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Porsche 911 Engines

Reviewing the progression of Porsche 911 engines is akin to reviewing the progress of the Porsche company in general, as this model has been the mainstay, if not the history-maker for the Porsche concern since 1964, when the 911 was first marketed.

Porsche 911 engines can generally be classified as having come from two eras, the aircooled era and the watercooled era, which is where current 911 engines are at today. The aircooled engines were introduced as flat-6 (horizontally-opposed) engines. This basic flat-6 design continues today for all 911s. The Porsche 911 classic was developed as a larger and more powerful replacement for the Porsche 356, the company’s first model.

The early Porsche 911 engines displaced 2-liters and made 128 horsepower. These were mated to 4- or 5-speed manual transmissions. There was a 911R engine variant that made 210 PS but production of these engines only reached 20 units and it is a very very rare piece of Porsche history. In 1970, displacement was increased to 2.2 liters, which resulted in a power increase to 153 horsepower. This engine series lasted only until 1971 as on the following year, displacement was again increased, this time to 2.4 liters. It was in this period that a 2.7-liter engine was introduced, which also used mechanical fuel injection from Bosch. This engine was used in the Carrera RS, which many consider to be the most desirable classic Porsche that was made available to the general public. The engines for these Carreras made 210 hp. Come 1974, Porsche came out with the Carrera RSR with an engine displacing 3.0 liters and developing 230 hp. A lot of these Carreras were used for racing, given their powerful (for that time) engines and light body weight.

The period of 1975 to 1989 coincidentally saw the production of the Type 930, more commonly known as the Porsche Turbo. It was this car the made the word turbo a household name as the car’s fierce acceleration and on the limit handling quirks made this a car that was feared and respected. Initial output for the turbo engine was 260 hp but by 1978, the turbo engine’s output was already at the 300 hp mark. The last year of production for the Type 930 was 1989, where engine capacity was now at 3.3 liters and a 5-speed gearbox strong enough to withstand the engine’s power was used.

Meanwhile, the normally-aspirated air-cooled Porsche 911 engines steadily gained capacity and output. 1978 saw capacity hit 3.0 liters for the 911SC. Porsche also started using fuel injection and aluminum crankcases, which resulted in this generation of 911s earning their reputation as the most reliable to date. By 1998, the last year in which the aircooled flat-6 was used for the 911, displacement had increased to 3.6 liters and output to 270 horsepower for the normally-aspirated engines. A special, limited-edition RS was also produced, with the engine at 3.8 liters producing an even 300 horsepower.

The last aircooled 911 Turbos, produced from 1995 to 1997 are collector’s items nowadays because of their uniqueness. In their final iteration, the Turbo S, the engines in these cars produced 424 horsepower from 3.8 liters of displacement.

The watercooled era began in 1998, after 34 years of the dominance of aircooled Porsche 911 engines. The Type 996 was a new design, not only in terms of body shape but also in engine design and suspension. Basic engine layout, that of being a flat-6, still remains. And as with earlier 911s, the 996 retained the mid-engine configuration.From 1998-2002, the new watercooled flat 6 displaced 3.4 liters, giving an output of 300 hp. Displacement was later increased by 200 cc to 3.6 liters to have the engine produce 320 hp.

From then to the present, displacement has hovered between 3.6 and 3.8 liters and power outputs have been steadily increasing, most specially with the higher performance turbocharged models. The year 2006 saw the introduction of VarioCam Plus, Porsche’s version of variable cam timing and lift, and the 3.6 and 3.8 engines saw their power increase to 325 and 355 horsepower, respectively. The Turbo, became a twin turbo and with VarioCam technology, pushed out 480 hp. 2008 was the year Direct Fuel Injection was introduced for Porsche 911 engines and together with VarioCam Plus, again increased output for the 3.6 and 3.8 engines to 345 and 385 hp.

For the past two years, Porsche has used the 3.8 engine for its 911 models giving from 435 to 530 horsepower, depending on the level of trim and engine tune for a particular model. Currently, there are 20(!) 911 variants and can be ordered with either manual or PDK transmissions.The most powerful Porsche 911 engine available to the general public to date is installed in the Porsche GT2 RS, which is the only one today that displaces 3.6 liters but produces 620 hp.

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