The Best Porsche 911 Competitors to Tempt You to Look Past the German Marque
Would any of these seven alternatives to Porsche’s arguably perfect sports car inspire you to open your checkbook?
There is a new Porsche 911, the 992, and after 56 years in production, the famous sports car's profile is unmistakable, even among non-car people. But there always seems to be a corner of the automotive world that constantly searches for the perfect set of 911 competitors, perhaps because some people are simply sick of hearing about how good the rear-engine wonder is. Or maybe they just want to be different. But the 911 really is that good: For such a powerful and expensive sports car, starting terribly close to $100,000, it remains approachable for drivers of all skill levels. It's the sort of performance car that makes average drivers heroic and can turn above-average ones into champions.
However, perhaps more than ever, the 911 is not alone in that regard. There are less-expensive alternatives, more expensive rivals, and some that just deliver a different experience. So, before you plunk down your life savings on your longstanding German dream, at least consider these Porsche 911 competitors as reasonable alternatives:
Base-Price Range: $59,995-$76,945
Since the original Porsche 901 emerged in the mid-C2 era, the 911 and Corvette have been direct rivals; air-cooled, rear-mounted flat-six vs. front-mounted, small-block pushrod V-8. When this direct competition began in the '60s, it was a time when Porschephiles would never set foot in a Chevrolet dealership, and the "Route 66" crowd wouldn't know how to find a Porsche store, even though the two had similar sticker prices.
By the '70s and '80s, the Porsche 911, led by the "whale-tail" Turbo halo car, had hit its stride, and recently the models from that era have sold for several times their original price. The Chevrolet C3 and C4 Corvettes of that era were also-rans. But as the Corvette matriculated through C5, C6, and C7 incarnations, though, the car matured to become a valid 911 competitor. They were about the same length and weight, though Corvette handling continued to take second-place in the race, as the Chevy felt like it was being led around the turns by the V-8 in its nose.
Now, everything has changed with the C8 Corvette's small-block engine moved to behind the seats and ahead of the rear axle, for an inherently superior polar moment of inertia. When the Bowling Green, Kentucky, Corvette factory plays catch-up after last fall's UAW strike, you'll be able to buy a base C8 Corvette (assuming your local Chevy store doesn't price gouge) with a 495-horsepower engine for the price of a base Porsche 911 Carrera with a 379-horsepower twin-turbo flat-six—and you'll have enough cash left in the bank to buy a new Chevy Blazer (or say, a Volkswagen Atlas) as your winter car. For now, the Carrera S priced roughly twice as much as a C8 comes close to matching the Chevy's 2.8-second 0-60 mph time, at 3.0 seconds for the 992 S. And unlike the Corvette, it's still available with a full manual gearbox.
- Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxster
Base-Price Range: $58,850-$100,550
Perhaps the best competitor for the 911 is a pair of different Porsches. While the company spent the first 40 years or so of the 911's life working to tame the rear-engine car's snap-throttle oversteer, the Boxster and its hardtop sibling Cayman were excellent-handling sports cars, with near-perfect polar moment of inertia right out of the gate.
Of course, some diehard Porsche fans never fully accepted the mid-engine cars, and Weissach for years resisted allowing enough power in the 718 to rival the 911—until now. For 2020, the top-spec 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4 are powered by a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six rated at 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. That's still short of the 443-hp, 390-lb-ft 911 Carrera S, but it's less expensive, and arguably is the best all-around performer among Porsche sports cars. Or, you could opt for a 718 Cayman S/Boxster S with a 350 hp/309 lb-ft, 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder, good for a 177-mph top speed and 4.4-second 0-60-mph time; going this route will save you enough money compared with the base 911 to buy a new Honda Fit winter car. The Cayman T/Boxster T and the base Cayman/Boxster come with a 2.0-liter turbo-four, rated at 300 hp and 280 lb-ft, with 170-mph top speeds; 0-60 takes 4.5 seconds in the T models and 4.9 seconds in the base models. Oh, and there's also the new 718 Boxster/Cayman GTS models, too.
Base Price: $156,080
The front-engine, 4.0-liter turbo V-8-powered Aston Martin Vantage is on the sporty edge of the British grand touring marque's lineup, and so it makes a good competitor for the Porsche 911 (and C8 Corvette). It still comes off as a slightly more relaxed British GT than a pure sports car, even though it does have that famous 007 swagger. Pricing starts at the upper end of the 911 range, but you get 503 horsepower. "Standard" Aston Martin Vantages, in coupe or convertible form, come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, though the Vantage AMR loses nearly 210 pounds and gains a clutch pedal that engages a seven-speed manual.
