Performance test for the new old 993

Behind the scenes at Porsche: new set-up for the last of the air-cooled models

Porsche test engineer Waldi Hoffmann performed magic at the wheel. The ‘old hand’ controlled the test car’s subtle tendency to over-steer with a calm hand and took to the Nordschleife with ease as though it were quite simply any old country road: “What is tried and tested at the Ring can be applied around the world,” he sounded his conclusion against the road noise. His silver vehicle is no new model, it’s the 993 series which was showcased for the first time almost 25 years ago. A good two years ago pessimistic fans viewed its future on the sidings rather than on the race track. Namely, the threat arose for a lack of original spares for the series shock absorbers because the original manufacturer ceased production of spare parts. However, Porsche would admittedly never have allowed this situation. Instead, about two years ago they collaborated with our engineers and worked meticulously on a typical BILSTEIN solution. In the end, by virtue of necessity and thanks to our new technology and original coordination, the 993 now drives better than it did before. This has also been confirmed in light of the behind the scenes test drive at the Nürburgring which Porsche granted us.

“The shock absorbers subtly respond, the traction has been noticeably increased and with the change of suspension the body movement is milder than with the standard suspension”, accounted Waldi Hoffmann, who has been here as long as the 993 series – and that’s a quarter of a century! He ought to know: “It is quite remarkable what the modern shock absorbers, alongside modern tyres, can glean from the 993 model in terms of new ability.” After we implemented the technology for the new setup of the front axle to Upside-Down technology together with mono-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, the basic characteristics were immediately thrilling. This technical terms may initially sound somewhat dry, but in practice they provide a great emotional cinema. Tickets for this can be exclusively purchased from the Porsche centres, which exclusively sell the shock absorber solution.

However, in optimising the suspension technology of a classic, it is of course important to exercise sound judgement. With the aid of new technology, it would have definitely been possible but not necessarily more appealing to propel the 993, in terms of speed, into the age of the rocket. One of the 993’s features was that it had a separate sub-frame at the front and back and it was classed as the most comfortable Porsche of all times, without having to make allowances for the sportiness – and this should remain as such. Whereas it’s rare to travel in comfort, when travelling in a rocket. Because our BILSTEIN technology is in a position to enable large valve cross sections in the shock absorbers with quick and good doses, the Porsche 993 shock absorber kit in the series setup is even more subtle and sensitive than before. Waldi Hoffmann: “You can, above all, experience this while passing the transverse joints of the road. The setup in comparison drives more smoothly and more comfortably – and is also good for visiting the race track where great driving safety is offered right to the max.”

However, apropos the race track: “Here we have made the refinements usable, which before were almost only applicable during racing,” explained our specialist Rainer Popiol, who was a part of the setup work. The 993 was by no means foreign to us in terms of engineering. Nevertheless, we had already equipped the sporty RS model of the series ex works with shock absorbers in the 90s. Where twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers were used at the time, we now use mono-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers: this is the design typical for racing, which provides decisive advantages in terms of cooling and high gas pressure, so that there is also not a decrease in performance during high stress and damper fluid foaming is practically excluded.

A further key advantage of the new mono-tube shock absorber solution is the high durability: because special bearings work internally with high-performance grease lubrication systems, they last for a very long time. Forever young? This ultimately applies to the Porsche 993, which provides the best requisite know-how for remaining evergreen among the legendary sports cars.