1985 Porsche 959
The Porsche 959 A 200mph car that was easy to drive? Porsche invented the 21st century supercar in 1985
The Porsche 959 was the first modern supercar. It was the fastest production road car of its day and the first to approach 200mph in top speed (the claimed 197mph was independently verified). But that’s not why we’re celebrating it. Rather, it was a fast car that was easy to drive. Before its launch in 1985, powerful sports cars required skill, strength and occasionally heroics. They were usually beasts in town. The 959 gave more speed for less effort, uniting race pace with refinement. The supercar’s 21st century template was born. The 911-based 959 was the most technically advanced car of its day. It pioneered continuously variable all-wheel drive, shifting drive between the front and rear axles as needed, while still sending most power rearwards as expected from a rear-engined Porsche. Intelligent four-wheel drive is now common, boosting confidence and safety. As well as being the first all-wheel-drive 911, other novelties included active damping and variable ride height.
The twin-turbo 2.85-litre version of Porsche’s flat-six produced 450bhp, making the 959 the most powerful 911 variant to date. It was also the fastest accelerating car of its day – 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds, two seconds quicker than the contemporary Ferrari Testarossa. All that tech didn’t just make for a more accessible car. It made for a faster car. Rivals took note.
So, it was seriously quick and astonishingly sure-footed, as thrilling and as satisfying as you’d expect from a 200mph Porsche. Yet it was undemanding and comfortable. It expanded the supercar’s competencies and broadened its customer base. Now anyone could buy and enjoy driving a supercar, as long as they were rich enough.