Of course, the Porsche 911 is THE icon from Stuttgart Zuffenhausen. But sometimes the 911’s nimbus obscures the view of exciting alternatives. After all, Porsche has always built great cars aside from the top model. And some people might want to swim against the tide and not drive a 911. What Porsche 911 alternative would we suggest, if you want an 80’s Porsche, that’s not a Carrera for example? We’ll show you a cool Porsche 911 alternative for different eras of the 911.
Porsche’s first mass-market mid-engined sports car’s roots go back to Volkswagen. Ferry Porsche and Heinrich Nordhoff agreed on a joint project for an affordable sports car. This association brought the Porsche 914 an image problem throughout its life. Unjustly, we think. Because the 914’s driving dynamics were fantastic, even with its staid 1.7 litre four-pot. But the spearhead of the series was the Porsche 914/6, which had the 2-liter flat-six-engine from the 911 and thus impressive performance. 9.9 seconds from 0 – 62 mph and a top speed way north of 120 mph were pretty darn quick, back in the day!
But that’s only half the truth. With the engine mounted between its axles and a kerb weight of just 940 kg, the 914 goes around the corners like nothing else from that era. Some say it handles better than its big brother, the 911. And besides that, it’s also rarer than the 911. Only 3,338 of the nearly 120,000 Porsche 914s built from 1969 to 1976, were 914/6s. Although the 914, originally marketed as a VW-Porsche, has made an extreme leap in price, it is still on a similar level to the original 911. We think it’s an excellent Porsche 911 alternative to the F-model.
As the top model of the four-cylinder transaxle of the 1980s, the Porsche 944 Turbo had a lot to offer. 220, and later even 250 hp helped it achieve driving performance on a par with the Porsche 964 Carrera. 17,627 examples with 220 hp and 3,738 of the later 250 hp 944 Turbos were built. While it formed the basis for the first Porsche one-make cup, it was also a reliable and versatile companion in everyday life.
Like the 911, it offers a 2+2-seat layout. On top, it has a lot of storage space and good suspension comfort. And best of all, good Porsche 944 Turbos start at around 30,000 euros! That leaves plenty of financial room to the comparably quick Porsche 964 Carrera. As an alternative that, it should definitely be looked at more closely.
Another transaxle as a Porsche 911 alternative is the 968. It is powered by the final iteration of Porsche’s 3.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 240 hp. Together with the Porsche 928 GTS, it marked the end of the so-nicely-balanced concept. Twenty years after the premiere of the Porsche 924, transaxle sports cars from Zuffenhausen were a thing of the past. The two decades of development are very much noticeable in the 968 though. Compared to the somewhat rough early 944s, the Porsche 968 looks like a polished diamond.
Like the 993 and 928, the front end is based on Porsche’s brand image common at the time. Flat front fenders with integrated headlights characterize the front. Everything is excellently engineered and very well finished. same goes for the driving experience. The Porsche 968 feels like a natural extension of the driver’s brain. Some people might argue, that this makes the 968 a tad boring. But every racing driver, especially Le Mans winners, will tell you, that predictible handling is key to being consistently fast. And for more regular Porsche drivers who also want to take a more leisurely weekend trip, the Porsche 968 is an excellent alternative to the 911 of its day.
Admittedly, after the 928 and 968 were discontinued, alternatives to the Porsche 911 were few and far between in the mid-1990s. But even before the first water-cooled 911, the 996, a boxer-engined two-seated roadster entered the stage. We’re talking, of course, about the first-generation Porsche Boxster (986). Celebrated as an absolute star at the 1993 Detroit Motor Show, it was immediately a box-office hit. Created under design chief Harm Lagaay the first-gen Boxster has since matured into a desirable classic.
Like the 996, it has since been forgiven for heralding the end of the air-cooled era at Porsche. In terms of driving, it was sublime from the start anyway. The greatest attraction of the spiritual 914 successor is certainly that it is very close to the 911, and not just in terms of sound. Its front end is in fact almost identical to that of the early Porsche 996 Carrera 3.4. And especially as a Boxster S with the revised 3.2-liter flat-six engine, it offers fantastic performance for its money. Top 911 alternative for manageable prices!
After the Boxster’s success, Porsche fans often asked, if there would also be a mid-engined coupé based on it. In the first generation 986, this was still denied to customers. But at the end of 2005, the time had come. After the Boxster 987, a sporty coupe with the name Cayman (987c) was launched on the same platform. Like its predecessor, it relied on a boxer engine that drew its power from six cylinders.
The range extended from 245 to 320 hp in the Cayman or Cayman S to 330 hp in the extremely rare Cayman R. Even more than the 986, the Cayman is a fully-fledged alternative to the 911. In its coupè form it is more versatile and also has significantly more storage space for luggage. It’s hard to believe that the Cayman will come of age in 2023, neither on the outside nor on the inside. By the way, prices for the little crocodile have already risen noticeably. This is also due to the relatively low supply, so it’s better not to wait too long! Buyers are rewarded with picture-book handling and longitudinal dynamics almost on a par with the Porsche 997. With this 911 alternative, there’s no need to compromise anywhere!
The third generation Porsche Cayman didn’t have it easy at first. The four-cylinder boxer engine of the 718 Cayman offered strong performance figures, but fell short in the non-measurable range. Fans of the brand didn’t really want to get used to the sound. Even though, for the first 15 years, Porsches were exclusively equipped with four-cylinder boxer engines. However, the latest version of the mid-engine sports car from Zuffenhausen has long since established itself. As is typical for Porsche, the range of models to choose from is enormous. Even if you absolutely can’t do without the six-cylinder engine, Porsche got you covered. Then, you can get the Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 or GT4.
And this 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 in particular is a fantastic Porsche 911 alternative. What’s special about it is that unlike its bigger siblings, the Porsche 991.2 and 992, the 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 uses a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated engine. At the same time, it costs less than its Carrera brothers with their 3.0-liter biturbo engines. This is one of the reasons why we consider the Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 to be the ideal Porsche 911 alternative. We don’t need to talk about the performance anyway. So if you don’t necessarily need four seats, you can be unfaithful to the 911 with a clear conscience. The 718 is definitely worth a sin.
Our small selection shows that Porsche is much more than “just” the 911. Of course, it is the brand’s style-defining vehicle, its flagship. But it would be fatal to put on blinkers when looking for a new sports car. This would be an unjustified denial of the qualities of Porsche’s own alternatives. As so often, it remains a question of personal taste. Either way, our recommendation is to think outside the box. Such a change of perspective often brings positive surprises…
© title image: Porsche