I was just thinking about this a few days ago, what with the 911 being considered the “golden standard” of the sports car, and funny enough, I just read today:
1) Top Gear’s test of the 911 Turbo vs BMW i8 vs Mercedes-AMG GT S.
1st place: BMW i8
2nd place: Porsche 911 Turbo
(2.5th place, see below: Jaguar F-Type V8)
3rd place: Mercedes-AMG GT S
There was a little side-panel at the end in which the author said they tried to get an F-Type for the test, but couldn’t. Having driven one before, he said that he’d rather have it than the AMG-GT, but didn’t mention the other 2 cars.
2) EVO’s test of the above 3 cars, plus the Nissan GTR and Aston Martin Vantage V8 N430.
TOTALLY DIFFERENT RESULT:
1st place: Mercedes-AMG GT S
2nd place (tie): Aston Martin Vantage V8 N430
2nd place (tie): Nissan GTR
4th place: Porsche 911 Turbo (lowest I’ve ever seen a Porsche finish in a comparo, I think.)
5th place: BMW i8
It’s actually a pretty sophisticated subject imo; I’ll list what I think are the rivals below, the pros and cons I am aware of/have read/have heard, and then you write which you’d rather have in your driveway, and why! If I forgot a rival, sorry, please share!
(Notes: Some of the cars here are more appropriately rivals for the 911 Turbo than the regular 911; you can pick whichever.
For the purposes of this hypothetical exercise, assume the Car Gods are giving you $40,000 per year to put towards one of these cars, and only one of these cars. I’m adding this rule because otherwise people may be tempted to just automatically pick whatever badge they perceive to be the “highest” if the Car Gods are paying for it all at once, haha)
I’m excluding the 911 GT3/Cayman GT4 because I think that would open the “rivals” section up to tons of track-day specials, which could get complicated. They just seem like a different segment to me.
When I say “rivals”, I mean ones that are or were on sale at the time of the 991 generation 911s.
If I sound like I’m writing more cons than pros for some of these, sorry; we all know these are all fabulous cars, so the cons stick out to me more! I do respect and like all these cars, so no hard feelings. I haven’t read every review for all of them.)
1) Porsche 911 Carrera (I’ll just use the GTS here)
Pros: As far as reviews seem to indicate, arguably the best car in terms of balance, dynamics, how it would feel on a track, etc. That heritage. Has 4 seats. Pretty good MPG for a sports car. Said to be reliable and easily DD-able in terms of visibility, trunk space, ground clearance, etc.
Cons: Some people can’t handle the looks, the sound of the engine, or the perceived “dated-ness” of the RR layout; in some parts of the world, they are sort of the “default choice” for sports cars and can seem very common. Gripes over electric steering. Base model apparently could benefit from more power.
1a) Porsche 911 Turbo
Pros: All of the above, and then some!
Cons: Evo said that out of all the 991 body style 911s they have driven, the Turbo has the most numb handling. Many reviews have said it’s simply just too fast for public roads; sure, plenty of cars are, but they say that the way it picks up speed is so immediate/magical that the car feels “anodyne” and “pointless” because you find yourself wanting to slow down drastically just so you can speed up again, which only lasts a few seconds. Some have said the 4WD system and power delivery is disappointing.
2) Audi R8 (Gen 1 maybe?)
A note: AFAIK, the new 2nd-gen R8 isn’t being offered with a V8, right? So maybe it’s not a 911 rival anymore, and is more of a Ferrari-fighter. If so, forgive me, and consider the original V8 instead.
Pros: The looks, engine sounds immense, 4WD gives tons of grip rather than oversteer, apparently quite practical as a DD. Gated shifter! haha
Cons: The looks, somewhat plain interior. Some don’t find the badge “exotic/cool” enough. I think an older issue of Evo said that they liked the R8 over the 911, but most magazines were the other way around AFAIK. Some have said on here they see the R8 “everywhere”. Some don’t care for the 4WD.
3) Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Pros: It’s an Aston! As Top Gear magazine says: “The car that took on the Porsche 911 and lost. But it’s an Aston, so that’s a pair of brogues to the Porsche’s two-a-penny trainers.” Probably offers the most old-school driving experience. Often said to be one of the best-sounding cars, ever. Is probably the physically-smallest car here (other than the “half-rivals”), which is helpful around town/parking. One of the best-looking cars on sale.
Cons: Probably the most dated car here with the worst performance figures. Satnav/GPS is apparently pathetic. Some can’t stand the steering wheel. The “Emotion Control Unit” (key) costs like $1,000USD if you drop it or something, whereas the older ones are just a leathery Volvo key. Jag F-Type is faster for quite less money, while offering just as amazing looks/similar style (I think Aston is great, but I’m just pointing this out because in recent years, some have said Jags are the ultimate buy in terms of offering Aston style and performance at BMW prices). Speaking of which...
4) Jaguar F-Type Coupe
Pros: Sort of like a 911, but with a hairier chest (that’s one way of looking at it.). Another one of the best-looking cars on sale. Incredible noise regardless of which engine you choose. Surprisingly large trunk/hatchback. Of all the cars on this list, I’ve probably seen the fewest of these on the road. (Dozens of convertibles, but not one coupe. Yes, I have seen more i8s and Evoras, probably since I’ve spent some time in the UK and Germany) V6S model has great balanced handling.
Cons: Sort of like a 911, but rougher around the edges (that’s the other!). The V8R is apparently more of a wild drift car/muscle car than sports car and is simply too aggressive/oversteer-y. Stick shift allegedly feels agricultural. Only the 2015 model has hydraulic steering; following models are electric-steering. 3/4s rear visibility is poor. Of all these cars, IIRC, it has the least ground clearance.
5) Nissan GTR:
Pros: Looks like nothing else on the road. Legendary performance, wickedly fast, tune-ability. Most of the British magazines have said the opposite opinion that you often hear in the Jalopnik comments: They say that the GTR actually has fabulous handling, with great road-feel coming through the steering wheel. A delicate car with lots of finesse, they claim. Has 4 seats and a big trunk. The engine is apparently quite lively and quick to respond. Similar performance to the 911 Turbo, but delivers it in a more exciting manner. Evo said the 4WD system is much better than the 911 Turbo’s.
Cons: Looks like nothing else on the road. Some people on Oppo say it attracts the wrong kind of attention (not sure what this means, I’m guessing JDM HELLAFLUSH STANCE YO type drivers at traffic lights, haha). The engine/exhaust apparently sounds quite uninspiring. Some reviews have said that the car feels too heavy, others say that it doesn’t feel heavy, but just feels “big” everywhere, with a cramped interior. Some have said it’s impossible to have a conversation above 60mph without yelling at your passenger. Issues with transmission reliability after repeated launches in early model years (IIRC.)
6) Mercedes-AMG GT S
Pros: Both Evo and Top Gear said that this car actually has more in common with a 911 GT3 than other 911s. Just an absolutely wild, loud, ferocious, fun ride. Loads of grip. Offers quite a lot of power for its price category.
Not sure: The looks. Some say it’s incredible, others aren’t so sure. (Top Gear loved it; Evo was similar but the author said he wasn’t so sure about how rounded the car is.) My personal opinion: The back looks great, but is sort of a 911/F-Type combo. Front isn’t that exciting, looks too much like other Merc models. The side is elegant, but the way the cockpit sticks out of the car is awkward to me, just as it was on the SLS. I think “Mini Coupe” whenever I see it.
Cons: Top Gear mentioned that its ferocious character made it a bit unsettling to drive hard/the car is always pressing to go faster, so it can be a bit boring at lower speeds/intimidating at high speeds. Steering is allegedly numb on-center, and then weights-up very rapidly. Visibility is poor. Evo said the car is great over rough surfaces, but Top Gear said the opposite.
7) Lotus Evora S
Pros: Bet you forgot this one! A very unique and rare option. Some reviews have said that it’s better than a 911, and even those that gave the win to the 911 said the Evora has better steering feel; you can literally feel every rut and groove in the road.
