The Porsche 911 is the benchmark in the sports car class, the car that all others are measured against. It’s been around forever, Porsche’s perseverance with the rear-engine format giving its some unique attributes, not least its ability to offer rear seats, which makes it among the more practical and complete sports car offerings out there. That has undoubtedly helped it maintain its enduring success, though there’s real authenticity to the 911, as it has won pretty much every race it’s eligible to compete in – its success on the track has been matched by huge sales. Part of that is attributable to the sheer proliferation of models Porsche offers. The coupe range is introduced by the Carrera, followed by the faster Carrera S and the GTS above that, with rear- or four-wheel drive and manual or automatic transmissions to choose from. It’s these coupes that are the focus here. All of those can also be had as a conventional folding cloth-roofed Cabriolet, or the Targa with its incredible folding hardtop. As if that lot isn’t enough there’s the track-focused GT3 and even more intense GT3 RS, while the four-wheel-drive Turbo (in Coupe or Cabriolet body styles) heads the comprehensive range. There’s a 911 for everyone then, and, it seems everyone wants one, for good reason too.
Did you know? Porsche’s 911 is commonly referred to by its internal code number; it’s 991 now, or, if you’re really geeky, 991.2 – for second generation.
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It is difficult to think of a more complete sports car than the Porsche 911. That’s not just down to the volume of choice, but also the breadth of ability any of them offer. Even the entry-level Carrera is an engaging, exciting car to drive, yet for all its thrilling sports car attributes it’s also a capable GT car, and, thanks in no small part to the practicality of its cabin, a high performance car that can genuinely be used every day. It might be the default choice and fairly omnipresent as a result, but you’ll not care when you’re driving it, as any 911 is special from behind the wheel. Part of that is down to its unique make-up, Porsche persisting with an engine concept and layout that, were it not for the company’s engineering determination, should have slid backwards up an evolutionary cul-de-sac many, many decades ago. Yet the flat-six boxer engine, and more importantly its rear location, is essential to the 911’s DNA and appeal; the 911 is a Galapagos Tortoise that’s built a raft and not let its evolutionary quirks stop it from conquering the world. The layout might be unusual then, but its engines are now 3.0-litre units and all turbocharged. The chassis they power has been honed to the point of obsession and the results speak for themselves, on road and track.
Design & Exterior
Interior & Comfort
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Specs & Trims
Running Costs & Fuel Economy
It’s a 911
Beautifully built, loaded with character
A genuinely useable and practical sports car
We Don’t Like
Seven-speed manual not as sweet as it could be
Not cheap, and options make it more expensive
Lots of road noise from the front wheels
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Design & Exterior: (9/10)
Instantly recognisable as a Porsche 911, the shape is so familiar that it’s pretty much entered the lexicon of modern iconography. Defined by its unique engine position as much as it is its history, Porsche is nothing if not cautious with its approach to design. That’s a huge part of its appeal though, as any 911 is obviously that, linking to all the generations that preceded it. From the low bonnet between slightly raised wings and large, near round headlights, to the expansive back, the rear wings covering a generous wide track, it’s a shape formed as much by necessity and function as it has been influenced by a stylist, and that’s to its benefit. But there is still some really sharp detailing on it; the rear lights are Porsche’s technically-shaped lenses, within which there are LEDs, while the front lights project Porsche’s new lighting signature, obviously contained within its traditional, near round covering.
The Carreras are all largely unadorned, their shape not upset by the addenda added elsewhere in the 911 line-up. Visually, few will be able to spot the difference between the Carrera and Carrera S, especially if you opt for the free badge delete on the spec list, though if you want a quick clue the S has four circular tailpipes over the Carrera’s two, while the S also gets red painted brake callipers behind its 20-inch alloy wheels; the Carrera’s wheels are 19 inches in diameter and those brakes are painted black, lose two pistons for just four and clutch slightly smaller discs. The GTS ups the differences a bit visually, coming with centre hub lock wheels from the range-topping Turbo, finished in contrasting black – as are the tailpipes, engine grille and badging. The GTS also sits some 20mm lower than a Carrera thanks to its PASM Sport specification suspension and features the slightly wider body of the four-wheel-drive models. Confused? You could be, as the 911 model range is extensive, but all look great, so you can’t really go wrong.
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Interior & Comfort: (8/10)
Much is made of the practicality and space of the 911’s cabin, and rightly so. With previous 911s you did pay for that space with materials that, being kind, were a bit sub-par, and being unkind weren’t really good enough to justify Porsche’s premium pricing. The 991 series really changed that, and the 991.2 upped things to another level, more of which is explained in Technology and Connectivity below. The driving position remains excellent, the instruments ahead dominated by a large analogue rev counter, the steering wheel smaller and related to the 918 hypercar in its design. The fit and finish are now exemplary, even if it’s a touch lacking in oddment space, while the cupholders that spring out from a hidden panel above the glove compartment are pretty hopeless. This is a sports car though, so such nit-picking reveals the cabin’s otherwise pretty much spot on, though as with any Porsche, to experience it at its very best you’ll need to tick a lot of expensive options. At least now it feels like it’s worth it. Refinement is decent, the noises entering the cabin mostly the right ones (the engine), though the 911’s Achilles’ heel of road noise remains, with tyre noise at motorway speeds becoming tiresome on longer journeys.
