The Turbo was never the most tactile car in the 997 range, but the underlying sensations from its hydraulic steering still beat the 991’s EPAS. It’s surprisingly close, but there is just a richness to the movements, particularly around the straight-ahead, that the electric system can’t match. The Turbo’s four-wheel-drive system, on the other hand, is a mixed blessing, for while it provides the astounding traction that makes 479lb ft deployable even on a road that resembles a river, it also locks the car down dynamically in the corners. Outright grip is favoured over adjustability. In some ways the new Carrera is very similar – yes, the 991 feels purer because it’s rear-wheel drive, but it also feels remarkably tied-down. It is precise and enjoyably nimble with a huge amount of front-end grip, but, like the Turbo, it’s not a car you will unsettle without some real commitment. Even the rides are not dissimilar, both best left in their normal PASM damper settings. 

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that these two are so closely matched, but which you would prefer will come down to the importance you put on an interior and how you like your performance delivered. Do you crave the heady rush of a single big hit, or the sharper responses and more linear delivery of the new engine? The old car certainly highlights how un-turbo-like the new car feels, as though the turbocharging is really just there to subtly torque-fill the lower end. 

However, as an aside (and just to throw a spanner in the works!) the Turbo that I’ve found myself lusting after recently is a late gen-1 997, with the second-generation Porsche Communication Management and a manual gearbox. It was a more malleable car dynamically and the manual gearbox, although hefty, gave it a lot of character. They’re quite rare, but that just adds to the appeal. Richard is in agreement, but confesses that the PDK of this generation was a must for him for its ease of use, as he’s not the only one who drives the car. Talking of manual gearboxes…

Even before you pull open a swan-wing door, the Aston Martin is an easy car to fall head over heels for. I’m not sure you would ever get bored of seeing that compact yet graceful shape parked up outside your house. This car has the subtlest of the available paint options on an N430, with the white lipstick and A-pillar highlights blending coolly into the overall silver colour scheme.  

Settle into the comfy and beautifully trimmed driver’s seat and you find yourself in an elegant if not tech-heavy environment, but there is Alcantara on the steering wheel, which makes up for any fiddliness in finding a Bluetooth connection. The glass ‘Emotion Control Unit’ also seems slightly less silly these days with all the chunky keyless keys. Sinking it into the dash, the starter spins briefly before the exhausts split the cold air with a mighty eruption of V8 noise, dislodging a squirrel from a nearby tree in the process. The N430 has always sounded good, but not this good. 

The owner of this car, James McAllister, has had a full Bamford and Rose exhaust fitted to his N430 and, although it costs £6000, it releases an extra 41bhp and 33lb as an added bonus on top of the glorious soundtrack. Even better, you can simply turn the Sport button off and it’s as though the conversion never happened, allowing you to slink along almost covertly. Tuning like this is obviously appealing, particularly on a second-hand car, and I’m sure plenty would also think about a DMS upgrade for the 997 or a set of AC Schnitzer springs and dampers for the M6. 

I’ve been a big fan of all the ‘N’ variants of the V8 Vantage, and the 430 is the best of the lot. The manual gearshift has always felt as though it’s set a touch high, but it’s so nice to have the interactivity of three pedals that any minor ergonomic foibles are easily overlooked. A blip of the throttle requires a more concerted lean on the accelerator pedal than you might expect, but again you quickly get used to it. 

The suspension doesn’t quite have the incredible damping capacity of the new 991’s, but the balance it strikes between soaking up the bigger Welsh bumps and providing support and precision in the corners is pretty much spot-on. What’s more, the steering is possessed of a greater tactility than the Porsche’s. Some of this is simply due to the extra weight of the steering in the Aston, but its hydraulic assistance also gives you more feedback about what the surface of the road is like under the tyres. As a consequence, the Aston is an easy car to push hard but also a very rewarding one.

A front-engined rear-drive balance feels so right and, although the Vantage can feel a little reluctant to tuck into the tightest corners, for the most part it is just beautifully balanced. You can play with the grip at both ends, subtly pushing the car into almost imperceptible slides as required by the situation. It all adds up to a beautiful flow through the bends and, of course, if you want to indulge and corner with a bit more of a flourish, the Aston is happy to oblige, remaining stable and easy to read at remarkably big angles.

