For many people the Porsche 911 remains the pinnacle of motor car development. Yet Porsche themselves recognized its failings over twenty years ago. Even then the 911 was an ageing sixties design. Porsche with an eye firmly fixed on the future penned a new less idiosyncratic design, dispensing of at a stroke the 911's Achilles heels of Rear engined layout, and Air cooled cylinders.
It was a well meaning change, in the days before electronic traction control the laws of physics gave the 911 some rather interesting handling characteristics, and without the benefit of a water jacket it was getting difficult to make the 911 meet ever tightening emission legislation.
I can still remember the Motoring press carrying headlines like the KING IS DEAD LONG LIVE THE KING, and creaming themselves mercilessly over the technical specification and perfection of the then new 928 and it rather bizarre chequered chess board interior.
But some how the plan all went wrong.
Porsche engineers and their calculators (or more likely slide rules in those days) failed to notice that most people didnít actually buy a Porsche, they bought a 911. Even today many people wouldnít know what a 924, 944, 928 or even a Boxster was if it ran them over. But if a 911 ran them down they would sit in their hospital bed and proudly proclaim that a Porsche hit them. In the same way that the French loved the 2CV, and we Brits love our Minis, the 911 had managed to wheedle its way into the collective high end super car psyche and then steadfastly refused to die.
And unhelpfully Porsche couldnít leave the 911 alone and constantly improved and updated it, making it ever quicker and faster yet paradoxically tamer and more benign. The car they wanted to kill got ever better and ever more difficult to get rid of.
Faced with a wall of buyer apathy Porsche did the only sensible thing and moved the 928 into a different market, that of the Luxury Grand Tourer where it would compete with cars like Jaguars XJS.
Hence most 928's and certainly the most desirable one's became the fully loaded Autoboxed versions.
Porsche had widened their choice of cars, you could choose a hooligan 911 or a big soft smoothie 928, but people being people there was always going to be a perverse few individuals who required either a softie 911 or a hooligan 928. Porsche as ever where only to willing to comply and out of the darkest bowels of the factory came the Carrera GT, as of then the rarest, fastest most uncompromising 928 on the planet.
Parked up side on from a distance it all looks innocuous enough, despite the bright guards red paint its chubby round arse end and smooth curving front give a less overtly threatening appearance than a wide bodied 911.
But as you draw nearer its aspect changes as you are able to gain a better perspective of its dimensions. Its wheelbase is deceptively short , it needs no wheel arch extensions because its bus wide and its roof barely reaches your ribs. It must have the squarest flattest shape of any car on the planet, and reminds me almost of a crab on wheels, especially when those popup headlights get activated.
The 928 created a dramatic statement in the 70's and it's barely diminished now. Only the black plastic picnic table sprouting from the rear give the car any semblance of age, and you donít look at that too much as your eyes are naturally drawn to the enormous truck height cup alloys with their rubber band tires. When you see ageless cars like this, you know why cherished plates are so popular stick your own plate on a 928 and no-one could tell whether you've just paid 5 grand or 50 grand.
From the rear you can only gawp at the width of the tires and diameter of the drainpipe tailpipes. You know in your mind that Porsche donít major on showy visual effects. So you subconsciously realize that pipes that wide are there only to let out the required massive amounts of gas, and tires that wide are there to control what Porsche believe to be a landslide of Power.
Once you've stopped drooling over the exterior you can try and negotiate your way in. It not that the doors are small. Just you have the small matter of an eight-inch wide sill, handbrake and space enough for a suitcase to stretch over. Backside first is probably easiest for those less nimble of us but don't forget to duck or else you will be clouted on the back of the head by the roof. Inside your flanked by a further foot of transmission tunnel so there is no lack of shoulder room. On the passenger side, a space shuttles worth of circuit boards hides under the carpet limiting foot space for taller passengers, on the driver's side the pedals lurk deep in the darkness beyond normal eyesight. It does have rear seats but getting into them is probably best left to small clambering children, or double-jointed gymnasts. The rear hatch opens to reveal a rather tacky rear blind which appears to conceal a largish looking boot, peeling it back reveals only space for a couple of pads of A4 or maybe a laptop and brief case so it is probably best left covered.
