Porsche 911 is an automotive icon, a world-class standard in sports cars. Many of us grew up wanting one. Today's Porsche 911 offers the latest in engine and chassis technology and more performance than all but a few exotic cars sold in America. What's really impressive, though, is how easy it is to drive a 911. It's easier to drive quickly than the Italian exotics or, for that matter, the Dodge Viper, and it's easier to live with on a daily basis.
Porsche 911 is built on race-proven architecture with a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine mounted in the rear. Upgraded and enlarged last year, Porsche's normally aspirated boxer engine, which comes on all Carrera and Targa models, delivers 315 horsepower. Porsche strengthened the body structure last year and revised the front styling to make the 911 models look more like the 911 Turbo, less like the mid-engine Boxster. About the only change for 2003 was the installation of a new digital AM/FM in-dash CD stereo.
Let's cut to the chase: The 911 Carrera Coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds, according to Porsche. That should be more than quick enough for anyone. For those who need more, the 415-horsepower 911 Turbo can accelerate from 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 189 mph. The lighter, race-inspired GT2 delivers even quicker performance and a top speed of 195. For most of us, the normally aspirated models are more than quick enough and cost significantly less. New for 2003 is the GT3, the most powerful non-turbocharged Porsche has ever offered for street use in North America. Accelerating from 0 to 60 happens in just 4.3 seconds and it can hit 100 in 9.4 with a top track speed of 190.
Handling and braking are extraordinary. Steering is quick and direct, yet the car isn't darty and feels as solid as Gibraltar on the highway. Handling is devoid of any of the characteristics of the Porsche 911s of old. It rides smoothly and more softly than you might expect. It's an easy car to live with on a daily basis, easier than a Boxster. The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth and wonderful. Order the Tiptronic automatic and just about anyone could drive one of these cars. And that sound! The classic Porsche exhaust sound returned to the 911 last year along with the increased power and improved efficiency.
Porsche continues to make some of the world's greatest sports cars, and you're looking at one of them. A 911 doesn't come cheap, however. Its purchase price is high, even more so when options are added in, and Porschephiles love options. Past 911s have been costly to maintain. If you can justify the price, though, the latest Porsche 911 should more than live up to your expectations.
Eight iterations of the Porsche 911 are now available. Assuming you can't justify a Turbo or the highly focused GT2 or GT3 models, it comes down to whether you want a hardtop, a convertible, or the Targa with its unique sliding glass roof. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available and there's a choice between six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic automatic.
Carrera and Targa models all come with the same normally aspirated (non-turbo) engine rated 315 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 273 pounds-feet of torque at 4250. Porsche's six-speed manual gearbox is standard; the five-speed Tiptronic S automatic ($3,420) is optional.
Carrera Coupe ($68,600) is rear-wheel drive. It is the least expensive 911. It's lighter and, therefore, slightly quicker than the other regular-production normally aspirated Porsches. (The exception is the new race-inspired GT3.) The 911 Carrera Coupe is sometimes called the C2, or Carrera 2, for Carrera 2WD.
Targa ($76,000) features a giant sliding power glass roof that opens nearly twice the size of the sunroof of the Carrera Coupe.
Carrera Cabriolet ($78,400) features a fully automatic convertible top.
Carrera 4 Cabriolet ($78,400) adds all-wheel drive to the convertible. Its styling is shared with the Carrera 2 models. The main difference here is the all-wheel-drive system, which directs anywhere from 5 percent to 40 percent of the power to the front wheels, depending on available traction and how hard the driver is pushing down on the throttle. The all-wheel-drive system is not intended to merely serve as an all-weather traction assistant. Instead, it is designed to help the driver handle unexpected curves and bends. is optional. The Porsche Stability Management System is standard on the Carrera 4 Cabriolet.
Carrera 4S ($81,800) combines the 315-hp normally asipirated 911 Carrera engine with the 911 Turbo model's body design and feature content. It shares the Turbo's suspension, all-wheel-drive layout, huge brakes, and massive wheels and tires. Only well-trained eyes can distinguish the Carrera 4S from the Turbo.
Turbo ($116,200) gets Porsche's race-derived 415-hp twin-turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. It develops an awesome 415 lb.-ft. of torque at 2700-4600 rpm. If that isn't enough, an optional engine performance package increases the twin turbo's output to 444 hp and 457 lbs.-ft. of torque.
