Even among the crowded world of German sports car manufacturers, Porsche is legend. For almost 100 years, the company has been building some of the most captivating and awe-inspiring performance machines on Earth, so much so that its iconic 911 has become the benchmark by which other supercars are judged. It was hard to pick just one Porsche as our favorite, so for this list, we’ve chosen 10. Some are classics of yesteryear and some are hot off the assembly line, but they all have one thing in common — they’re fast as hell.
Porsche 918 Spyder
The 918 Spyder is the most capable and technologically-impressive road car Porsche has ever put to pavement. The vehicle all but coined the term “hybrid hypercar” when it debuted at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, two years before the McLaren P1 and three years before the indomitable LaFerrari burst on the scene.
In terms of performance, the 918 can do things few vehicles can. Its naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V8 works in concert with two electric motors to produce 887 horsepower and a staggering 944 pound-feet of torque. Flat out, the all-wheel drive hypercar will smash 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds, yet it remains controlled enough to lap the Nürburgring in 6:57. To this day, it’s the third-quickest production car to do so. Add in the 918’s amazingly-sculpted body and progressive hybrid tech, and you’re left with an awe-inspiring machine, a vehicular magnum opus that will truly stand the test of time. Read more here
The 918 Spyder is a relatively new car, so for our next entry, let’s take it back to the beginning.
Porsche was founded in 1931 but didn’t actually release its first production vehicle until 1948, and that car was the 356. The 356 set the tone for Porsche in more ways than one, as it featured a rear-engine design in a pure, lightweight package. Sound familiar? The two-door established the template for style as well, as the 356’s “bathtub” design themes are still front and center on Porsches being sold today.
Multiple variants of the 356 were produced throughout its seven-year lifespan. The most revered is likely the 356 Speedster of the late 1950s, as its stripped-down format previewed future specialty models like the 911 GT3. The 356 is easily one of the most collectible Porsches ever.
Porsche is one the most prolific race car manufacturers in history, and the 917 is one of the biggest reasons why. A purpose-built endurance machine, the 917 gave Porsche wins at Daytona, Monza, Spa, Brands Hatch, the Austria Ring, and Watkins Glen in 1970, and also scored Porsche its first overall victories at Le Mans in 1970 and 1971. Few racecars have a resume that can compete.
The 917’s potency came from its ultra light spaceframe chassis and incredible flat-12, which was actually the first 12-cylinder engine Porsche built. It initially produced 520 hp, but was later turbocharged and tuned for Can-Am racing to make well over 1,000 hp. That makes it one of the most powerful motor sport athletes of all time.
Just as iconic as its professional career was the car’s appearance in the 1971 film Le Mans, which starred none other than Steve McQueen. Several variants of the 917 enjoyed screen time in the movie, including one of the best-looking racers ever — the blue and orange Gulf-Porsche 917K.
And now for something completely different. Porsche is primarily known for its dominance on tarmac, but the original 959 was made for the road less traveled. Essentially a jacked-up 911 with all-wheel drive, the 959 started off in life as a Group B rally car designed to conquer the Paris-Dakar rally. After a disappointing debut in 1985, Porsche proved it could get dirty by taking first and second place in 1986.
A production variant arrived soon after, and for its time, it was one of the most technologically-advanced cars in the world. Its all-wheel drive system performed incredibly well, in fact every 911 Turbo to come after it would feature four-wheel traction. In addition, the sports car wore magnesium wheels with run-flat tires, and its 450-hp flat-six engine introduced the brand to sequential turbocharging.
The 959 wasn’t just one of the most progressive sports cars of its time, it was also one of the most expensive. Each of the 300 examples sold for an incredible $225,000 — a lot of money in 1986 — but that was less than half what it cost Porsche to make the car. Today, they’ll fetch well over $1 million at auction.
Porsche 911 Carrera RS
One of the most highly-sought 911s ever, the 911 Carrera RS is an icon among icons. Designed built to meet motor sport homologation requirements, the “Rennsport” models were lighter, more powerful, and more focused than other 911s at the time, and the car’s styling reflected its thrill-seeking nature. Generally fitted with a spartan cabin, stiff suspension, and big brake kit, the 1973-1974 Carrera RS was a driver’s car through and through, which is partly why they’re almost impossible to find.
