Porsche 911 S/T First Drive Review : Porsche Spice
Calabria, Italy - Only Porsche is in that enviable position to be able to launch a limited edition sportscar model like the 911 S/T (1963 units, if you’re counting, to celebrate the 60th birthday of the 911), yet not be expected to have it jump through hoops to trump its existing models in outright vital statistics.
While most other brands scramble to tout their latest as ‘greatest’ and the most powerful of the lot in the all-too-familiar arms race, Porsche’s focus is refreshingly different.
Exclusive editions like the latest 911 S/T are conceived and engineered to be ‘pure’ driving instruments for passionate drivers, so outright speed (and accompanying click-baity stomp-and-spurt launches) and huge aero take a backseat to driving engagement and of course, enjoyment.
However, we should also qualify that as far as the 911 S/T is concerned, the last thing you’ll want is to be taking a backseat to all the salacious driving thrills it offers!
If you’re wondering, today’s (type 992) 911 S/T draws inspiration from the 911 ST of the late 1960s / early 1970s, a factory-upgrade ‘hot-rod’ combo of mechanical and lightweight components offered to owners / teams who wanted to take their 911s racing.
In many cases, these original 911 STs ran the more powerful 911S mechanicals in the lighter body of the 911T, but a wide combination of competition configurations meant there was no single recipe for the definitive 911 ST, save perhaps for the flared wheel arches.
It isn’t a tenuous link though, because the current 911 S/T model shares kinship with its 911ST progenitor by virtue of its uprated suspension, raw, raucous and explosive 525hp / 465Nm GT3 RS nat-asp 4.0-litre engine, as well as loads of lightweight components, including gorgeous staggered 20- / 21-inch forged magnesium alloy rims (saves 10.6kg versus the normal forged alloys).
The S/T is stunning in the flesh, and you need to appreciate the nuances in the details that elevate it beyond a 'regular' 911 (and GT3 Touring), especially the discreet gurney-flap on the rear-deck and ‘open-worked’ front fenders that segue into the GT3 RS doors.
Here’s a little nugget: Porsche wanted to preserve the ‘purity’ of the 911 silhouette for as long a drive-time as possible, so the gurney flap has the effect of shifting the speed at which the rear-spoiler deploys from 80km/h to 120km/h.
And for the folks who prefer to drive the 911 with the rear spoiler permanently deployed, fret not, because a manual override for the spoiler is available through the touchscreen interface.
Yester-year’s fibreglass is today’s carbonfibre. Personally, we’re not fans of the two-tone exposed carbon look for road-going cars.
It's great then that all the S/T's carbonfibre bits such as the front fenders, GT3 RS door-skins (saves 2kg), vented frunk lid and double-domed roof are tastefully painted in the gorgeous Shore Blue Metallic body-colour.
However, Porsche makes it clear its latest S/T isn’t intended for competition. Instead, it is a precision instrument in which to indulge one’s love for the winding roads.
And in Southern Italy where the S/T launch drive is held, there are long, winding and meandering roads aplenty for us to indulge in over the course of our driving route to and from the Riva Restaurant in Falerna and the National Park Hotel and Spa in Cotronei in Calabria.
Now for the ‘elephant’ in the room, even if it happens to be one as lithe and as graceful as the (type 991) 911R, a limited edition launched during the time of the 991.1.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking the 911 S/T’s recipe of nat-asp RS engine, lightweight measures, 6spd manual and driver-focused dynamics sounds like a dead ringer for the 911R’s.
Think of the S/T as a continuation of where the excellent 911R left off, except it throws a lightweight clutch and single-mass flywheel into the incendiary mix.
Don’t forget, the success of the 911R demonstrated that purists still hankered after a lightweight, manual transmission GT model and each successive model didn’t just have to be fast - faster - fastest.
After all, the even lighter R (circ. 1370kg kerbweight) was conceived during the 991.1, a time when Porsche had nixed the manual for both the GT3 RS and the GT3.
For what it’s worth, the brand would reintroduce the manual alongside the PDK with the 991.2 GT3, as well as include an additional GT3 Touring model sans big wing, both of which have continued into the current 992 generation.