911 models come well equipped with the new digital radio and in-dash CD player, automatic climate control, heated power mirrors, partial leather seats with power recliners, power windows with one-touch auto up/down, telescoping steering wheel, anti-theft system, trip computer. LEDs gently illuminate door handles, ignition switch, and light switch. Turbo and Carrera 4S get full leather seat upholstery and full-power adjustable seats.
GT2 ($181,700) is lighter and more powerful than the Turbo. More boost pressure helps it develop 456 hp at 5700 rpm and 457 lb.-ft. of torque at 3500-4500 rpm. It's 200 pounds lighter by eliminating all-wheel drive, the spare tire, the rear seats, and by using lighter sport seats in front. 0 to 60 comes in less than 4 seconds and lap times are improved. The ultimate Porsche model for 2003, the GT2 broke all-time track records for street-legal production cars while testing at Germany's famed Nurburgring racetrack.
GT3 ($99,900), new for 2003, takes a similar less is more approach as the GT2, but is powered by the normally aspirated engine tuned to 380 hp and 285 lb.-ft. of torque.
Standard safety technology on all 911 models includes dual frontal airbags, door-mounted side airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), and a patented crumple-zone body structure. The available Porsche Stability Management System (PSM) enhances handling by applying braking to individual wheels or altering engine power whenever it detects a loss of grip.
Porsche offers special options that allow customers to turn their 911s into unique cars. Special interior trim and exterior pieces along with special paints and leather colors are available. Though expensive, they offer some interesting combinations.
With its classic lines, the Porsche 911 is a beautiful car. Porsche has refined the 911 body several times during its 40-year history, but the roofline and windshield remained the same as the original model until it was totally redesigned for the 1999 model year. The current Carrera body is longer, wider and sleeker than any before. For 1999, the roofline, windshield and all other body sections were new, representing the first clean-sheet redesign of the legendary sports car since its introduction in 1965. Nevertheless, it maintains the unmistakable 911 profile and classic styling cues.
Carrera models were restyled last year (2002) to look more like the 911 Turbo, which included a new headlight design, reshaped front end, widened rear quarter panels, and redesigned oval exhaust pipes. This better differentiates the 911 from the Porsche Boxster. The design changes were more than cosmetic, however. The new front air intakes increased airflow to the radiators by 15 percent. Reshaping the front wheel arches and adding small flexible spoilers ahead of the front wheels reduced aerodynamic lift by 25 percent at the front and 40 percent at the rear. New air intake ducts enhanced front brake cooling, while a new under-floor duct enhanced transmission cooling by 20 percent. The rear spoiler deploys automatically at higher speeds. Carrera Coupe comes standard with a power sunroof.
Standard aluminum alloy wheels measure 17x7 inches in front with 205/50ZR17 tires; the 17x9-inch rear wheels mount 255/40ZR17 tires. Optional packages mount 18x8-inch wheels with 225/40ZR18 tires in front, 18x10-inch wheels with 285/30ZR18s in back. Porsche Exclusive allows 911 owners to specify special limited-availability paint colors and custom interior trim.
Carrera 4 Cabriolet is distinguished from the C2 Cabriolet by plainly visible titanium-color brake calipers and a titanium-color "Carrera 4" logotype on the rear engine hood.
Turbo is distinguished from the Carrera models by three large intakes that dominate the lower front fascia to provide cooling air to the car's three radiators. The 911 Turbo also has a wider stance, particularly at the rear, where the Turbo is 2.6 inches wider to accommodate its massive rear wheels and tires. It comes fitted with 225/40ZR18 tires on 18x8-inch front wheels and 295/30ZR18s on 18x11-inch rear wheels. Air scoops integrated into the leading edges of the rear fenders channel cool air to the turbo intercoolers, while louvers in the sides of the rear cover let the hot air out. The engine compartment lid carries a two-piece rear wing, the upper part of which automatically rises at speeds above 75 mph and lowers at 50 mph.