In the last decade, the 911 Carrera RS’ value has increased by an unbelievable 699 percent. According to the Telegraph, the Carrera RS 2.7 represents the best classic car investment over the past 10 years, as variants of the car have fetched nearly $2 million at auction. If there were a Mount Rushmore for classic sports cars, this thing would be on it.
Porsche 550 Spyder
The 550 Spyder was Porsche’s first purpose-built racecar, so the vehicle represents Porsche’s first steps in a long and storied journey through motor sports. It also saw Porsche rethink the Volkswagen Beetle’s rear-engine layout in favor of a rear mid-engine setup, one where the 550’s flat-four sat in front of the rear axle and transmission instead of behind them. This improved balance and agility tremendously but killed the back seat, much to the chagrin of exactly zero people.
Despite its impeccable performance and looks, the 550 Spyder has a bit of a troubled past. Perhaps the most famous example was James Dean’s “Little Bastard,” which the actor fatally crashed while on his way to a race in 1955. Today, the vehicle is one of the most common kit cars around.
Porsche Carrera GT
If you need an example of how much supercars have changed over the last 10 years, simply compare the 918 Spyder with its ancestor from 2005, the Carrera GT. Both cars are ungodly fast, but while the 918 offers a variety of operating modes, four-wheel steering, and all-wheel drive, the Carrera GT was raw. Fitted with rear-wheel drive, a manual gearbox, and no electronic stability control, the 605-hp GT made most 911s look tame, and it was something that demanded respect. Porsche was riding off the success of the 986 Boxster and Cayenne at the time, so the Carrera GT served as a reminder that Porsche could still build a hardcore driver’s car. And that it did.
It also made something incredibly beautiful, because the Carrera GT is one of the sexiest automobiles to ever wear a Porsche badge. It’s exotic, well-proportioned, and wonderfully sculpted right down to the rear engine vents and prominent spoiler, and it’d fit right in on a bedroom poster next to Ferraris and Lamborghinis. In 2004, the vehicle cost a whopping $448,000.
Porsche 986 Boxster
The Boxster is often knocked for being a watered-down version of the 911, but it’s actually one of most important cars the company has ever released. Put simply, Porsche might not be around if it weren’t for the 986 Boxster’s success in the late 1990s, because the company was facing serious financial troubles as the time.
Due to a recent recession and the poor sales of the 928, Porsche needed an influx of cash. To get it, the automaker combined the classic mid rear-engine layout of the 550 Spyder with a 911-style flat-six engine and called it the Boxster. The result? A spike in sales that put Porsche back in the green.
Without the Boxster, we’d have no Carrera GT, no 918 Spyder, no Cayman, and no 911 R, so we have a lot to thank Porsche’s entry-level model for. Read more about the latest iteration here
When the 928 debuted at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, Porsche purists were appalled. Billed as a successor to the 911, the 928 was more of a grand tourer than an outright sports car, and to make matters worse, Porsche went and put the engine at the front. How dare they?!
History has been kinder to the vehicle than the community was initially though. Why? Because the 928 is secretly great. The car offered a level of comfort and splendor unavailable in any other Porsche at the time, and it actually had a usable back seat. Would it keep pace with a 911 around a track? Absolutely not, but that wasn’t the 928’s wheelhouse. This was the car you drove to the circuit while your Carrera RS 3.0 was in the trailer. And with a 316-hp V8 on board – the company’s first, by the way – you’d have plenty of fun doing it.
Porsche 930 911 Turbo
Porsche is the 911, and while the vehicle is still evolving, the addition of the turbocharger in 1975 may go down as the car’s biggest watershed moment. The addition of forced induction elevated the 911 to true supercar levels, as its boosted flat-six made 260 hp, almost 90 more than the standard Carrera. Yes, there were plenty of great 911s made before ’75, but the 930 — known to most as the 911 Turbo — offered a level of speed that was unheard of for the time.
As with many classic Porsches, the company’s first turbo street car was a white-knuckle experience. It had a very low margin of error in terms of traction, and developed a now-infamous tendency to oversteer on liftoff. Given the extreme potency of the Turbo’s right pedal, inexperienced drivers lifted off a lot, which caused the heavy tail to swing around and a reputation for rowdiness to arise.
To tell you the truth, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Report by Andrew Hard for Digital Trends