Some sports car fans are never fully satisfied. A reasonable person might assume that a Porsche with 300 horsepower would be quite sufficient. But Porsche revived its Turbo coupe as an early 2001 model, packing a turbocharged 415-hp engine into the back end of its illustrious 2+2 coupe. Buyers who want a convertible will have to be content with the tamer engine, but they can specify a Carrera 4 with all-wheel drive rather than the customary base rear-drive 911 Carrera.
Equipped with all-wheel drive, Turbo models are more aggressively styled at the front and rear and ride 18-inch tires instead of the customary 17-inchers. A biplane two-piece rear spoiler on the Turbo, which raises when the car reaches 75 mph, is supposed to enhance high-speed stability. The Turbo traces its engine and brake system back to Porsches GT1 racing car, which triumphed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998. Porsche offers the Turbo with the worlds first ceramic composite brake discs as an option added during the 2001 model year.
The automakers electronic stability system called Porsche Stability Management is now available as an option for rear-drive Carreras. Its standard on all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 models.
Not much has changed in the 911s sleek, low, curvaceous shape since the car was redesigned for 1999. In fact, because that restyling was evolutionary in nature, the current models display an overall profile and fastback roofline not unlike the one exhibited by 911s for the previous 34 years though todays 911 is longer than its ancestors and gained all-new sheet metal in 1999. An optional aluminum hardtop for convertibles contains a glass back window with a defogger.
Front-end appearance is partially shared with the Porsche Boxster. Nearly devoid of extraneous trim, the smoothly contoured body looks the part of a near-supercar. The new Turbo is bolder yet in appearance, with a wide stance especially at the rear bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlight clusters, and different front and rear styling. Three large intake grilles dominate the lower front fascia, which sends air to the Turbos three radiators. Air scoops integrated into the leading edges of rear fenders channel air to intercoolers.
Called a four-passenger automobile by Porsche, 911s have plenty of space for front-seat occupants in their leather-trimmed seats. But backseat riders are in trouble, especially in the convertible, if theyre much bigger than a child. Even youngsters might complain if theyre relegated to the rear.
Standard coupe equipment includes fog lights, air conditioning, a telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, a power sunroof, heated power mirrors, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, a cassette stereo system, rear spoiler, theft-deterrent system and a split, folding rear seat. Carrera 4 convertibles come with a removable hardtop, while the regular Carrera has a fabric top. Options include a satellite-based navigation system, power front seats with memory, heated front seats, a CD player or changer, Litronic headlights and headlight washers. Coupes can have an optional sport suspension and a roof rack.
Under the Hood
Carrying on the Porsche tradition that dates back to the 1950s, the water-cooled 3.4-liter base six-cylinder engine, with horizontally opposed cylinders, is mounted at the rear of the car. Dubbed a boxer engine because of its cylinder layout, it develops 300 hp vs. 415 hp for the 3.6-liter Turbo, which employs twin turbochargers. Before 1999, engines for the 911 were air-cooled, but liquid coolant is used now.
Both engines team with a six-speed-manual or an optional five-speed-automatic transmission (never before available on the Turbo), the latter fitted with Tiptronic for manual gear selection. Manual-shift buttons are right on the steering wheel, so gear changes can be made without taking ones hands off the wheel an idea borrowed from auto racing. Porsche claims that a Turbo can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than 4.2 seconds.
All 911 models have side-impact airbags and all-disc antilock brakes. Supplemental safety bars pop out of the rear deck of convertibles if sensors detect an impending rollover.
Piloting a Porsche 911 in any form is like driving a legend in its own time. Measured against Porsches of the past, its also comparatively easy to drive a fact that could drive down its value in the eyes of some purists who actually favor traditional, periodically skittery behavior. Because the 911 has become a rather civilized road machine, its actually possible to forget from time to time that youre driving something so special. Even the familiar engine whine isnt as omnipresent as it used to be, though its definitely noticeable. The 911s exhaust note, on the other hand, is subdued yet alluring.
Wedded-to-the-road handling and directional stability are neatly enhanced by the Carrera 4s all-wheel-drive system. Although the ride is super on the highway, the 911s suspension reacts harshly at times on rougher pavement. Acceleration is energetic in all six forward speeds, though true Porsche aficionados wont be satisfied with anything less than the super-hot Turbo. Porsches delightful gearbox just loves to be manipulated, matched by easier-than-expected clutch action.
Snug-fitting seats are tempting to many riders but may be disdained by others. Storage space is meager. Drawbacks aside, the 911 remains what its always been: a coupe or convertible to be coveted and savored to the fullest.