Carrera 4S looks almost exactly like the Turbo. The Carrera 4S aggressive front spoiler differs slightly. Carrera 4S retains the automatic-deploying rear spoiler from the 911 Carrera instead of the Turbo's two-piece wing. Carrera 4S shares the Turbo's wide rear stance, but the side intake ducts are not present. From the rear, the C4S is distinguished by its own glass-reinforced plastic decklid with a reflector strip connecting the taillights.
Though thoroughly modernized in this fourth-generation 911, the interior is unmistakably Porsche. Driving position is perfect with excellent lateral support for spirited driving. This is a comfortable car for traveling long distances. Visibility is superb all around and instruments are an attractive, quick read. The ignition key is, of course, on the left, a tradition carried through from a bygone era when Le Mans starts required drivers to run across the pit lane to their car, jump in and take off, fastening their harnesses as they headed onto the front straight.
As comfortable as it is, the Porsche 911 is a sports car. Dry cleaning gets laid on the back seat. By using this back seat, you can make a big grocery run in the 911. Luggage capacity is not the 911's forte, however. Carreras can carry 4.6 cubic feet of cargo in the front trunk and 7.1 cubic feet in the rear with the seats folded. By comparison, a Corvette can carry 13.3 cubic feet, a couple of big duffle bags. When it came time to pick someone up at the airport, we left a Carrera 4 at home and took a sport-utility vehicle. Likewise, I jumped in a Range Rover for an hour-long drive to a trout stream. Cargo matters aside, the Porsche 911 makes for superb daily transportation.
Cabriolet's power soft top folds compactly into a compartment behind the rear seats. It features a glass rear window with integrated defroster. A solid tonneau cover fits flush against the body with the roof lowered, preserving the sleek, uncluttered appearance. An supplemental safety bar structure is ready to deploy automatically in the unlikely event of a rollover. A removable aluminum hardtop with a heated rear window comes standard, but can be deleted for credit.
Targa features a glass roof panel that really lets sun in. A cloth sunblind helps reduce heat and glare when the roof is closed, but only partially. I'm not sure I'd want that much sun all the time. When the glass roof opens, it slides under the rear window. I found it impeded rearward vision somewhat. A wind deflector deploys to reduce turbulence in the cabin. Sliding the cloth screen in place helps keep in heat when it's cold. Unlike the other 911s, the Targa features a glass rear hatch that provides convenient access to the rear luggage compartment. Its design allows provides 8.1 cubic feet of cargo space, compared to 7.1 cubic feet in the Carrera Coupe.
Porsche upgraded the appearance and feel of interior materials for 2000, applying a special soft-touch grain to the console, door trim, instrument panel and other areas. Aluminum-colored trim for the shifter, door handles and handbrake release button lends a touch of classic sports car elegance to the design. The standard automatic climate control comes with an activated charcoal odor filter. Carrera 4S comes with nicer interior trim on the dash and center surround.
The performance of the Porsche 911 is nothing short of extraordinary and that assessment applies to all variants. Excellent grip, phenomenal stopping performance and thrilling performance are their hallmarks, yet they are remarkably smooth for daily motoring.
The sound of the engine is the first thing you notice after twisting the key. It sounds fantastic, and even better under hard acceleration. Sports car enthusiasts can easily recognize a Porsche by its sound. Whether one is driving by on a country road or roaring past at Le Mans, they have a distinctive sound that is legendary. The exhaust system was revised for 2002, so the current Porsche 911 sounds much better than 2001 models. All modern 911 engines are water cooled. In spite of all their technology, the current 911 models have that traditional Porsche sound we grew up hearing on the street and at endurance racing events. Blips when downshifting sound great.
That sound is accompanied by massive and immediate throttle response. The thrust provided by the standard Carrera engine is intoxicating. It made me want to push the throttle to the floor every time the car left the apex of a turn, just to feel it accelerate out of the corner.
Steering the 911 gives the driver a feeling of oneness with the car. The steering is very precise, so you can put the tires exactly where you want them. Yet it's stable and steady when cruising at high speeds. It isn't darty nor does it require constant corrections.
The 911 rides very nicely over rough pavement. You know the bumps are there, but they aren't jarring. Some say this refinement comes at a price, that this latest generation of the 911 has lost some of its feel. But we think the 911, regardless of model, offers plenty of feedback. You can sense the rear weight bias and you can actually feel the changing amounts of grip the front tires have as the car goes through an undulating corner.