The interior design is the only part of a 928 those ages the car, with the shape and material of the switchgear, But even then its not too bad, ergonomically itís a great improvement over the 911. Firm leather seats take a grip of your body and are adjusted by a confusing array of electrical dials on their flank. All mod cons are provided right down to the seats bum warmers despite the Carrera's supposed hard image. In the roof sits a strange letter boxed shaped hole purporting to be an electric sunroof. Its probably only use is so Germans can wave flags through the roof after one of their teams footballing successes and hence can left shut for the foreseeable future.
The engine fires into life instantly and sit burbling quietly to itself, a couple of dabs of the long heavy Accelerator, are enough to confirm that it has razor sharp response, and to send all passers by scuttling for cover with the exhausts somewhat liberal interpretation of noise emission laws.
Now where has first gear gone again? Oh yeah bottom left. Its Dogleg first gearbox and a bit of a quantum mind shift after so many years of H plus 5 pattern. Frankly its something you would get used to very quickly or if you always change sequentially through the gears wouldn't have a problem with. In the Interim you just have to avoid consciously thinking about changing into say second gear or else you just end up confused.
Actually except for around town where you make heavy use of first, second, first repetitions itís a better layout for the gears. It gives more direct hence faster/easier shift from the heavily used Fifth to Forth and back ratios, and with the way many modern cars are going with huge top gears and little torque should be utilized more.
The Accelerator may be heavy and long, but it certainly doesnít dull the responses, you certainly wouldnít want to try and control the V8's raging horsepower with an on/off switch. Its weight only adds to the feeling that something rather special is going on and the result is certainly worth the above average amount of effort you have to put in. Nail the pedal hard (but not even fully down) in first and your slammed back hard into the seat with neck muscles trying to brace your head, woe betide anyone daft enough to be rooting around the glove box when the loud pedal gets hit in first gear, or second or third or fourth for that matter. Only fifth gear can abate the fierce acceleration and even then the car rages on remorselessly. Porsche claim a matter of fact and entirely believable 330bhp peak. But it's the huge lumpy amounts of horses that it chucks out at any indicated number of engine revs that is really impressive. It really doesn't matter how many revs are showing from zero to hero and beyond the engine delivers more than adequate pull at any point. Its even well behaved and docile when trundling along in top gear on a sniff of gas reporting a rather laughable mid twenties fuel consumption. Compared to something like a BMW V8 it feels quite gruff, but in a taut, tough, hard manner not a rough one. Some of this is probably down to the deep base heavy metal music it outputs through the exhaust, as it certainly isn't vibrating or any other such nasties. One of the problems with noise emission legislation is that it can only measure quantity not quality, and as such cant recognize the fact that QUEEN @ 110db is far easier on the ear than the SPICE GIRLS @ 80db. The meter may find it bordering on the unacceptable but I suspect all but the most dead of souls cant but fail to be stirred by the righteous sound of a rumbling V8 which is the motoring equivalent of the last night of the PROMS.
The Other pedals thankfully donít require as much effort as the throttle. Normally the thought of pushing a decade old clutch, which is built to withstand a small nuclear explosion, should send most of us running towards a Charles Atlas course. Fortunately the weights more than acceptable and the movement though long give a nicely fluid feel to its action and has a smooth take up. The gear change came with dire warnings of an upcoming arm wresting contest, and yes it its slightly stiff /heavily sprung in any particular plane. But its even and not notchy through the gate, the change action itself being short sharp and mechanical with no hint of slop despite the remote rear changing transaxle.
