The Last Production Porsche Model To Feature The Iconic Mezger Flat Six Engine
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The Last Production Porsche Model To Feature The Iconic Mezger Flat Six Engine

The last Porsches to feature this race-bred engine is also what many believe to be the purest of all 911s. Here's why

by Dimitar Angelov on July 10, 2024, 14:30

We can all agree that amidst all variants of the Porsche 911, there are those that truly stand out. One person who is largely responsible for shaping Porsche’s identity as a builder of epic sports cars is Hans Mezger. The German engineer started working for Porsche as soon as he graduated from the Stuttgart Technical University and would stay there until his retirement in 1994. Now, that’s what I call a dream resume. Porsche has since moved away from the Mezger design, making all cars featuring these powerplants desirable collectibles. We are taking a look at what many Porsche fans consider to be peak 911. The last Porsche 911 to feature the iconic Mezger engine - the 2011 Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0.

What makes the Mezger engine special?

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Back in the early 1960s, Ferdinand Piëch quickly recognized Hans Mezger’s talents, who was responsible for saving Porsche a ton of money by optimizing the engine production process while simultaneously improving performance. Mezger was involved with the 911 from the start, since the original 911’s 2.0-liter boxer-six engine with 130 horsepower, was also the first Mezger engine.

What set Mezger engines apart from the newer, non-Mezger engines are, not just the association with motorsport dominance, but also the way they were engineered to take punishment and perform consistently. One signature feature of the Mezger engine is the gear-driven intermediate shaft, which gives all Mezger engines a unique sound. The other key feature of the Mezger engine is the oil-fed plain bearings on the intermediate shaft, which use the engine’s regular oil system. All Mezger engines featured conventional ry lubrication as opposed to an integrated, dry sump in newer models, which does not necessitate a remote tank.

Mezger’s race-winning formula

In 1965, Ferdinand Piëch chose Hans Mezger as the new head of Porsche’s Motorsport R&D department, with the goal of building a Le Mans-winning Porsche race car. Porsche was a consistent player in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it was in 1968, that the German marque entered a top-class racer – the Porsche 917, which ended up becoming one of the most legendary race cars to compete in the FIA racing series.

Mezger would end up being responsible for many other iconic engines, most of which were air-cooled. This includes the flat-six engine in the iconic, 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS, which ended up being the basis for many successful Porsche racing cars and winning races like the Targa Florio, 24 Hours of Daytona, and others.

The final farewell of the Mezger engine

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Many praise the 997 as the last pure Porsche 911. No other version of the rear-engine sports car exemplifies this more than the very last 997 GT3 RS – the 4.0. Limited to 600 units, the Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0 blurred the lines between the road-going and racing Porsche GT3 variants. What started as a 3.6-liter flat-six (3.8 in the GT3 RS) ended up becoming a 4.0-liter, 8,500-RPM, 500-horsepower track monster.

Engine 4.0-liter, naturally-aspirated flat-6
Power 493 hp (500PS) at 8,250 RPM
Torque 339 lb-ft (460 Nm) at 5,750 RPM
Transmission 6-speed manual
Drivetrain RR, RWD
Weight 2,998 lbs
0-60 MPH 4.0 seconds
Top speed 190 mph (306 km/h)

This very last Mezger flat-six engine, internally dubbed M97.74, featured a 12.6:1 compression ratio thanks to new forged pistons, a crankshaft derived from the racing car, and a larger bore – now 80.4 mm versus 76.4 in the M97.77R engine, featured in the regular 997 GT3 RS.

The Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0 also features an ultra-light, single-mass flywheel, is 44 pounds (20 kg) lighter than the regular GT3 RS, and boasts a specific output of 123 hp per liter. It was a one-year model, produced between 2011 and 2012. This was also the last GT3 to be offered only with a six-speed manual - a feature long gone in models like the 911 Turbo. Or is it?

Due to the rarity, significance, and characteristics of the 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0, the model is appreciating in value, by the minute. Currently, database shows an average market value of $544,460. Prices range from $302,810 to $885,000, with the most recent recorded sale (at the moment of writing this) being $460,000. Of the 600 examples made, 141 were originally brought to the US.

Hans Mezger’s legacy

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Mezger’s legacy will be remembered as one of Porsche’s most iconic and purest 911 models. The rear-engine sports car from Germany continues to evolve but has since become heavier and more complex compared to the simplified, raw, but precise Mezger-developed 911s. GT3 models after the 997 featured a direct-injected flat-six based on the MA1 architecture. The 991 generation would mark a new era, where even the GT3 models rely on more tech to go fast.

The Porsche 991 GT3 would feature variable valve-timing technology and even rear-wheel steering that rotates the rear tires up to 1.5 degrees. The 991 was also the first 911 GT3 to feature a PDK transmission. The first 911 GT3 without a Mezger engine also had issues with catching fire.

Those were quickly resolved, but it left Porsche fans with an even bigger hole in the heart, following the retirement of the Mezger engine. In 2016, the 991 GT3 RS came out and with it returned the 4.0-liter engine. This, however, was not an homage to the Mezger-powered 997 GT3 RS 4.0, despite having the same 500-horsepower output. It was the Porsche 992 GT3 that surpassed the 500-horsepower number.

One for the history books

To highlight the brilliance of the last Mezger engine, the new MA1.76 4.0-liter featured a higher compression ratio, variable valve-timing, and a plethora of other hi-tech features only to achieve the same power as the old 997. Well played, Mezger.

Speaking of the genius behind Porsche’s most epic engines, Hans Mezger passed away on June 10, 2020, at the age of 90, leaving behind him an impressive legacy of building the most successful Porsche engines ever, adding to a heritage spanning decades. It’s no wonder that Mezger-powered Porsche cars remain among the most sought-after.

Dimitar Angelov

Dimitar Angelov

Dim has been an automotive journalist since 2014. Although he is interested in all things automotive, his main interests revolve around, Asian, classic, and sports cars. He is particularly fond of Porsche sports cars as well as JDM classics from Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and others. Dim operates mainly from Bulgaria, but can, occasionally, be seen attending Europe's most reputable Auto shows, and events. Read full bio