What do you think of, when somebody utters the words “nine-eleven”? The Twin Towers, of course. The start of a massive offensive against terrorism. The beginning of the end for Osama bin Laden. Now, the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie after publication of his controversial novel, The Satanic Verses, had nothing on Al Qaeda’s jihad, nor America’s reprise. Rushdie, interestingly enough, was invited to January’s Jaipur Literary Festival in his native India – the planet’s biggest such event. Salman never appeared, though, after receiving threats of violence if he were so bold as to show up, even via video link. There is life in the extremists, yet. They promise death.
It’s not an idle threat, either. Rushdie’s Japanese translator was murdered. His Italian translator was beaten up and stabbed. His Norwegian publisher was lucky to survive a gun attack. Bookshops carrying The Satanic Verses were fire-bombed. The book itself got burned. That’s one kind of nine-eleven, the bad one. Here’s the good one: Porsche’s 911, of which the latest incarnation will arrive in South Africa this month for around a million bucks. And if the 9/11 of the bad kind has not produced a clear winner between the forces of good and evil yet – not after free speech has taken such an awkward step backwards in Jaipur – well, then, the 911 of the Zuffenhausen kind has produced many a winner in its 49 years on Planet Earth. That’s right: Porsche’s back-bone model is on the brink of turning 50 years young. That’s half a century in which the 911 has achieved iconic status many times over. The dome shaped sportster is legend de luxe. Has always been, will always be. Or not?
There’s a philosophical question in here. The 911, it might well be argued, has reached its ABF iteration. The brand new model – internally known as 991 – is the best 911 yet, the ultimate, the absolutely bloody final expression of Porschismo. In other words, this car here is the last 911 ever. Not that Porsche won’t have another model ready in seven year’s time. Of course they will. But will it really be a new 911, or just an improved version of an already existing model as the 911 keeps on being expressed via the same basic shape, architecture and principles? It’s still a 2+2. It still looks like a fastback tortoise shaping up to race a hare. And the engine still hangs off the back, behind the rear axle. Yet, the 991 is the first really sleek and elegantly finished article: the proportions, the stance, the flow, everything about it is just so. Just right. Just beautiful.
Full marks then, to designer-in-chief Michael Mauer and his team for retaining the essence of nine-eleveness, yet endowing the car with real appeal. It requires a fine sense of balance plus delicate mind-to-paper translations to conjure up such pristine beauty from what really is a somewhat unpromising set of semi-circles punctuated by two frog eyes. Over the initial 42 years of the car’s life, it would only have been a pragmatic bunch like the Germans who, deep down, could have loved 911 looks if aesthetics were to be the only yardstick – for it was only in 2005 that the 997 series started to project a properly wholesome 911 look. Mauer has now distilled and honed the essence as well as the car’s detail to a level that leaves little room for change, let alone improvement. The design demons of an uncomfortable sports car shape have been exorcised. What can Zuffenhausen do next, then? How could they possibly improve on the 991 iteration of the 911?
The future will tell. There always seems to be something in the offing: new technology, better engines, more power, less consumption, fewer emissions, lighter materials, sharper steering, better stability, a more pliant ride . . . Right now, though, it is impossible to grasp or even imagine the quantum leap that would be necessary to postulate a significantly different, and therefore a totally new 911. The 991 iteration, in fact, looks and feels like a Perfect Ten. No, wait: that’s Bo Derek, the Perfect Ten. Turn back to page 102 and have a good look at Dasha Astafieva. She’s Aphrodite and Venus rolled into one. She’s the Perfect Eleven – or the Nine-Eleven of Playmates. And be careful now: not the Nine- One-One of Playmates, unless Dasha’s loveliness causes cardiac arrest, of course – in which case you’ll have to dial 911 in a hurry and pray that the medics have a 911 to respond with quickly, if a happy ending to Astafieva ogling is to be ensured.
Which might all sound a bit confusing. So let’s get it straight: Miss A is not only the star attraction of a Ukranian girl band called NikitA, she was also PLAYBOY’s 55th Anniversary Playmate.
We’re not going to reference twin towers again, but Dasha’s assets were clearly made for love, not war. The Porsche 911, on the other hand, is made for both. There’s a whole lot of love around when you slowly roll it through city streets; the car is easy and gentle in traffic. Or you can go to war with the 911; it’s holy jihad on the open road. And no wonder: the new entry-level Carrera drives from a scowling 3.4-liter flat-6 (257 kW, 390 Nm) through the rear wheels, whilst the Carrera S’s 3.8-litre (294 kW, 440 Nm) is good for a howling 304 km/h, when chasing the horizon. That’s wild! Yet, the latest car’s longer wheelbase ensures a stable ride, whilst spunky new systems like PTV (Porsche Torque Vectoring, in the shape of a differential lock) and PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, completely different to the Cayenne and Panamera’s PDCC and similar to the one used on McLaren’s new MP4-12C road car) ensure sharper steering into corners and a flatter posture through bends.
Okay, the new EPS (electric power steering) system might lack a bit of feel, but you’ll be hard pushed to tell it from a hydraulic system. Add a lot of aluminium in all the right places, and the lighter new 911 is sheer dynamite off the mark, as well. With a 7-speed PDK double clutch gearbox in Sport Plus mode the Carrera S shatters the 0-100 km/h run in 4.1 seconds. It’s also 14 seconds quicker around the old Nürburgring race track than the previous car, which makes it as quick as Porsche’s halo cars from the 997 series, the GT3 RS and Turbo.
That’s genuine supercar territory. Which all adds up to our ABF expression of 911-ness. As time goes by, Zuffenhausen will surely improve on aspects of the car. They’ll battle, though. This, more or less, is the point to where the icon has grown. The legend has reached fulfilment. Sadly, this view holds the promise of a certain kind of death. Yet, there is vibrant new life in the extremities, too; the twin towers of Porsche road car performance are yet to appear, in the shape of the new GT3 RS and Turbo – after which the track bound GT2 will follow.
And holy Astafieva, can you imagine how utterly superior that should be! Satanic?
Not entirely, we’d guess.
Dasha forth and bet your bottom dime-eleven!
By Egomont Sippel
Published Playboy SA March 2012