Porsche 964 Carrera RS review: Tim Pitt lets Porsche's road racer off its leash, but is this the ultimate 911?

 
Tim Pitt
Toot toot, it's the greatest sports car ever made

The Porsche 911 is the greatest sports car ever made. There, I’ve said it.

This Darwinian survivor has evolved over five decades, transcending humble VW Beetle origins and shrugging off attempts to replace it. From air-cooled originals to today’s turbocharged Carrera, every 911 is iconic, idiosyncratic and unfailingly brilliant to drive.

But which is the greatest 911? Choosing a high point from such a glittering career isn’t easy, but many enthusiasts rate the 1973 Carrera RS 2.7, with its race-bred engine and ‘ducktail’ spoiler, as the ultimate. Today, prices for the best cars top £1m, but later RS models are more affordable – and fast-becoming equally collectible.

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It was 19 years before the Rennsport badge returned for the ‘964’ Carrera RS. This lightweight limited-edition was a road-legal version of Porsche’s Carrera Cup race car, with a tuned 264hp flat-six, lighter flywheel and close-ratio gearbox. The 1992 Guards Red RS I’m about to drive – keys in trembling hand, palms sweaty with anticipation – is for sale at Autofarm in Oxfordshire, priced at £155,000.

Clambering into the high-sided bucket seats, it’s striking how compact the 911 feels; it’s smaller than a present-day Porsche Cayman. A dished Momo steering wheel feels great in my hands, but manoeuvres demand muscle (UK cars had power steering – this left-hand-drive RS does without). Attempting a three-point turn in Autofarm’s tightly-packed car park, I stall the engine twice. Not a great start.

Things improve considerably once we’re rolling. The mechanical clatter of the air-cooled six – amplified by the absence of sound-deadening – hardens to a hollow howl as the revs rise. There’s no turbocharged torque here, so the fireworks don’t start until 4,000rpm. But then: wham! The RS comes on cam and explodes towards its 6,800rpm redline with feral ferocity.

RS Porsches have never been purely about straight-line shove, though. Every input, from gear-shift to brake pedal, feels analogue and unfiltered, while the 40mm-lowered suspension feels utterly taut and tied-down. The 964 RS offers – nay, demands – total driver involvement and commitment, with life-affirming rewards if you get it right, and no excuses if you get it wrong.

I step out of the Porsche ready to remortgage my house, auction a kidney on eBay, or otherwise do whatever it takes to own one. As a car enthusiast and unashamed 911 fan, it doesn’t get much better than this. With no air-con and a very firm ride, the RS isn’t a car you’d want to drive every day. But as a weapon for B-road blasts and perhaps the occasional track day, it’s sublime.

Best of all, if you can afford one, the 964 RS is a rock-solid investment. Classic 911 prices have soared in recent years, with RS models leading the charge. Autofarm MD Mikey Wastie believes this trend will continue.

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“The 964 RS has a limited, 2,282-car production run and a touch of motorsport provenance,” he explains. “It’s also much more usable than any older 911 RS. Parts availability is generally good, the drivetrain is robust and it’s fairly practical.”

Remember that originality and service history are key to future values and look carefully for crash-damage, especially on cars that have been ‘tracked’. Have any potential purchase inspected by a Porsche specialist, too. 911s of this vintage aren’t immune to rust and some RS-specific parts, such as the magnesium ‘Cup’ alloy wheels, are frighteningly expensive.

As a classic car, the 964 RS ticks all the boxes. And unlike a 2.7 RS, it isn’t (yet) so valuable that you wouldn’t dare drive it. Is this, in fact, ‘peak 911’ – the ultimate incarnation of the world’s greatest sports car? I reckon it comes pretty close.

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