It’s not a particularly fast car in the modern scheme of things (photographer Dean Smith’s long-term Audi RS Q3 does a worryingly good job of filling my mirrors on the sodden roads) but to be honest it feels fast enough from behind the wheel. And if you have to wring out the revs from each gear to keep the pace brisk, well, that’s not really a hardship – the thunderous soundtrack just gets more and more spine-tingling. 

Of all the cars in this section of the test, the Aston is the one that, for me, provides the most compelling reason not to get into the 991, given the choice of keys. It is the most old-fashioned but, like seeing a Sunday roast on the menu in a pub, its simple mix of traditional ingredients is very tempting. Although the metrics of depreciation are not the most precise, you would have to say that a limited-run, special-edition Aston is probably the safest bet for clinging on to its value, too. 

For my money, it would be the Aston by a whisker. I really, really like the new 911, and objectively it is the more technically accomplished of the two, but it’s also a car that will no doubt be bettered again by a future iteration. The Aston, on the other hand, feels like it is at a sweet spot in its development. It’s a car with qualities that will stand proud through the test of time. 

With thanks to Joe Robinson (M6), Richard Lane (997 Turbo) and James McAllister (N430).

The latest 911 has met its new-car rivals head-on. Now it squares up to three second-hand alternatives: BMW’s formidable M6, Aston Martin’s glorious V8 Vantage N430 and the stupendous 997 Turbo. Ding ding!

By HENRY CATCHPOLE

PHOTOGRAHY By DEAN SMITH

Heading down one of my favourite stretches of road, the M6 initially feels very big, especially compared with the new Carrera, which seems to shrink around you in a way that I haven’t felt with a 991 before. The rim of the M6’s steering wheel is a much more pleasing size than that of little brother M4, though, and the first straight delivers a big-league thump of performance from the 552bhp V8. As ever in modern BMWs, a quick fiddle with the settings for steering, suspension, engine, transmission and stability control is required to find a setup that works. The steering feels unnatural to me in anything other than its comfort setting, but the M Dynamic Mode for the ESP is an excellent halfway house, especially in the wet, and you’ll certainly be lighting up the rear tyres if you select the most aggressive setting for the throttle, which is exciting but requires a sensitive right foot. The gearshifts are best left one notch down from maximum attack, where they’re fast enough without feeling like they’re trying to thump their way through the floor of the car.

The trickiest adjustment to make is for the suspension. Initially I go for the middle Sport setting, but, after feeling a bit too much float from the rear axle over the lumpier bits of road, I opt to tie it down and go for maximum control with Sport Plus. Inevitably this means the M6 is firmer and livelier over bumps, but I prefer the greater feeling of connection, and the rear then matches the surprisingly keen front. It turns the M6 into a car that you really have to grab by the scruff and drive with some purpose, accepting that it will be eager to oversteer a lot of the time when you get on the throttle. If you’re happy with this, however, the M6 is a very entertaining car. 

Of course, the other trick the M6 can pull is playing the grand tourer. And if you need seats in the back, then the BMW’s are the most capacious and the only ones capable of holding an adult in comfort for any distance. BMW claims 28.5mpg on the combined cycle, compared with the 991.2’s staggering claim of 38.2mpg. Joe reckons he sees more like 24mpg on a run, although he admits he only really uses the M6 when he wants a car for more than just transport. We know that 911s (especially with PDK) can easily do over 30mpg, but on my three-and-a-half-hour night-time run back from Wales in the 991, I’ll average 24mpg in a mix of enjoyable ‘road testing’ on the A5 and more mundane cruising once I hit the M54. 

Ultimately, I suppose the question we have to ask with all of these used cars is whether you feel like you’re actually getting a lot more car for your money compared with the new 991. In the case of the M6 I feel like it is an alternative, rather than a step up. The furnishings in the cabin might feel slightly nicer and the interior real estate is obviously greater, but while there is a thrill to the way the V8 delivers its thumping performance, the M6’s size and damping make that performance hard to extract down a twisting road. In sports car terms, the 911 has it covered, and then some. 

The argument for the 997 is easy and, on paper, compelling: why settle for a 365bhp Carrera turbo when you could have a full-fat, 493bhp, capital T Turbo for the same money? As I walk towards the example we have here today, it looks squat, menacing and fantastically purposeful. The smaller 997 bodyshell seems to exaggerate the size of the swollen rear arches in a way that makes the red car look dainty by comparison. First points to the 997. 

