EXPERT REVIEW

IndyStar.com's view

Thirty-four years is a long time to wait, but the 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera is worth it.

The ’99 Porsche is the first new 911 in 34 years. What better time than 1998, during Porsche’s golden anniversary, to introduce an automobile whose name is synonymous with great sports cars.

From a design and engineering perspective, the new 911 obviously is a Porsche, but its relationship to past 911s mainly is image.

Gone is the air-cooled, flat-6 engine. That has been replaced by a liquid-cooled flat-6. The body is new, has a longer wheelbase and overall length. There is more passenger cabin space. The brakes and suspension are new. The wheels and tires are 17 inches vs. 16-inches for the former 911.

The horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine mounted behind the rear axle is a signature feature of 911 models. For ’99, the engine is smaller but more powerful than its predecessor.

Displacing 3.4-liters (207 cubic inches), the new engine produces 296-horsepower and 258 foot pounds of torque. By comparison, its predecessor opposed-six displaced 220 cubic inches and developed 282-horsepower and 250 foot pounds of torque.

Utilizing Porsche’s VarioCam valve timing system, resonance intake system, and Bosch Motronic M 5 ignition/fuel injection controls, the new liquid-cooled 3.4 is a prime example of doing more with less.

When coupled to a manual six-speed gear box with altered gear ratios, those horses gallop from zero to 100 kilometers per hour (0-62 mph) in 5.4 seconds. When running flat-to-the-floor, it is highly recommended you sit up straight and steer, as top speed is rated at 171 miles per hour.

Porsche’s five-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission is offered with the 911. The automatic, which can be shifted manually, drops the 0-100 kph slightly, with the Tiptronic turning a 0-62 mph time of 6.0 seconds.

Putting the shift lever in D permits the Tiptronic to function as a full automatic. Moving the lever to M places the transmission in manual mode, and upshifts or downshifts are controlled by buttons on the spokes of the steering wheel.

The Tiptronic is about as slick a gearbox as there is, with electronic control units working in conjunction with the engine. To ensure smooth shifting, the controls briefly suppress engine ignition during each shift.

Mechanicals do not a sports automobile make, as far as someone wanting to own and drive one. As a consequence, the new body offers more of everything.

From its front bumpers to the windshield, the 911 shares its looks and contours with the Boxer. From the A-pillars back, it goes its own way.

The windshield has been given more rake than ever before, and now is laid back 55 degrees from the previous 60 degrees. The body’s torsional stiffness has been increased 45 percent. Bending stiffness has been increased 50 percent.

Also offered is a new dashboard design, instrument panel layout, dual front and side airbags, a telescoping steering column and an automatic temperature control syste m. New for the first time in a 911 are suspended brake and clutch pedal. The accelerator pedal still is floor-mounted.

There are substantial increases in the wheelbase and length. The wheelbase now is out to 92.6 inches, 3.2 inches more than the previous model.

Overall length is l74.5 inches, an increase of 6.8 inches. Width also is up, 69.5 inches versus a previous 68.3.

The car still stands at the same 51.8 inches. However, laden ground clearance has been reduced by nearly an inch. In effect, this makes the 911 taller for increased interior space.

As is expected, a full complement of power accessories is standard, along with an audio system, cruise and a sunroof.

With a lower floor and a reshaped roofline, the 911 with a sliding sunroof has more headroom than the previous model without one.

The Porsche is rated as a four-place coupe. And, while there is more leg room front and back courtesy of the increased length, rear seat space must be regarded as limited at best.

Th e model always has borne the image of being a driver’s car, and this new one certainly carries forth the Porsche flag on the performance front – but at a price, since the 911 has been a high-dollar proposition from the start.

The 911 Carrera, as represented locally by Tom Wood Porsche, has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $65,030.

If you opt for the Tiptronic transmission the sticker reads $68,450.

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