The brakes are of course massively powerful and thankfully wonderfully controllable so you can torture the front tires almost as much as you do the rears. The chassis tends to ride fairly flat even when you try and stand it either on its rear end or on its nose, so you donít pitch about in a wildly bucking body. Somebody did make a good effort at explaining how those clever geezers at Porches had linked the engine to the rear transaxle to keep the nose down, but I'm afraid it was far to technical for me to understand, their attempt at demonstration of its squatting behavior went over my head too, but that could have been because they chose to demonstrate it by gunning the 928 to the redline in second through a rather small gap in traffic just before an approaching roundabout and my mind sort of wandered off elsewhere, In a similar fashion to the way it had when shown how the 928 could spin its wheels at 70 in the wet.
The good pedal control means you can point and squirt the Porsche about with aplomb in the dry at least. In the wet the tires have a hard time in the unequal struggle with the engine but at least the chassis stays calm as the tires fritter away all that engine power. The engines massive depth of power means you donít have to work the pedals and stick very hard to go very fast, But then of course there are always the times when you will want too, and the car will respond with an extra dose of exhilaration for you to overdose on further. For the record sub six second 0-60 was super car class then and still awesome now, 170mph top end may sound a little dull in an a post McLaren, XJ220 age but its still way more than most of us would ever dream of or dare go.
What you do need though to get the cars best is some fairly big wide empty roads, on small busy roads your catching other traffic at a frightening speed, and the width of the car means your having to squeeze through some very tight gaps. Much better to skip past on a surge gas through an oncoming space than have wing mirrors kissing as you try to sneak past at a steady speed.
This is not to say the 928 doesnít handle is does, and it does so very well. But it's all to obvious why the 911 remains popular in the face of on paper technically better/more advanced designs. The 911 is small and narrow in feels incredibly weildy whilst the 928 just feels large and slightly ponderous in comparison. (Note: only in comparison to the diminutive 911) Its only in the same way that any supermini feels so good to drive because you can throw the little thing about and dodge through any little gap. In a 928 you're better off just aiming for a point on the horizon and holding on for dear life.
When you've got the space the 928 responds well to the helm, the steering has a tight direct feel responding faithfully to every input, and gently conveying messages back to your hands. Despite the steering taughtness it never feels overly heavy and for my mind has strikes just the right balance of feel without getting difficult to park and maneuver. Around the bends it grips the road to at least the limit of most peoples bottle, pushing ever harder around a long tight sweeper merely compresses your body ever harder into the seat bolsters, backing off creates only a gentle line tightening effect and even hard changes of tack fail to unsettle the car. All in all its a perfectly balanced, roll and pitch free, impressively stable handler. At the back of your mind should always be the fact that 330 horse are struggling to get out of a relatively short wheelbase car, when your given the power its up to you not to abuse it, especially on a car from pre-electronic idiot override days.
The cost of such road manners is often rather crashy ride. With massive low profile tires and stiff suspension the 928 GT is never going to do an impression of a your favorite Sofa, and there is some tram lining and a jerky ride at lowish speeds, but its more than compensated for by the stability and body control at speed. To be fair to it the ride is far better than you have any right to expect and its anyway its not this cars reason for existence.
In theory a 928 should be a practical if expensive everyday super coupe. In reality this version probably walks a little too far on the wild side, and anyway its probably better to save it for those days when driving is an open roaded pleasure, not a nose to tail pain.
Is it worth buying one?
Tough question, for what you get 928s are becoming very cheap to purchase. Trouble is they donít get any cheaper to run. Even if it is reliable (which it probably will be cause itís a Porsche and amazingly well built), just the cost of fuel and tires and regular servicing would burn a large hole in many a pocket.
Image may also be a problem for many a perspective Porsche driver. Where every man and his dog know what a 911 is and you can barely hear the metallic rattling of the engine at the traffic lights for the pinging of snapping knicker elastic and muttering of envious under breath curses. The 928 attract studious attention from the maturer car enthusiast, and mere admiring glances from others slightly less knowledgeable.
Early 928's are going through that unloved stage where dreamers can buy them, but cant afford to look after them, so there is going to inevitably be some rather trashed buckets out there. But if you can afford to run one properly at least you know your investing your money fairly wisely (in car terms at least) as they cant possibly drop much further and as all old Porsches eventually become desirable, so long as you buy with a little care to start with, it could actually be a reasonably sensible investment
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