Cons: Some find the looks rather “bleh/generic”. Footwell can be cramped, interior ergonomics odd, infotainment system an afterthought, poor rear visibility, hard to get into/out of, rear seats are probably the smallest of the 4-seaters here. Some don’t like that it has “just a Toyota engine.” Non-S model allegedly in need of more power. Concerns over finding a dealership/future of Lotus as a company.
8) Chevrolet Corvette/Z06 (I never see these, so if you have more to add, go ahead! I don’t feel like I have enough...)
Pros: Probably the best deal in terms of HP-per-$. Good ‘ol brawny V8. Z06 is mega-performance bargain.
Cons: Some just don’t find a pushrod V8 exciting; some on here have said “You see them everywhere” or “I like them but the image is that of a man in mid-life crisis/fake tan/toupée/etc” haha.
9) BMW i8
Pros: A potential future classic both in terms of how much they are trading hands for, and in terms of its 22nd-century looks/first “supercar” of the i division. Probably best fuel economy of all these cars. Electric motor provides insta-torque (both magazines LOVED this.) Those doors! Top Gear said it is one of the best cars ever in terms of being able to conserve its momentum between curves/having very fluid steering, which sounds sort of Miata-like to me! You may think with “only” 357hp it’s more of a base Carrera rival, but the magazines ran the i8 against the Turbo, and they said that it never felt slow, always keeping up on public roads because of the electric motor. Has 4 seats. Thin tires aren’t apparently a problem.
Cons: Some can’t handle the looks. Some can’t handle the idea of the ICE being just a 3-cylinder from the Mini Cooper. Keeps up on the roads, but was the slowest at the racetrack in Top Gear mag. If you don’t have access to a charger, the fuel tank is only 6 gallons (AFAIK) so that’s only about 180 miles of range. Concerns over being gadgety/complicated to open hood. At nearly 185 inches, I think this is the longest car here? Both magazines said the steering errs on the side of understeer/numbness, but is great before you hit that limit. Engine sound is amplified (but not synthesized, AFAIK.)
These are sort of “half-rivals”, but I think they’re relevant judging by what I see on Oppo.
10) Porsche Cayman GTS
Pros: Arguably the better car/”enthusiast’s car” compared to the 911. Cheaper. Two trunks. Mid-Engined.
Cons: Some don’t feel it sounds any better than the 911. Similar “you see them everywhere” argument still applies. Some don’t find it appealing given the 911’s legendary heritage.
11) Alfa Romeo 4C
Pros: Rare, unique, may be a real temptation to North American buyers who haven’t had Alfa dealers in decades. Some say the engine is very “alive”, with lots of turbo wooshes and chattering valves. Supercar looks on the cheap. Very communicative steering.
Cons: Difficult DD: No cruise control, poor rear visibility with no rear-view camera, some reviews have said it’s so low to the ground it’ll scrape on off-camber roads, let alone driveways. Steering is allegedly so communicative that the car is unsettled by bumps/grooves that other cars would ignore. Some reviews have said the engine sounds like “something out of a hatchback.” Confusion over omitting power-steering to save weight, but no stick-shift option. If in Europe, those headlights.
12) BMW M4
(not sure if I should include this, as it’s based upon a saloon/coupe, and hence brings up “But what about the C63? The RS5? The RCF? But I’m including it anyways because 911 vs M3 seems to have been a thing with the E92 and older models).
Pros: Definitely exciting levels of power and handling. Probably the best car if you want DD, track, and carry friends/family/luggage all in one car. MPG is much improved over outgoing model.
Cons: While still scoring relatively high, nearly every review I’ve read has said things like “This doesn’t feel like an M car” or “Not as exciting compared to the E92” or “The new M4 feels like a Mustang, and the new Mustang feels like an M3.” Apparently a real handful in less-than-ideal/very wet road conditions. Engine note is either amplified or synthesized, not sure.
Phew! If you read all this, I salute you. There’s just so much out there in this segment I thought it’d be fun/discussion-worthy to put it all on one page!