Driving the Porsche 968 back-to-back with the 911 Turbo S admittedly made this feel rather slow. It is not the case however…
The front-mounted 3 litre twin-cam four cylinder engine produces 240 bhp, which combined with the kerb weight of 1335 kg makes the car very nippy. Although the 968 produces a fair amount power and a very agreeable 305 lbs ft of torque the car is more about how it drives than the speed it can achieve (top speed 158 mph). The removal of the rear seats reduces weight. There is also less sound deadening exposing more of the exhaust note. It has a very fruity and vocal tone for a four cylinder engine which makes it all the more encouraging to make good use of second and third gears and exercise the engine’s power band.
The car very much reminded me of a Volkswagen Corrado – the balance in the chassis and the steering feedback through the front axle were very similar. Communication through the controls and chassis of the car to the driver are an essential ingredient for a drivers’ car. The 968 CS is one of the most true and encouraging cars to engage with and everything you give to it – it gives you twice back. The steering feel in a word, is sublime. It is so easy to point the nose into a corner, clip the apex and give it the beans on the exit. It’s like the car is on a knife’s edge. Every millimetre of tarmac is fed back through the Pirelli P-Zero’s, the steering wheel and then your finger tips.
The six speed manual gearbox is also a massive feature that makes the 968 CS a full-on drivers’ car. With the clutch pedal disappearing from modern sports cars (particularly Porsche) it feels all the more special that this lightweight Porsche has a heavy clutch pedal with a firm and direct gear change. Porsche have always produced drivers’ cars and have gone to great lengths to make sure that the driver is part of the mechanical operation of the motorcar. The gearbox is mounted at the back of the car which creates a better centre of gravity and weight distribution therefore improving handling and chassis dynamics.
As I mentioned in my 996 Turbo S road test, Porsche have always been able to manufacture unbelievable braking systems. The brakes in the Clubsport, although are not carbon ceramics, produce great stopping power – the reduced weight will also have an impact on this. The feel through the middle pedal is great, especially for the age of the car. I never managed to experience any brake fade as the pedal stayed firm the harder I pressed.
The interior of this car is very basic. This helps to keep the weight of the car down and therefore increase the power-to-weight ratio enabling the car to cover ground at a more effective pace. There are no electric windows, no electric door mirrors, no electric or heated seats, no air con and no airbags. Although the car has a strong resemblance to a greenhouse when the sun is out, none of this lack of comfort actually matters. That sounds a very silly thing to say. However, the car really is that engaging to drive and more than makes up for the rather dull 924 and 944 predecessors.
You really could drive this car along a tightrope. This car is not about about the power it produces but the razor sharp handling you can dial into, regulating throttle, braking and steering inputs. To conclude, the Porsche 968 Clubsport is one of the most honest, engaging and communicative sports cars I have had the opportunity to drive.