I drop into the driver’s seat, with owner Richard Lane (not to be confused with evo’s identically named subeditor) taking up residence on the passenger side. An initial twist of the key to light up the instruments shows just over 37,000 miles on the clock, yet the interior has worn well. However, the switchgear, graphics and technology feel further removed from the standard 991 (now with added Apple CarPlay) than I’d expected. The 997’s roots were planted in 2004 and they are showing.

We splash off towards Ffestiniog and, after a few miles, I start to settle into a rhythm as my brain gradually recalls previous drives in 997 Turbos and something like muscle memory starts to click into place. Sometimes when car companies quote improved shift-times for gearboxes I do wonder how tangible tens of milliseconds will really be, but the difference between 997 and 991 is obvious from the first pull of the paddle. There is a slight hesitancy in the older car, and the action of the paddles is softer, like biting a slightly over-ripe apple compared with a crisp, fresh one.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 997’s power delivery, though. It is demonstrably turbocharged compared with the almost imperceptible puffing of the new Carrera, but, when the boost arrives in a lump, it pins you to the seat in formidable fashion. It is terrifically exciting, sensing the hurricane build behind you, then feeling it sweep 1600kg down the road like a leaf in a storm. If you want genuinely giddy turbo performance, there is no substitute. The downsides are that the soundtrack in the Turbo is all harsh gas-rush and the 3.8-litre motor is done by just after 6000rpm compared with the 991’s 3-litre, which will spin to over 7500rpm and sound much more like a naturally aspirated flat-six in the process.

YOU CAN ALMOST imagine the 911 standing in the middle of some illicit boxing ring, panting slightly but still remarkably light on its feet as the readership, I mean crowd, cheers and boos in equal measure. The Porsche surveys the carnage around it, having seen off the best of its rivals in its own division (I reckon Super Middleweight). For a brief moment, it allows the euphoria of victory to sweep over it, but then the announcer gets on the tannoy. Down the aisles, out of the shadows, come three more challengers. Not any old protagonists either, but a couple of Light Heavyweights and one you’d have to mark down as a Cruiserweight given its 319bhp per ton. None of them quite in the first flush of youth, but still very dangerous. Do the 911’s broad shoulders sink? Not a bit of it. Seconds out, round two. 

The issue of what second-hand car you could get for the same price as a new one is tricky. Clearly you can get better value for money if you’re prepared to buy pre-owned, but it generally skews a test horribly unfairly against the new car. It’s a mark of how highly we rate the 991.2, then, that we’re prepared to do it in this instance. Never let it be said that we give the 911 an easy ride. 

In no particular order, the trio we’ve picked starts with an F13 BMW M6, complete with twin-turbo V8 and an original price tag of £93,860 (before inconsequential little options like the £6000 leather dashboard on this car). Next up is a second-generation 997 Porsche 911 Turbo, a car originally listed at just over £100k and which we’ve included for obvious – and intriguing – reasons of comparison between familial forced induction. Finally, there is the seductive temptation of an Aston Martin N430, which, although based on a car now a decade old, arguably already looked good value at its full price of £89,995.

We also wanted to pick cars that were new enough to have some of their manufacturers’ warranties intact or, in the case of the older 997.2 Turbo, could be picked up at the right money through the official Porsche Approved Used network with a freshly minted two-year warranty. This in turn takes away one of the potential downsides of buying second-hand rather than new. More pressure on the this new Carrera.

Despite the occasional hailstorm and winds strong enough to give sheep the gift of flight, we’ve decided to stay in north Wales for this part of the test. With the weather so wild, it’s a nice feeling to shut a door on the elements with a thud and settle into the interior of a car like the M6. Joe Robinson was actually considering a first-generation 991 when he bought this San Marino Blue example, but one of the major reasons for plumping for Munich’s finest over Stuttgart’s was the quality of the BMW’s interior. Trimmed in soft, light-coloured leather contrasting against deeply glossy carbonfibre on the doors and centre console, with a monstrous 10.2in screen for the iDrive and a head-up display, it certainly feels like a thoroughly pleasant place to be. I also still love the small teardrop gear selector that first appeared on the V10 M5. This car might have covered 21,000 miles, but it looks like new and I almost feel guilty for taking it out while the weather’s like this. At least Joe is getting to see how beautifully the water beads on the paintwork…