Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S

Measuring driving pleasures: the Porsche 911 S and 959 S

Driving a Porsche is fun. So is looking at a Porsche. Now all it needs are the two proper Porsches. And a good friend.

Text: Thomas Crown Photo: Laurent Nivalle 26.12.2018 5 min

Of course, a Porsche is a damn awesome perfect sports car. But we (and everyone else) have known this for a long time. It's not news. At least this classification is a concise explanation for why Porsches can be so inspiring. Again and again. And then, too, there's the fact that a Porsche is an intensely sensual object. This in turn is a perfectly plausible explanation for why people fall so hard for this car. It's quite a simple matter: a Porsche scores as a sort of multi-stimulus triggering total work of art/technology toy/dynamic sports experience – or as only the Germans could call it: a Gesamttechnikkunstwerkspielzeugdynamiksporterlebnis. Because this term is a little bit awkward, though, my guess is that they probably just abbreviated the car to Porsche. Engineers tend to be practical thinkers.

Neuroscientific studies have shown that stimuli that reach us through our various sensory channels activate a neuronal amplifier mechanism. The effect not only adds up – it multiplies. By up to 10 times. The more senses are addressed, the more intense the experience. The corresponding term for the phenomenon is "multisensory enhancement" or "superadditivity." To obtain proper proof, a very simple experimental arrangement is recommended: All you need is sharpened senses, two classic Porsches (911s will do), a friend, and good roads mostly free of traffic, including the corresponding bends. Weekend and a little good weather would be okay, while a picture book landscape would finally pleasantly round out the setting. So, for instance, the Hamptons would be pretty well suited.

So much for the jaunty set-up.

Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S
Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S

What follows specifically is a fierce combination of a silver 911 S and a white 959 S. The friend joins up immediately of course, and the Hamptons, with their wonderfully white, endless sandy beaches, have no other plans at the moment, even the sun plays nice for a while on one of the last late summer days before the cold weeks and months ahead. Meanwhile, our minds can briefly enter into standby mode. And the senses? Stimulated. Very! All six! Six appeal alarm! All systems set to feel!

The excursion among men begins on the golf course. Until the late 80s, though, there was a different kind of sports being practiced here at the Bridgehampton Race Circuit. Unfortunately, there is nothing left of the legend of the CanAm series. Today, the preference is to whack little white balls through the air. Would have been nice for a few hot laps.

In this part of Long Island, a Porsche is far from being a daily sight. SUVs are in vogue here as well. Two-seater sports cars (and especially the classics) tend to draw attention. And the 959 S with its brutal sound and 545 hp – which is 100 hp more than the normal version – isn't so easy to classify, either. Only 29 specimens of this boldly conceived forward-looking rocket on wheels were ever built. It makes even old golfers swoon.

But the 911 S, too, one of the last of the Ferdinand Porsche aegis, is not without appeal. Its unparalleled rough-sawing sound from the air-cooled 2.2 liter boxer, which always sounds just a bit harshly unrounded, conjures up images from James Dean to Mark Donohue.

Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S

But this is also only part one of the excursion, gradually bringing both Porsches up to temperature, driving the tires warm, gleefully preparing ears and eyes and realizing: sex appeal exerts its effect primarily on the eye.

The 911 S is happy to take the lead for a more detailed explanation. The incredible elegance and sportiness that enable the air-cooled classic to slice like a laser through the curves – it's as if we were celebrating Dionysian festivals with ancient gods.

A passing moment later, the 911 sweeps up in the wind shadow of the 959 S. This technical marvel of the twentieth century sits amazingly broad and low on the road, roaring and barking from its tailpipes. And it could, if its driver wanted it to, pull away with an infernal roar. But that's not the point today.

We are here to sense and experience, pull ahead, fall behind, enjoy. Let the Porsches loose on the road while simultaneously enjoying the sensations. Sure, we could record everything on camera, but this way is much more direct, closer, more intense. Superadditive. Congenial stimuli in connection with space, movement and speed. It’s as though you were driving behind yourself. Or in front of yourself. Or around yourself.

Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S
Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S

The 911 S burns into our perception with its clear design. Somehow everything is in the right place. Superfluous? Doesn't exist. The lines and proportions appear to follow a compelling logic with natural ease, beyond all fashions and effects. "Form follows function" is a principle here – and the Porsche 911 accordingly a modern style icon. "You can touch a typical Porsche," Ferdinand Alexander Porsche once declared. "It has a body. It is a she." When you see how the 911 S lets the world and the onlookers flow past its hips, you start to get an idea what the man who gave the 911 this unobtrusive sensational form meant by this. "It's moving even at standstill" as the designer Otl Aicher once concisely put it.

The 959 doesn't move at standstill – it explodes. Right in the eye. Our conventional notions of aesthetics are practically paralyzed. Those who have driven the 959 S report an electrifying ride on a cannon ball, with sophisticated minds twitching involuntarily at the mere sight. The 959 S seems to have strayed from a Porsche parallel universe into our learned sports car world. Camouflaged in front with the 911 archetype, the car then suddenly breaks all of the 911 design rules. The 959 S is defined by a concentrated vision of technology and pure power; everything else, it seems, can be figured out later. One way or the other. Here too, then, the form follows the function. Presumably an attempt was made to at least partially smooth the optical peaks of this brutal functionalism. The 959 S certainly doesn't run the risk of being a trifling crowd-pleaser with its presence. Still, you can't take your eyes off it.

Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S
Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S
Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S

Later, we stop again near the bridge with the Chevron sign, where history and legends were written years ago on the Bridgehampton Race Circuit. We allow the two sports cars, our senses and the whole superadditive stimulus fireworks to slowly come to a rest. Actually now would be a good time for a walk on the beach. So we go for it. Barefoot.

Die Vermessung der Fahrfreude: unterwegs im Porsche 911 S und  959 S