1999 Porsche 911

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1999 Porsche 911
Available in 4 styles:  911 2dr Coupe shown
Asking Price Range
$12,376–$30,212
Estimated MPG

17 city / 25 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 4

By 

chicagotribune.com

How do you forget a miserable winter and start thinking about spring?

Get behind the wheel of a Porsche 911.

This, of course, is not the season to be driving a 911 or almost any other sports car, for that matter. But we tested the all-new 1999 911 cabriolet (convertible) in the fall and just found the notebook with the impressions scribbled inside. So rather than wait until June, when the roads are clear of everything except construction barricades, we'll unload now.

The Porsche lineup is filling out very well.

The Boxster roadster brought out in 1997 was joined last year by Porsche's first remake of the 911 coupe and convertible in 34 years as '99 models, and now the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 coupe and drop-top are out as mid-year additions to the '99 stable.

Built on the same platform as the all-new 911, the Carrera 4 adds all-wheel-drive plus an advanced stability-control system called Porsche Stability Management.

The Carrera 4 also will offer a 5-speed Tiptronic transmission as a $3,100 option. Tiptronic, which allows clutchless shifting through the gears or normal automatic operation, has never been offered on an all-wheel-drive Porsche before.

At the same time, Porsche took the wraps off the '99 Carrera 4, it confirmed it will build its long-awaited sport-utility vehicle, in cooperation with Volkswagen, for the 2002 model year.

Porsche will design the all-wheel-drive SUV for itself and for VW off a new VW platform. Porsche and VW will equip the vehicles with their own engines. The vehicles will be built at an unnamed VW plant.

No pricing info, but Porsche says it will get about 20,000 vehicles the first year, half of which will be sold in the U.S.

Before the SUV comes out, there will be some more additions to the Porsche lineup, a turbocharged all-wheel-drive 911 and an upgraded, more powerful Boxster S.

Both will be sold in Europe, perhaps by year-end, before any arrive in the U.S. There is no definite model year designation for the 911 turbo or Boxster S in the U.S.

Why focus on Porsche's future products rather than the cars in showrooms now? Because when testing the '99 911 cabriolet, we quickly realized why an all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 as well as a turbo version are needed.

A 3.4-liter, 296-horsepower 6-cylinder powers the 911. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, Tiptronic a $3,100 option. The 3.4 is potent, enough so that the rear-wheel-drive sports coupe can't always handle the torque surge.

Sure, it grabs the pavement, but not without a little wavering and a hint of "will it or won't it stay in the designated lane?" You just don't take corners with the same zest in a rear-wheel-drive sports machine as you would in an all-wheel-drive version in which all four paws are grabbing at the same time.

The Carrera 4 arriving in showrooms features Porsche Stability Management (PSM), which incorporates automatic brake differential, traction control and anti-lock brakes to optimize performance handling by automatically applying the brake to the appropriate wheel to minimize oversteer or understeer.

Only the Carrera 4 offers PSM.

The regular coupe and cabriolet features a new suspension system designed to reduce the rear-end weight bias you experience in a rear-engine car, but that suspension isn't as sophisticated as PSM. At times, you might argue that the regular suspension should be dubbed PMS.

And, as for the 3.4-liter, 296 6: Potent, yes, but at times, on open dry roads (remember, we tested the 911 before the snowstorms), we felt the chute had opened, bringing the horses from gallop to trot. The 3.4-liter doesn't have the Corvette quickness off the line or when pulling out to pass that it will with a turbocharger.

A turbocharged engine would give it the life you come to expect of a Porsche, and the all-wheel-drive would giv e it the stability and control you'd demand from the power boost.

Complaints over?

Well . . .

The steering column telescopes but not enough. And whoever decided to put the owner's manual in a holder under the steering column, where your knees constantly rub against it, should be made to stand in the corner--with knees rubbing raw against the wall. OK, there's no glove box to hold the manual, but a compartment needs to be found or the manual will be tossed aside and its wealth of valuable information lost.

One of the beauties of the new 911 is a roomier cabin that's far less claustrophobic than the previous model. Too bad the seat side bolsters are so narrow you can't take full advantage of the added room.

Then there's the radio with a hard-to-find knob for station selection and the pair of seats in back that are there to keep down the insurance premium that would soar if this was a two-seater.

In fairness, however, those rear seat backs fold flat to form a ledge to hold items, such as a couple sacks of groceries or a duffel bag.

Then, too, the sun visors are teeny-tiny and do little or no good in blocking the sun, which is odd because the inside and outside mirrors are rather large.

Another aggravation comes from the footwell. Most cars provide ample room to work the pedals. In the 911 the wheel wells eat into the room allowed for your feet and pedals. The foot well ends up being so narrow that it's easy to catch your left foot along the wall when using the clutch. Not a lot of room for nimble footwork. In fairness, not all Porsche owners will sport EEE's, but those who do should be advised that their work is cut out for them.

And, of course, there is no cupholder. Too bad because you might be able to stick the owner's manual in it.

The 911 looks very much like a Porsche and very much like a Boxster upfront. The redesign makes the machine look wider and less tubular as had been the case.

For comparison purposes, the mid-engine Boxster sits on a 95.2-inch wheelbase and is 171 inches long. The rear engine 911 is built on a shorter 92.6-inch wheelbase but is longer at 174.5 inches.

Other than above-average performance--which, as we said, would be improved with all-wheel-drive and a turbo boost--there are some exceptionally nice features.

There are little side windows in back to provide better visibility when pulling out of a parking space with the top up.

And the power cloth top is a dream. Push a button and the top unlocks from the header, retracts and hides in the rear compartment. Push the button again and it motors up and fastens at the header. It takes about 20 seconds up or down. May be a bit cool to drive around with the top down now, but when we tested the vehicle we found perfect top-down motoring with the temperature at 59 degrees (hey, that was cold at the time) and the heater at 80.

The cloth top is solid. There's no no ise, no vibration. When the top is down, the only rush of air you get is that against the top of the head, not in your face.

A removable aluminum hardtop comes standard with the 911 cabriolet as well as the 911 Carrera 4 cabriolet.

Base price of the 911 cabriolet we tested is $74,460. Add $765 for freight and $3,500 for the optional navigation system. The Carrera 4 cabriolet starts at $79,920, the Carrera 4 coupe at $70,480.

The navigation system is a most pleasant addition in that the screen clearly points out that your next turn is 7.5 miles ahead with an arrow showing the direction to take and what road to turn on. But if you can manage only a blinking "12:00" on your VCR, take a pass on the $3,500 navigation system.

For those hoping to save a few dollars, the 911 coupe starts at $65,030, almost $10,000 less than the cabriolet and entry-level Boxster starts at $41,000.

Keep in mind, however, that the new 911 is so popular that there is a three - to 12-month wait to get one--about three months for the coupe, about 12 for the cabriolet. More than 50 percent of all 911 sales are cabriolets, the reason for the longer wait.

Porsche sales rose (35 percent) in 1998 for the fifth year in a row, with Boxsters accounting for the greatest share (9,000 units).

>> 1999 Porsche 911 cabriolet
© 1999 Chicago Tribune Wheelbase: 92.6 inches Length: 174.5 inches Engine: 3.4-liter, 296-h.p. 6 Transmission: 6-speed manual Fuel economy: 17 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway Base price: $74,460 Price as tested: $77,960. Includes $3,500 for navigation system. Add $765 for freight. Pluses: Stylish redesign. Roomier cabin. Excellent power cloth top. Minuses: For aggressive, high-performance motoring, get the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4. For more power, wait for the all-wheel-drive turbocharged 911. >>


    Expert Reviews 2 of 4

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