The two-wheel-drive models do have more trailing throttle oversteer than the all-wheel-drive models. Abruptly lifting off of the throttle while cornering hard in the middle of an on-ramp caused the rear of a Targa to come out a bit. It was easily controllable, but a Carrera 4S did not do this when a similar maneuver was attempted.
With all of its technology, the all-wheel-drive Porsche 911 Carrera 4S may offer better accident avoidance capabilities than any other car on the road. First of all, it has excellent brakes. Huge brake rotors and one-piece calipers derived from the GT1 racecar, along with ideal weight distribution and massive tire contact patches allow it to generate incredible braking forces. As a result, it scrubs off speed in no time. Its anti-lock brake system is excellent, allowing the driver to steer around the problem while braking at the threshold.
While the Carrera 4 offers superior traction on slippery surfaces, Porsche designed the system to offer superior handling on dry surfaces. The all-wheel-drive system is designed for performance, not as an all-weather traction assistant. Though it adds a substantial amount of money to the price, the four-wheel-drive system improves safety and makes this Porsche even easier to drive. From a standing stop, you can crank the steering wheel over for a 90-degree turn and stand on it without any need for steering corrections. The rear end won't slide out (power oversteer) and the front end won't wash out (understeer); the Carrera 4 simply accelerates away (very quickly). Stab the throttle then lift abruptly off again in the middle of an on-ramp and the car won't do anything nasty. It merely takes a different set on the suspension as weight is being transferred fore and aft.
Even with all-wheel drive and all the other technology on the Carrera 4S, you can still sense the engine is at the back. Compared with front-engine sports cars, the front end of the Porsche feels lighter, quicker, with sharper steering response. Granted, there is no such thing as too much horsepower, but the Carrera 4 did not leave me longing for a Turbo.
That said, the Turbo is fantastic. In spite of its somewhat intimidating external appearance, it's an easy car to drive. Drive it hard and the Turbo really inspires confidence. Drive it harder and whole new vistas open up. Slam down the throttle, slam on the brakes, brake and turn at the same time, the Turbo will do everything a driver asks short of defying the laws of physics. It can make a hack look good and will make a smooth, reasonably skilled driver look like a master. In the hands of an experienced race driver, almost nothing can touch it, as discovered while sharing the wheel at Pocono International Raceway's infield road course with endurance-racing champion Hurley Haywood.
The available Tiptronic transmission is among the best, smoothest-shifting automatics we've ever tested. Upshifts and downshifts are super smooth in manual or auto mode. The manual mode is fun: By pressing a button on the steering wheel, you can go down through the gears as you brake for an exit ramp. But it's not necessary to shift manually. The automatic mode works superbly. It automatically holds a gear when it senses you are attacking the corners, rather than upshifting and downshifting. All in all, the 911's Tiptronic is a fantastic automatic.
In spite of all that, I'd order my Porsche with the manual gearbox for its superior control, superior performance and superior fun. The standard six-speed manual shifts smoothly and is a joy to use.
Pirelli P-Zero tires offer excellent grip. So much so that a race track is needed to fully explore the capabilities of these sports cars. Even so, it is easier to push this car to the limit than it was with Porsches past. The modern 911 has none of the handling quirks of Porsches past, such as excessive understeer in tight corners or the infamous trailing-throttle oversteer that could cause a spin when an inexperienced driver lifted his foot off the throttle in the middle of a corner. The staggered array with wider, lower-profile tires in the rear, contributes to the neutral handling in the 911 Carrera models.
The brakes on the Porsche 911 are legendary for their stopping power and all of the current 911s stop quicker than just about any production car built. Porsche requires brakes to provide 25 consecutive full-force stops without fade. Yet they are easy to modulate in normal, everday driving.
There are those who argue the Porsche Boxster does nearly everything the Porsche 911 can do for $26,000 less. The Boxster is, of course, a terrific sports car and the Boxster S comes even closer for $17,000 less. But there's no question the 911 offers a lot more power. Even more worthwhile is its chassis sophistication: Charge into a bumpy corner and you'll need to slow the Boxster down a bit because the car will slide toward the outside of the corner as the tires skip over the bumps and momentarily lose grip. In a 911, the massive tires stay in contact with the road because its more sophisticated suspension keeps them there. Whether it's a 30-mph switchback or a 100-mph sweeper, the 911 driver can blast through at the absolute limit. You'll be busier and slower in the Boxster. Compared with the Boxster, the 911 is more compliant and offers better throttle response. It's easier to drive, easier to be smooth. It feels more substantial. While the 911 works great as a primary (only) car, the same cannot be said of the Boxster. Pound for pound, you get more car for your money in the 911.
