A vehicle so utterly brilliant that it almost becomes a living cliche. No, it’s not the ridiculously revelatory thing that the hype would have you believe (or the current second-hand values suggest), but if you imagine Porsche engineers picking every single good thing from the 911 parts bin and hanging them all together on one car, this is it. A beautiful Frankenstein. As a sports car, it is consummate.
It perches in a very particular, specialist niche even within Porsche’s internal hierarchy, too: not – quite – as good on a track as the RS, but more comfortable and less bewinged and look-at-me for road work. Not as fast cross country as the Turbo, but with that RS 4.0-litre flat six and precise six-speed manual ’box, it offers connection, involvement and a naturally-aspirated wail that’s almost transcendental. In a world of whoosh and turbos, it stands out.
But more than that, it offers the opportunity to really use it, hitting a sweet spot between fast and silly, walking a tightrope between being benign enough to play with and exciting enough to respect. Switch off all the traction and stability controls and it’s pretty much exactly the same as it is with all the electronic nannies on high alert; an engaging, deeply immersive sports car that requires you to try. And yes, that’s something that brings with it huge amounts of satisfaction.
It’s the little things that lift this car from the merely great to the extraordinary. The fact that you have to pay attention if you want to get it right. It’s scythingly fast, but get the wrong gear and there’s no turbo-torque get-out-of-jail-free card to play, no barmy amount of instant hit that means you can enter a corner at walking pace and still be competitive on the next straight. The engine that nevertheless seems to always be on your side, a fantastic, howling, encouraging thing, full of character and soul. Get a series of corners just right in a 911R and it feels like you’ve achieved. Get them wrong and it just makes you want to try again until you do. The steering is fabulous, the body control complete – with just enough lean to let you know what’s going on with all four points of the car.
It’s the kind of special that makes you remember why you like fast cars. Not because of the numbers or papery statistics that only carry weight on digital forums. Not because it makes other people think you’re a track hero with extra wings and theatrical bodywork. But because it perfectly embodies what it takes to make the kind of performance car that Top Gear admires. Joy. It’s a joyous, engaging, utterly wonderful piece of machinery – on road or track.
It’s the Porsche 911R. It’s TG’s Performance Car of the Year 2016.