Putting A Porsche Carrera 3.0 To The Test Against Its More Popular Siblings
Photography by Naveed Yousufzai
One of the most common questions I receive from friends looking for their first Porsche is “Which 911 should I buy?” It’s a question that’s difficult to answer, because I can only ever respond with additional questions, as there are so many factors to be taken into consideration. You have price points all over the map, different levels of rarity, whether or not it’s an investment opportunity or just a fun car to be put away wet, and then there’s the question of performance and how far you’re willing to modify or spend to chase it. But the good news is that no matter what your specific criteria, there is likely a 911 that feels custom made for you. With that in mind, what if you’re after something that’s a little bit of everything?
In a sea of hundreds of thousands of 911s (over a million, in fact), there are still a few handfuls of special cars that are often overlooked by so-called Porsche fans. Typically, these are the cars that have gotten lost in the mix of special editions between certain production years, and amongst them are 911s like the M491, the U.S. spec 2.7 Carrera, the ROW spec 2.7 Carrera MFI, and one of my personal favorites, the Club Sport. That said, I think the Carrera 3.0 is probably the most overlooked and underrated of them all, seeing as it was produced for a very short period between 1976 and 1977, and only offered outside of the States.
Its horsepower figures on paper were nothing special, and for a long time it was one of the least desirable 911s (or at least among the cheapest) to wear the Carrera badge. Add to the matter that it was sandwiched in between the more deluxe 911 and the almighty Turbo, and you’ll understand why most people opted for its better, or fancier sisters. But what the Carrera 3.0 lacked on paper, it made up for on the road.
When Porsche developed the car, they essentially decided to use the same engine found in the 930, minus the turbocharger. Referred to by some as “the turbo without the turbo,” it also had larger inlet ports, an increase in compression from 6:5:1 to 8:5:1, and an assortment of other changes to make the motor perform in naturally aspirated form. The end product was a G-body 911 that is quite capable, and heavily underestimated in terms of performance and the less measurable but more important category: plain old driving enjoyment.
I’ve been a proponent of the 3.0 for a while, but I knew I couldn’t truly vouch for the car’s abilities and charms without trying one out first hand. So I contacted my good friend Gen Shibayama to borrow his for a few days to see if it lived up to my hype.
In normal driving situations, the Carrera 3.0 drives very much like most other G-body 911s. The car feels smooth and willing, with little to no difficulty or even minor annoyances in terms of driving in regular daily traffic. It felt comfortable enough to take across the country if needed, and while I didn’t test that theory, I did spend a long day roaming around the city for photo ops, and unlike some vintage sports cars that leave you with a damp T-shirt and some jangled nerves from navigating in first and second across a grid of city streets. With this car though, it’s just livable. But the minute I put the car to the test against it’s other special sisters, it took on a totally different personality.
When we took off toward the mountains, I noticed a lot more lower end torque versus pretty much another other 911 I had driven before, thanks to the higher compression flat six. The Carrera 3.0 also emitted a deeper and more aggressive “grunt” versus the earlier, 2.7L models, resulting in an utterly intoxicating chorus of air-cooled noises from the rear end.
The car felt featherweight when put up against its later-model sisters as well, but it still felt absolutely planted in both tight and technical switchbacks, as well as long sweepers. But what really blew me away was how it managed to keep up with one of my favorite G-body 911s, the 911 Club Sport, which I would consider one of the most capable 911s out there. Overall, it’s safe to say that I was quite impressed by the Carrera 3.0.
With all that said, let’s get back to the idea of a 911 that does it all. When looking to purchase a 911, and needing to check off all of the quintessential 911 boxes, it’s difficult to find any area where the Carrera 3.0 is lacking. The price point is nearly on par with the 3.2 and SC, but the performance is closer to its six figure relatives. It boasts classic 911 driving characteristics and aesthetics, while also giving you a possible investment opportunity, as I feel people are starting to finally notice the Carrera 3.0 after being overlooked for so many years.
It’s clear that this car is a complete Porsche package, and that’s likely why Hans Mezger decided to keep one of these in his own stable as his personal car. So the next time you find yourself contemplating the vast options available in the world of 911, do what the late, great Mezger did, and get a Carrera 3.0.