Base-Price Range: $62,625-$127,725
Before the F-Type made its debut in 2013, Jaguar considered a mid-engine design for the sports car, which would have made it more a Cayman/Boxster competitor than a 911 alternative. The new version of the F-Type is both: The base rear-wheel-drive, 296-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four-powered model is priced against the 718, and more powerful models with the 380-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 and the 575-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V-8, both all-wheel-drive only, priced against 911s.
The F-Type always has been its own animal, with crisp—some would say squirrelly-handing (which Jaguar tackled with the 2020 facelifted model), and yet a bit more of a grand-touring aura emphasized by its long nose and short deck. Unfortunately, though, ever since the 2020 model year, the F-Type comes only with an automatic transmission.
- Ford Mustang Shelby GT350/GT500/GT350R
Base-Price Range: $61,535-$74,530
For sure, the Ford Mustang and Mustang GT models are direct competitors for the Dodge Challenger and the lame-duck Chevy Camaro. But the brand's performance boffins have elevated the latest iterations of the GT350 and GT500 to levels of power and handling high enough to serve as competitors to the 911.
The Shelbys are priced in the same ballpark as the new Corvette, as well as the Porsche 718s, on up into the Boxster T/Cayman T and Boxster S/Cayman S base prices. The Shelby GT350 and 350R come with the famous flat-plane crank, naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V-8, rated for 526 hp and 429 lb-ft, put through the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
Ford proudly calls out the Shelby GT500 as its most powerful production car ever, as its supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 produces 760 hp and 625 lb-ft, delivered through the rear wheels via a seven-speed Tremec dual-clutch automatic. The GT350R features the GT350's powertrain and adds 19-inch black carbon-fiber wheels with red brake calipers, a large carbon-fiber rear wing, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tires. And make no mistake, all three models make quick work of tight racetracks—kind of like, well, a Porsche 911.
- Mazda MX-5 Miata Cup Racer
Base Price: $68,000
The MX-5 Cup is "remarkably similar to the roadgoing Miata," I wrote after lapping Pontiac, Michigan's M1 Concours track in the car two-and-a-half years ago. If you've decided to ditch the Porsche 911 as your daily driver since you'll be using the car mostly to sit in traffic and make phone calls anyway, here's our advice: Forget the Macan alternative. Find a nice commodity brand $40,000 sport/utility, and spend the rest on a Miata Club Racer to go weekend racing.
Alright, maybe it's not apples-to-apples to call one of these cars a Porsche 911 competitor. Flis Performance of Daytona Beach, Florida, builds the new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Car, having taken over from Longroad Racing, which built the MX-5 Cup I drove in 2017 but is now out of business. The good news is that Flis Performance builds the Miata Cup racer using the updated ND version of the Miata with the new 181-hp, 2.0-liter four introduced for the 2019 model year. Flis Performance and Mazda have not announced pricing on the new Cup racer, but the the '17 Miata Cup was priced in the low $60,000s, plus spares. Go to mazdamotorsports.com or call 800-435-2508 to find out how you can purchase one.
- Pinarello Dogma F12
Base-Price Range: $6,500 (frame only)-$12,000 (with components)
If you're more of a Ferrari type than a Porsche type but don't have the extra scratch for a true 911 rival, your best alternative is the Ferrari of bicycles, the Pinarello Dogma F12.
This road bike features an asymmetric, 1.9-pound carbon-fiber frame to balance out the extra weight of derailleurs and chainset to the right side of the rider, and the disc-brake version has a different frame geometry than the rim brake version. The Dogma F12 also boasts of complete cable integration, with no exposed cables on the disc-brake model, and just one exposed cable, for the front brake, on the rim-brake model. It comes with Shimano Di2 E-Link electronic shifting and is available in 13 frame sizes, 16 handlebar sizes, and a color palette that would do both a Ferrari and a Porsche dealership proud.
There's a 5-percent improvement in aerodynamic drag, 10-percent weight savings, and 8-percent higher frame stiffness for the F12 compared with the Dogma F10 it succeeds. Pinarello claims this translates to 1-second quicker per kilometer given the same rider energy input. So, if you've got the scratch for a Porsche 911, but fall just short of Ferrari money, consider perhaps a Taycan EV ($105,150-$186,350 base-price range) plus a roof rack (less than $500) to carry your new Pinarello Dogma F12. You can impress gearheads and tree-huggers alike.
Porsche 911 Competitors to Consider
- Chevrolet Corvette C8 $59,995-$76,945
- Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxster $58,850-$100,550
- Aston Martin Vantage $156,080
- Jaguar F-Type $62,625-$127,725
- Ford Mustang Shelby GT350/GT500/GT350R $61,535-$74,530
- Mazda MX-5 Miata Cup Racer $68,000
- Pinarello Dogma F12 $6,500 (frame only)-$12,000 (with components)