New & Used Porsche 911: In Depth
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The Porsche 911 is a rear-engined sports car available in both rear- and all-wheel-drive form, as well as in coupe, cabriolet, and targa body types. Most versions are configured as a 2+2, although some feature just a pair of front seats. While it has evolved significantly over the past half-century, the Porsche 911 remains an icon of both style and performance. The 911 competes, roughly, with the Audi R8, Jaguar F-Type, Chevrolet Corvette, and the new Mercedes-AMG GT.
It's available from prices between $80,000 up to more than $240,000, offering a 911 that will suit just about any taste.
Since 1963, the 911 has seen nearly endless permutations, yet there have been only five major generational changes. The original 911 ran from 1963 to 1989 in its core form with a variety of rear-mounted engines, including turbocharged variants. It established the fastback, sloping hood, and bulging fender look that has defined the car's exterior appearance ever since. The second-generation, 964-series 911 ran from 1989 to 1993. It added four-wheel drive as an option, an automatically deploying rear spoiler, anti-lock brakes, and power steering. These all served to improve handling, performance, and daily usability, but somewhat softened the 911's image. The third generation, or 993-series, 911 saw an all-new front- and rear-end treatment, though the spirit of the original still showed through. A new multi-link rear suspension improved handling, and the chassis was improved for further gains. This was the final generation that used an air-cooled engine.
The fourth-generation 996 series 911 moved to a water-cooled engine but kept the famous flat-six layout. It also was the first complete redesign of the 911's exterior, each body panel different yet adding up to a look that still adhered to the classic 911 formula. All-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, turbo, twin-turbo, GT3, and GT2 variants offered a wide variety of performance options that all relied on the same core underpinnings.
The 997 series of the 911 Carrera began its run in 2005. Initially offered with a 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder, the 997 911 upgraded to a 3.8-liter engine in the Carrera S. Available in both coupe and cabriolet forms, the 997 911 could be had in no fewer than 17 variants, including the Carrera, Cabriolet, Targa, and Turbo each offering all-wheel-drive and sportier 'S' variants, plus the GT3, GT3 RS, and GT2 RS. This wide variety of models ranged in output from 345 horsepower in the base Carrera to 620 horsepower in the GT2 RS. Transmissions available included a six-speed manual and a seven-speed dual-clutch Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK). The name translates very simply—and logically—to Porsche dual-clutch gearbox.
Today's 911 range
For the 2012 model year, Porsche introduced the 991 series, though it continued sales of some 997 models as well. The new 991 boasts upgraded engines, a new seven-speed manual transmission, a revised PDK dual-clutch transmission, a wider front track and longer wheelbase. In addition, the 991 911 is about 100 pounds lighter than the 997. A heavily revised and improved interior makes it the most comfortable yet, and the improvements to the chassis and powertrain make the 991 generation the most high-performance production 911 to date as well.
The Carrera 4 and 4S joined the model lineup in the 2013 model year, in both coupe and cabriolet variants. With wider rear track than the rear-drive Carreras, the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 range adds improved traction in foul weather while maintaining the rest of the 911's excellent dynamic characteristics. Also new for 2013 was a standard adaptive cruise control system in PDK-equipped models, as well as forward collision avoidance and a panoramic glass sunroof option.
The 991-based GT3 joined the range at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, bringing with it a 3.8-liter engine rated at 475 horsepower, a new GT3-specific setup for its PDK transmission, and rear steering. This track-focused version of the 911 confused some traditionalists with its lack of a manual transmission option, but for those focused on track performance, it makes perfect sense.
The highest-power versions of the 911, the Turbo and Turbo S, arrived for the 2014 model year, bringing up to 560 hp and brutally quick acceleration, hitting 60 mph in as little as 2.9 seconds. Both coupe and Cabriolet versions of the 911 Turbo and Turbo S are available.
For 2015, Porsche has added Targa models of the 911 with standard all-wheel drive and either base (Targa 4) or S-level (Targa 4S) powertrains. The 911 GTS makes its first appearance in the 991 generation, offering performance above the Carrera S; it will once again be available as a coupe or a convertible and with or without all-wheel drive. The GTS gets a 430-hp version of the Carrera S's flat-six engine and can reach 60 mph in as little as 3.8 seconds with the right equipment. And as if it needed more model variants, Porsche launched a Targa 4 GTS at the 2015 Detroit auto show, combining the Targa body, all-wheel drive, and the GTS's hopped-up engine. This puts the current 911 variant count at 20 and counting.
Porsche has also introduced a new Aerokit package for the 911 Turbo and Turbo S, which adds extra aerodynamic body parts to increase downforce. An adjustable rear spoiler is part of the package, with two settings that increase downforce in different amounts. The kit can be aded to a new purchase or retrofitted to a Turbo post-factory.
The 2016 model year will see the addition of a new 911 GT3 RS. It builds on the GT3's specs, offering a lighter body, refined aerodynamics with a huge rear wing, a 500-hp flat-six engine, and a standard PDK automatic transmission. It is visually differentiated by the aero differences as well as a new take on the front ender vent.
Yet more powerful and high-performance versions of the 911 are likely in the works, including a possible return of the Porsche 911 GT2, a model last seen in the 997 generation. The 911 GT3 models will soon be joined by a Cayman GT4, offering many of the GT3's lightweight parts in a more affordable package.