Sedans & Coupes

Porsche 911 R: The Underground Parts-Bin Throwback

911 fans tend to split themselves into two camps regarding Porsche’s iconic sports car. Some prefer the modern water-cooled 911’s performance and luxury touches. Others, though, crave the simpler vintage air-cooled experience—which explains these cars’ high prices. It also explains the 2016 Porsche 911 R. On the surface, it seems like a parts-bin special, something like the BMW 1M Coupe. And like that car, the 911 R turned into something more.

The 2016 Porsche 911 R is an ode to analog simplicity

Compared to the rest of the Porsche GT3 models, the 2016 911 R is a bit of an odd duck, Automobile reports. It doesn’t bear the GT name, but it is technically part of the family. And some would argue that it helped rescue it.

A silver-and-red 2016 Porsche 911 R
2016 Porsche 911 R | Porsche

The Porsche 911 R was the final send-off for the 991.1-gen 911, MotorTrend reports. At the time, the track-focused GT3 models had ditched the traditional manual for a dual-clutch PDK, Road & Track reports. To be fair, it improved acceleration and lap times. And the whole point of a track car is to go faster, after all. Nevertheless, the purist fans revolted. So, in response, Porsche released the 911 R, R&T explains.

The ‘technically part of the family’ is because the Porsche 911 R is essentially a 991.1 GT3/GT3 RS, albeit stripped-down, Car and Driver reports. It doesn’t have the GT3’s rear wing or other aero features. But it does have the RS’s magnesium roof, carbon-fiber hood and trunk lid, carbon-fiber seat backrests, and carbon-fiber fenders.

The 2016 Porsche 911 R's dashboard and hounds-tooth front seats
2016 Porsche 911 R interior | Porsche

In standard form, the 911 R lacks A/C, navigation, a radio, and rear seats, Car and Driver reports. However, there’s a rear diffuser, rear-wheel steering, a limited-slip differential, carbon-ceramic brakes, a titanium exhaust, and an optional single-mass flywheel. Also, significantly less sound-deadening material. As a result, at 3021 pounds, the R is 110 pounds lighter than the GT3 RS, Automobile reports.

The Porsche 911 R has the GT3 RS’s 4.0-liter flat-6, albeit with a lower 8500 RPM redline. But it still makes 500 hp and 338 lb-ft, Roadshow reports. And, most crucially, there’s a 6-speed manual.

The Porsche 911 R: where less is more

A white 2016 Porsche 911 R with a white 1967 Porsche 911 R
2016 Porsche 911 R (left) with a 1967 Porsche 911 R | Porsche

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Naturally, even with less weight, the Porsche 911 R’s manual transmission slows it down, Car and Driver reports. Its 0-60 mph time of 3.4 seconds is quick, but the GT3 RS is 0.4 seconds faster. It’s a similar story with the two cars’ ¼-mile times. A 991.2 Carrera only has 370 hp, but with a PDK, it matches the R’s 0-60 mph time, Car and Driver reports. However, that’s not what makes the 911 R special.

The Porsche 911 R is “a revelation,” MT reports. There’s so little noise insulation, you can hear the transmission gears mesh together and the throttle open. That single-mass flywheel means you have to shift quickly, but it also it’s also easy to feel the bite point. And it means the engine revs to redline “in the blink of an eye,” Automobile reports, howling all the way. The 911 R is raw and raucous, Car and Driver reports, gloriously so.

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The Porsche 911 R won’t match the GT3 RS’s lap times. And while the ride is fairly supple, the noise level is a bit much for daily-driving, Car reports. But the rear-wheel steering makes it “playful” to drive, MT reports. And the noise and sensations make every drive feel special.

In short, the Porsche 911 R is a parts-bin special that captures the essence of what fans love about the brand. Unfortunately, these qualities also made the Porsche 911 R into an extremely collectible car. As does its rarity.

It’s inspired some more recent—and more affordable—follow-ups

Porsche made just 991 examples, and they were all sold before the car was even officially unveiled to the public. Plus, while the 911 R originally retailed for about $186k, some examples sell for double that, Hagerty reports. A few even reached that half-million mark, Autotrader reports. That’s something the 911’s director, August Achleitner, wasn’t happy about, R&T reports.

A gray 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring
2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring | Porsche

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So, in response, Porsche created the 991.2-gen 2018 GT3 Touring. It’s not quite as raw as the 911 R, and it doesn’t have the carbon-fiber fenders, magnesium roof, or carbon-fiber hood. But it offers basically the same thrills as the regular GT3, and like the R, has no rear seats, Car and Driver reports. And while it isn’t cheap, it’s comfortably under $200k on Bring a Trailer.

The rear 3/4 view of a yellow 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T
2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T rear 3/4 | Porsche

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Then there’s the 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T, yet another send-off for the 991.2-gen car, Automobile reports. And, like the GT3 Touring, it’s an attempt to make a more-affordable R, R&T reports.

It rides lower than the standard Carrera and has standard adaptive suspension, a limited-slip differential, a sports exhaust, a shortened final drive, and multiple driving modes. It also has less noise insulation, a 7-speed manual, optional rear-wheel steering, dynamic engine mounts, and lighter-weight rear glass, Car and Driver reports. Plus, optional lighter fixed-back bucket seats with rear-seat delete.

The Carrera T is less refined than the ‘regular’ 911, but as with the R, that makes it more special and fun to drive, Car and Driver reports. And the good news is that it’s “’ absolutely’” coming back in the 992 generation, R&T reports. Or, if you can’t wait that long, examples command roughly $100k on BaT.

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