  • Market Update: 1999-2007 911s
  • Porsche Icon: 550
  • Project Cayman: An Introduction
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Ruf's Greenster 1
Ruf Greenster 2
Ruf Greenster 3
Ruf Greenster 4
Ruf Greenster 5
Ruf Greenster 6
Ruf Greenster 7

Seeing the 20th- and 21st-century versions of the 911 together is a unique experience, but there’s another twist to this comparison: The powerplants in both cars represent the extremes of over 120 years of automotive engine development. The ’67’s carbureted six requires some choke and a bit of knowledge to start from cold: prod the throttle a few times, turn the ignition key, and when the engine catches, you have to tap dance on the throttle to keep the car awake.

Once the engine is warm, things start to come together. The Targa’s throaty 2.0 liter is sharp and responsive, and makes a lovely noise. Its 130-hp output isn’t a lot by today’s standards, but the car only weighs 2,271 pounds. The steering is light and full of feel thanks to the low weight and remarkably narrow tires. This old Targa isn’t about sheer speed; it’s more a tool for driving enjoyment, and the combination of feedback and soundtrack makes for the perfect Sunday morning companion.

In many ways, the Greenster is the antithesis of an early 911. For starters, it’s dead quiet — so quiet it’s all too easy to sneak up on pedestrians. To be honest, it’s a little odd; the idea of a sleek sports car whooshing past with just a rush of air, the slight whine of an electric motor, and a bit of tire noise is more than a tad off-putting. But it’s also something you get used to fairly quickly.

Predictably, Ruf is willing to shortcut that issue for eager customers. The issue has already been raised: His firm made its name with tuned flat sixes, and some potential customers were interested in having a conventionally powered Ruf car with the Greenster’s looks.

“That is absolutely no problem,” Ruf says. “You can have this car with a 3.6- or 3.8-liter normally aspirated engine, or with an R Kompressor or RT12 Turbo motor if you like. That said, the Greenster name only applies if you have electric power — a car with a normal engine will be a Ruf Roadster.”

Compared with the early 911, the Greenster’s ride is fairly stiff. This makes sense — the combination of low-slung suspension, high curb weight, limited wheel travel, and rubber-band tires doesn’t often add up to plushness. On the roads around Ruf’s headquarters in Pfaffenhausen, the Greenster found bumps in the pavement that the ’67 Targa’s long-travel suspension and tall tires didn’t even notice. The eRuf’s weight disadvantage can’t be ignored, either. The Greenster lacks the nimble, charming purity of the earlier car — or even that of a regular 997.

Still, all is not lost. At speed, most of the noise in the cabin is the rush of air buffeting around your head. The silence is strangely intoxicating, the forward pull both palpable and strong. It’s real supercar stuff, sans the supercar soundtrack.

Ruf has often shied away from motor shows, but the Greenster is so on message, both in terms of its looks and its complete lack of exhaust emissions, that a presence at this year’s Geneva motor show was de rigueur. As­­­ Alois hoped, both press and public reaction was overwhelmingly positive. In the Green­ster, showgoers saw that enthusiasts will find ways to make sure alternative power doesn’t spell the end of driving fun.

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