Yes, there are other sports cars. With the exception of a Ferrari, one could argue that none of those other cars have that Porsche 911 mystique that is impossible to place a value on. One could argue those other cars do not have Porsche's panache, again, with the exception of Ferrari.
But those arguments aren't necessary because the Porsche 911 is truly one of the world's finest sports cars. You can make various arguments by looking at performance numbers. A Viper may beat you at the local road racing circuit, Corvettes offer an excellent value and Ferraris are exotic. But few sports cars can match the Porsche 911's combination of chassis sophistication and power. It is precision machinery. It is easy to drive. And it offers levels of satisfaction that grow over time. As they say, there is no substitute.
|Model Line Overview |
|Model lineup: ||Carrera Coupe ($68,600); Targa ($76,000); Carrera Cabriolet ($78,400); Carrera 4 Cabriolet ($78,400); Carrera 4S ($81,800); Turbo ($116,200); GT3 ($99,900); GT2 ($181,700) |
|Engines: ||315-hp 3.6-liter dohc 24v horizontally opposed 6-cylinder; 415-hp 3.6-liter dohc 24v turbocharged horizontally opposed 6-cylinder |
|Transmissions: ||six-speed manual; 5-speed Tiptronic |
|Safety equipment (standard): ||dual frontal airbags, door-mounted side-impact air bags, three-point inertia reel seat belts with height adjustment, second-generation side-impact passenger protection, ABS; Cabriolet has automatic-deploying safety bar and boron-steel reinforced windshield header and A-pillars |
|Safety equipment (optional): ||Porsche Stability Management (PSM) |
|Basic warranty: ||4 years/50,000 miles |
|Assembled in: ||Stuttgart, Germany |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): ||Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe ($68,600) |
|Standard equipment: ||automatic climate control with dust/pollen filters, partial leather-covered seats, leather trim, height-adjustable seats with power recliners, digital AM/FM/CD stereo, trip computer, telescoping steering column, power windows with one-touch power up/down, power locks with keyless remote, anti-theft system, power heated mirrors, cruise control, power sunroof, fog lights, rear fog lights, speed-dependent retractable rear spoiler, heated windshield washer nozzles |
|Options as tested (MSRP): ||metallic paint ($825); Porsche Stability Management system ($1230); Comfort Package ($2100) includes dual power front seats with power height, length and backrest adjust, dual adjust lumbar supports, driver's seat memory; 18-in. light alloy Carrera wheels ($1435) includes P225/40ZR18 front tires, P285/30/ZR18 rear tires |
|Destination charge: ||($765) |
|Gas guzzler tax: ||N/A |
|Price as tested (MSRP): ||$74,955 |
|Layout: ||rear-engine, rear-wheel drive |
|Engine: ||3.6-liter dohc 24v H6 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): ||315 @ 6800 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): ||273 @ 4250 |
|Transmission: ||6-speed manual |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: ||18/26 mpg |
|Wheelbase: ||92.6 in. |
|Length/width/height: ||174.5/69.7/51.4 in. |
|Track, f/r: ||57.7/58.3 in. |
|Turning circle: ||34.8 ft. |
|Seating capacity: ||2+2 |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: ||38.0/NA/41.6 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: ||N/A |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: ||N/A |
|Trunk volume: ||4.6 + 7.1 cu. ft. |
|Payload: ||N/A |
|Towing capacity: ||N/A |
|Suspension, f: ||independent |
|Suspension, r: ||independent |
|Ground clearance: ||4.3 in. |
|Curb weight: ||2959 lbs. |
|Tires: ||P225/40ZR18, P285/30ZR18 |
|Brakes, f/r: ||disc/disc with ABS |
|Fuel capacity: ||16.9 gal. |
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of January 01, 2003.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-767-7243 - www.porsche.com
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