Based on the GT3 Touring, the 911 S/T tips the scales at 1380kg to be the lightest of the 992s (the GT3 Touring is about 1418kg), although it also ditches rear-axle steer in the process for a purer driving experience.
We’re told the reduced energy burden without the rear-steer system has the added benefit of letting the engineers switch to a smaller 40Ah battery for the S/T, which contributes to a savings of 10kg.
There are several cost-optional items on the test-car, which include the gorgeous carbonfibre rollcage and Heritage Design package.
The latter features gold badges, a tasty cognac interior with the door-pulls and snugly supportive 918 Spyder bucket seats wrapped in semi-aniline leather.
Like the 911R, the instruments are finished in green phosphorus for that retro-vibe and it’s a thrill watching the needle arc to the 9000rpm cut-off when you’re really flogging the car hard.
We slide into the bucket seats smoothly and fire up the S/T to hear the lightweight stainless steel exhaust system snarl to life, with throttle blips leading to the sort of rise and fall in revs more reminiscent of a race-car or motorcycle engine!
With the quickened rise and fall pace of revs, the combination of lightweight clutch (by this we mean a compact clutch package, not a light pedal feel!) and single-mass flywheel takes some getting used to, but it isn’t something 50km of fast-road driving won’t fix!
According to a spokesperson at time of writing, this lightweight drivetrain combination (10.2kg versus the GT3 Touring's 20.7kg) is reserved only for the S/T, so you won’t be seeing the lightweight clutch / single-mass flywheel in the next generation of the GT3 Touring any time soon.
The S/T’s shortened gear ratios (vs the GT3) translate to a frenetic pace as you flick your way up and down the gears (we turned auto-blip off because it’s more satisfying to DIY!), with the thrilling, soaring soundtrack the only excuse you need to wring the rev-happy 4.0-litre to redline time and time again.
Unlike the 992 Sport Classic, the S/T features the 992 GT3’s front double-wishbone suspension set-up, as well as recalibrated rear differential, steering and chassis settings to factor in the rear-axle steer delete.
All this results in an even more incisive and unadulterated driving experience (yes, more so than the GT3 Touring) that will continue to leave you tingling in remembered pleasure long after the cool-down ticking has stopped. It isn't so much about the 'fast' as it is about the 'fun'!
There’s a taut composure and fabulous balance to the car, with your hands and feet controlling how it ebbs and flows with the winding roads, with the standard PCCB offering stupendous stopping power as you brake hard and deep into the corners.
The S/T eagerly dives into the B-road corners and you never miss having rear-axle steer. It's amazing how the empirical enhancements to the 911 S/T result in such an emotional feel that re-ignite one's passion for fast, winding road driving.
It eschews the straights and actively sniffs out the corners with the tenacity of a bloodhound. In fact, the playful chassis coaxes, cajoles and challenges you to better yourself and to push its handling limits with every corner.
If the GT3 Touring fights with its gloves on, the S/T is a sinewy, scrappy, full-contact street fighter with the muscle and athletic agility to tackle and really terrorise the tarmac.
Call us naive, but the purity of the S/T’s drive is something we feel all Porschephiles should experience… like the 911R from before.
And because it is practically unobtanium (like the 911R), most folks will do the 911 S/T the disservice by thinking it is "just like the GT3 Touring"...
Well, 'fraid not folks, because the drive experience of the S/T is far greater than the sum of its parts, and certainly far more dramatic than the Touring.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking you’d like a piece of the scintillating 911 S/T.
Unfortunately, entry to this exclusive club has a waiting list and not just a simple matter of having the S$1,373,588 starting price of admission.
And we hate to be the bearers of bad news, because the handful (and a bit) of cars we’ll be getting in Singapore are all spoken for, with quite a good number on the wait-list in the event more units are freed up!
In the case of the 911 S/T, the amount of heat it brings to the table doesn’t come from the flame of the 60 candles for each year since the 911 was introduced, but rather from the fiery spice of its visceral drive experience.
Porsche 911 S/T (type 992)
Engine 3996cc, flat6, nat-asp
Power/rpm 525hp / 8500rpm
Torque/rpm 465Nm / 6300rpm
Transmission 6spd manual
Top Speed 300km/h
Kerbweight 1380kg (DIN)
Fuel Consumption 15.2l/100km (combined)