What, then, can the 997 offer in return? A sense of intimacy that, for all its sheer ability, the 991 lacks. No amount of Porsche magic can synthesise feel through an electrically powered steering rack as well as conventional Porsche hydraulic steering can pick it up straight from the road.
And the best paddle shift there is still provides no work for either your left leg or hand, an issue exacerbated by the fact that there is not a gearbox in the world greater than that fitted to the 997 GT3.
Even the workload created for you by its manifest failings – its uneven chassis balance and relative lack of poise – makes you feel more involved, because the car needs to be tamed in a way the 991 does not. It’s a curious thing to say, but the 997 is great to drive not despite its faults but very largely because of them.
Would you expect the 996 to rule itself out of the reckoning almost at once? I did. While the 997 could counter the 991’s superior power with its appeal to your senses, the 996 seemed unlikely to offer any more fun than the quicker, grippier and better-looking 997. Yet it was the 996 that provided the surprise of the day.
I’ll say now that the car supplied by Cambridge-based Autostore is a superb example and you may or may not get similar results from a leggier, less well-maintained one. But the first surprise was that this 11-year-old car was no more inclined to squeak, rattle, grumble or groan when flung down a tricky B-road than the nearly new 991. This 996, by reputation the most poorly constructed of all 911s, felt like it was built last week, not 11 years ago, and by Rolls-Royce.
But the shocker is that, on those roads, it was at least as much fun as the 997. The performance and grip differential were unimportant. What mattered more was the way it would dart into corners on its stiff springs and adjust its stance so readily according to the throttle position.
I like that the engine is quite sleepy below 5000rpm and then suddenly comes alive, and I like the small frisson of danger born from there being absolutely no electronic safety nets. (Even the 997 has traction and stability systems.) This is an entirely analogue car of which you are entirely in control, and with cars like this, that is how it should be, I think.