Porsche 911 Overhang Hangover

Cars

When we saw the new 911 last week, we were immediately struck by the size of the overhang. We thought it made the car look ugly.

It’s predictable that when a new version of the totemic Porsche comes along, it puts the cat among the pigeons. You get used to seeing so many of the current edition at any one time, it’s always going to be an aesthetic jar when a new version comes along. Human nature is draw to the familiar and rejects instinctively anything that disturbs that comforting field.

The 911 with its big flat six buried in the rear overhang itself ever since its conception at the start of the sixties, has always been a rare exceptions — a sports car that works with a lot of rear overhang.

Balance, handling, performance and aesthetic considerations all go into the mix when designers make decisions about something so fundamental to a car’s very ethos as how much steel extends out beyond the wheelbase.

In cars with the engine in the front, a rear overhang of course helps with storage – and a bit of for’ard overhang will balance this out aesthetically and also accommodate a nice big engine. You see this a lot on family wagons and tourers, particularly your BMW five and seven series cars and the genres they dominate.

When you stick the engine in the rear as in the 911, you situate the mass of the engine to the aft of the the wheelbase, which contributes to that delicious back-happiness as well as providing a nice rear crumple zone to protect in the case of a collision.

So, while your sports car designer has usually sought to reduce overhang, we can think of at least two sporty cars with loads of it. Think of the E-Type, with an acreage of front and rear overhang (beautiful thought it is) and the love-it-or-hate-it Saab Sonnet (below) which had a spectacular amount of front overhang but hardly any at the rear. We’ve never driven a Sonnet, so we wouldn’t know, but we imagine it must have suffered from terrible understeer…

And predictably, now we’ve had a few days to mull over these things, we’re kind of digging the new 911’s long, low, sleek lines. And you can bet it’s going to be a gem to drive.

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