With no less than 11 iterations of the Porsche 911 available in 2004, the choices might seem a little intimidating. Allow us to simplify things a bit. Assuming you can't justify the $40,000-$50,000 price premium for the Turbo, and you're not ready for the rougher, highly focused GT2 or GT3 models, it really comes down to whether you want a hardtop, a convertible, or the Targa with its unique sliding glass roof and rear hatch. Then you have to choose between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Finally, you have to choose the excellent six-speed manual transmission or the superb five-speed Tiptronic automatic.
Okay, there's one more choice in 2004. You'll also have to decide whether you want to pay $20,0000 extra for about $10,000 more content in the limited-run 40th Anniversary 911, with the hope that it might be collectable at some point in the future.
The Carrera and Targa models all come with the same normally aspirated (non-turbo) engine rated at 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.
The Carrera Coupe ($68,600) is rear-wheel drive, and it's the least expensive 911. It's lighter and therefore slightly quicker than most other Carreras. The 911 Carrera Coupe is sometimes called the C2, or Carrera 2, for Carrera 2WD.
The Targa ($76,000) features a giant sliding power glass roof that opens nearly twice the size of the standard sunroof of the Carrera Coupe. It's also the first 911 with a rear hatch, which eases access to the storage space behind the front seats and expands cargo capacity slightly.
Carrera Cabriolet ($78,400) features a fully automatic convertible top, which folds into its stowage space in 20 seconds with one button. All 911 Cabriolets come standard with a removable hardtop and a wind deflector that reduces turbulence in the cockpit when the top is lowered. The Carrera Coupe, Cabriolet and Targa come standard with a digital stereo and in-dash CD player, automatic climate control, heated power mirrors, leather-faced seats with power recliners, power windows with one-touch auto up/down, a telescoping steering wheel, anti-theft system and trip computer. LEDs gently illuminate the door handles, ignition switch, and light switch.
In 2004, Porsche will build a maximum 1963 Carrera 40th Anniversary 911 models ($89,800). These are essentially Carrera Coupes with engines tweaked to 345 horsepower and a standard locking differential to improve traction and optimize acceleration. They also include Porsche Stability Management (PSM) antiskid electronics. All 40th Anniversary cars will be painted metallic silver, with bi-xenon headlights and special 18-inch wheels, sill trim and badging.
The Carrera 4 Cabriolet ($84,000) adds all-wheel drive to the convertible. Its styling is shared with the Carrera 2 models. Porsche's slick AWD adds less than 200 pounds to the car's weight, and it 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. Porsche Stability Management is standard on the Carrera 4 Cabriolet.
The Carrera 4S ($83,400) combines the 315-hp normally aspirated 911 Carrera engine with the 911 Turbo's body design and feature content. It shares the Turbo's suspension, all-wheel-drive layout, huge brakes, and larger wheels and tires. Only well-trained eyes can distinguish the Carrera 4S from the Turbo. The C4S Cabriolet ($93,200) is a Carrera 4S with a convertible top.
The all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo ($118,400) gets Porsche's race-derived 415-hp twin-turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. It develops an awesome 415 pound-feet of torque at 2700-4600 rpm. If that isn't enough, the optional X50 engine performance package ($17,880) increases the twin turbo's output to 444 hp and 457 lbs.-ft. of torque. This model year, for the first time since 1989, Porsche reintroduces the Turbo Cabriolet ($128,200).
The Turbo and C4S add more standard equipment, including bi-xenon headlights, a Bose-developed audio system with six-channel amplifier and 12 speakers, full leather interior with memory seats, and power operation for the luggage and engine compartment lids.
The 911 GT2 ($191,700) is lighter and even more powerful than the Turbo. With an increase in boost pressure and other engine tweaks, output increases this year to 477 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. The GT2 sheds 200 pounds by eliminating the Turbo's all-wheel drive, the spare tire and the rear seats, and by using lighter sport seats in front. It features a race-track grade suspension (meaning stiff) and Porsche's high-tech ceramic composite brakes, which are lighter and more fade resistant than conventional metal brakes, and it hits 60 mph from a stop in less than 4 seconds. The ultimate 911, at least measured by performance, the GT2 broke all-time track records for street-legal production cars while testing at Germany's famed Nurburgring racetrack.
The GT3 ($99,900) takes a less-is-more approach similar to the GT2, without the turbocharged engine. It's normally aspirated engine is tuned to 380 hp and 285 pound-feet of torque. With just a few modifications for safety, this 911 can compete in a number of amateur and professional race series around the world.
Porsche offers literally hundreds of options for the various 911s, and only some of them are what we typically expect to order at a new car dealership. The more popular (and conventional) choices include Porsche's Communication Management system, which incorporates audio, navigation system, and trip computer into a single control interface ($2,680); heated seats ($410); metallic paint ($825); and a CD changer ($715).
Want more unusual options? How about Deviating Front Seat Stitching Color ($335), Leather Dome Lamp Cover ($335), or Non-Metallic Paint to Sample ($4,315). The options cover colors and materials for virtually every part or surface inside the car, and if there's not an option, Porsche will likely go off the card, for a price. Frog-skin seats are not out of the question.
Standard safety equipment 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 ($1,235 on the C2s and Targa) enhances handling by applying braking to individual wheels or altering engine power whenever it detects a loss of grip.