Have you ever heard of a sports car with an engine behind the rear axle? Immediately, the Porsche 911 comes to mind. I can’t think of another sports car with this layout off the top of my head. This iconic design has been a staple of the 911, since 1963. But what was the reason for this design?
The reasoning was simple, Porsche believed it was the most practical way to build a sports car since a mid engined layout wasn’t suitable for having rear passengers or effective noise cancellation in the cabin. Vibrations from the engine would have been easily felt by all unfortunate enough to be inside the car.
By placing the Flat 6 behind the rear axles, there would be space for 2 small* rear passengers and luggage could fit in the large front trunk. Noise isolation and vibrations were easier to control by having the engine placed farther away from the cabin. Most importantly, traction was proven to be better than any other layout, because the weight of the engine on the rear axles helped the wheels keep steady contact with the road, hence why 911s are so quick off the line.
However, 911 enthusiasts are very strict with what defines a “pure” 911. For example, when Porsche made the 996 water cooled unlike all previous air cooled 911s, people considered it to be the death of the 911 and don’t get me started on those fried egg headlights. Pricing of the 993 is continuing to skyrocket while the 996 might as well be the cheapest 911 money can buy, which is likely why the rear engine will stay with the 911 for the rest of its life.
This seemingly unbalanced rear engine design has also been proven performance-wise with cars like the new 911 GT2RS setting lap records left and right; Porsche has shown that this odd layout can definitely compete with mid engined supercars. After 56 years of constant tweaking and evolution, Porsche has clearly perfected its signature rear engine, rear wheel drive design.
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