BBC Autos

Evolution of Design

Speed, evolved: Porsche's 2014 911 Turbo S vs 1986 959

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.



Since the early 1990s, the arrival of each new 911 Turbo has prompted comparisons with the father of all modern Porsche supercars, the vaunted 959. And the recent debut of the 2014 911 Turbo S is no exception.

With all-wheel drive and a twin-turbocharged, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine, the newest ultimate 911 owes much to its 1980s-era progenitor, which was for a time the world’s fastest production automobile, and the most technologically advanced road car on the planet. The similarity in specification and performance between the 959 and the new 911 Turbo S – despite nearly three decades between them – is a testament to the midnight oil burned during the creation of the former.

The 959 was created as a Group B rally car. The road car, which Porsche unveiled at the 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show, was born of a homologation rule from the World Rally Championship’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), stipulating a run of at least 200 street-legal versions.

In 1986, the 959 stickered for a cool 420,000 deutschmark (about $225,000, or close to $480,000 in 2013 dollars) – provided, of course, that you were among the anointed few who were afforded the honor of buying one. Some 300 were built between 1985 and 1988, including prototypes, pre-production cars and production Comfort and Sport models. By comparison, the quicker, faster and more agile 2014 911 Turbo S, which starts at $182,050 and can be purchased through any of Porsche’s 900 or so worldwide dealerships, looks like a bargain.

Just how similar are they? Take a look at this informal side-by-side comparison:

1986 Porsche 959

  • Curb weight: 3,190lb
  • Wheelbase: 89.5in
  • Track, F/R: 56.4in / 58.7in
  • Length: 168.9in        
  • Width: 72.4in
  • Height: 50.4in
  • Fuel capacity: 23.8gal
  • Drag coefficient: 0.31
  • Engine: Twin-turbo DOHC flat-6
  • Displacement: 2.8 litre
  • Compression ratio: 8.3:1
  • Horsepower: 444hp @ 6500rpm
  • Torque: 370lb-ft @ 5500rpm
  • Fuel delivery: Electronic port injection
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Layout: Rear engine/all-wheel drive
  • Brakes, F/R: 12.7in vented discs / 12.0in vented discs
  • Wheels: Hollow-spoke magnesium; F: 17 x 8in; R: 17 x 9in
  • Tires, F/R : 235/45VR-17, 255/40VR-17
  • Suspension, F and R: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs, dual shocks, adjustable ride height and damping, anti-roll bar
  • 0-60 mph: 3.6 seconds
  • Top speed: 197mph
  • Price: $225,000 (approximately $480,000 in 2013 dollars)

2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S

  • Curb weight: 3,538lb
  • Wheelbase: 96.5in
  • Track, F/R: 60.6in / 62.6in
  • Length: 177.4in
  • Width: 77.9in
  • Height: 51.0in
  • Fuel capacity: 16.9gal
  • Drag coefficient: 0.31
  • Engine: Twin-turbo DOHC flat-6
  • Displacement: 3.8 litre
  • Compression ratio: 9.8:1
  • Horsepower: 560hp @ 6500rpm
  • Torque: 516lb-ft @ 2100rpm
  • Fuel delivery: Direct injection
  • Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Layout: Rear engine/all-wheel drive
  • Brakes, F/R: 14.96in vented and drilled discs/14.96 vented and drilled discs
  • Wheels: Forged alloy; F: 20 x 9in; R: 20 x 11.5in
  • Tires, F/R : 245/35ZR-20, 305/30ZR-20
  • Suspension, F: MacPherson strut, coil spring,  electronically adjustable damping;  R: five-link, coil spring, electronically adjustable damping
  • 0-60 mph: 2.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 198mph
  • Price: $182,050