Drive: Today's Porsche 911 versus its ancestor

One of the most recognised, respected and revered car models around is surely Porsche's 911. But the sports car that sits atop many 'must own before you die' lists earned its reputation a long time before the current 340bhp-plus machines were created.

This reputation led us to blu-tac a large poster of the 1980s version onto our wall as a pre-teen car fan, and also meant we jumped at the opportunity to compare one of our childhood idols back to back with today's GTS version.
With the muscled arches, deep rimmed alloy wheels and heavily spoilered looks of the 1985 car having graced so many magazine covers over the years, it would be pointless to expound upon the visuals. Nevertheless, stepping into the 26-year-old cabin was done with a twinge of apprehension.

A few moments of acclimatisation were necessary, and it quickly became apparent just how much the 911 has changed over the last couple of decades. A flimsy ignition key, ill-fitting floormats and doors that didn't carry the weight of years of safety improvements made the older 911 feel a slightly unfamiliar place for someone used to driving modern vehicles.

This lack of familiarity turned to outright nervousness when the ignition was fired up and we eased away from standstill. Non power-assisted steering was one thing, but the floor-mounted pedals that are also famously offset to the left concentrated the mind most. Things to be avoided were stalling, mistreating the clutch and the brand new 911 GTS to our right.

Inching out onto the thankfully almost deserted test track at Millbrook proving ground became easier with every gearchange, although it all became a bit more like hard work when the first corner approached. The heavy, non-assisted steering meant the raw, pared-back feeling came from more than those lightweight doors. The weight of the steering, even at speed, meant that we felt directly connected to and responsible for every little movement that car made.

The straights allowed us a couple of chances to floor the pedal (using a slightly alien action due to those strangely positioned pedals) and this was where the next big difference between the old and the new became apparent. Where the modern car will get to 62mph in less than 5 seconds in even basic form (and 4.4 in the GTS) the G Series only claimed around 6.1 seconds when it was brand new.

There's no doubt it would travel at some pace when pushed, but this would require more talent and courage than most average drivers possess. Certainly more than we have, so in our amateur hands the classic 911 seemed rapid, but lacked that element of insanity that the Italian exotica on the other posters of our childhood wish list are reputed to contain.

Despite this, compared to the modern car, with its slick-shifting PDK gearbox, traction control and anti-skid control, it's apparent just how much more of a raw driver's car the 1985 model is – but this is as much in its favour as against it. Given the choice, the money and the knowledge of our own driving limitations, we'd take the modern car over the one that featured our bedroom wall, but there's no way we'd begrudge anyone for picking the classic.
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