While the 145 litres the front boot holds might sound a bit rubbish, it’ll swallow a couple of overnight carry-on cases, or bigger, soft bags if you’re happy to squash them in the deep luggage compartment. Thing is, the 911’s got loads of space inside, as there’s a pair of seats in the back, which add useful carrying capacity, and even fold to provide a flat deck onto which you can chuck bigger items. As actual seats they’re best described as ‘occasional’, Porsche itself describing the 911 rightly as a 2+2, but they’re not so compromised to rule them out for children to use. A sports car you can justify to your other half, then, it not the perfect family car, admittedly, but if you’re stuck for the school run it’ll manage it. Try that in an Audi R8 and you’ll need to call a cab. With the GTS it’s possible to delete the rear seats for free, if you’re after the lowest weight possible, though tempting as it is to do so, we’d not recommend it.
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Technology & Connectivity: (8/10)
Porsche hasn’t just doggedly hung onto its ancient engine positioning, but until very recently it had blinkers on regarding the connected modern world we lived in. The 991.2 addressed that, adding a touch and button operated screen in the centre of the dashboard, featuring telephone connectivity, navigation, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay, wireless internet access, Porsche Car Finder, Remote Services, and tracking. If you’ve not got an iPhone then tough, as Porsche has pinned its flag to the Apple mast, not bothering to have the sort of all-encompassing connectivity services on offer if you’re not an Apple disciple.
To that standard kit there’s the option to add upgraded audio via either a Bose or Burmester surround sound system, the availability of a TV Tuner, and even an electronic logbook, which is expensive for some reason. New to the 991.2 Carreras with PDK and Sport Chrono is the rather unimaginatively named ‘Mode Switch’, which removes the need to fiddle about with the drive settings elsewhere (and adds a ‘push to pass’ button that makes the 911 react like a cucumber-surprised cat), all operated via a simple dial knob on the steering wheel itself.
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Performance & Handling: (9/10)
Over half a century of honing that rear-engine drivetrain has seen Porsche reach the point where the 911 is nothing to be feared. The chassis is sublime, its control incredible, the traction that engine location allows meaning the four-wheel-drive models aren’t really necessary most of the time. The steering is among the best of the current generation of electrically powered systems, the precision of the front axle superb, though it’s possible to increase speed of turn-in response – as well as the high-speed stability – by optioning the rear-axle steering system. Indeed, while the base Carrera will be more than enough for most, those wanting sharper responses can also choose PASM Sport, which lowers the chassis by a further 10mm over the already standard PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management). Choosing Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) adds an active anti-roll system to the mix, too, though without it the 911 corners fairly flatly anyway; the GTS comes with PASM Sport as standard – highlighting that model’s greater focus. Both the S and GTS gain Porsche Torque Vectoring, too, with a mechanical limited slip differential in the manual cars; PDK equipped models get an electronically controlled differential. There’s also the choice of PCCB, Porsche’s carbon ceramic brake package, but unless you’re on track in it every weekend you’ll not find the standard brakes wanting, and your wallet will thank you too as they’re very expensive.
The GTS gets a hike in power over the 370hp Carrera and 420hp Carrera S, making its output of 450hp the same as a 911 GT3 RS a couple of generations back. That underlines the march of progress, as does the fact that all the engines are now turbocharged, ostensibly in the pursuit of greater economy and lower emissions, but real-world the economy benefits aren’t that obvious. What is though is how the 3.0-litre turbocharged engine changes the character of the 911. With the old naturally aspirated engines you needed to get the revs up to be rewarded with the best performance – and sound. That’s just not necessary with the 991.2, as forced induction boosts low-rev torque, making them easier, and to many, less demanding (read engaging) cars to drive. They’re quieter too, so option the sports exhaust. For the majority of buyers, the ease the turbocharged engines bring is beneficial, and Porsche has still endowed the accelerator with the sort of pin-sharp response that’ll have you doubting its forced induction, regardless of which one you’re in.
The Carrera reaches 62mph in 4.6 seconds from rest; adding Porsche’s PDK twin-clutch paddle-shifted auto drops that time further still; and if you add Sport Chrono into the mix you get launch control for even greater off-the-line pace. The S is about 0.3 of a second quicker than the equivalent Carrera, while the four-wheel-drive models use their traction advantage to shave a tenth or so off their rear-driven relations’ times – the Carrera 4 GTS PDK wears a sub-four-second 0-62mph time, which, given the 911’s billing as merely a sports car, is incredible. All said, we’d have the manual, even if any model with the seven-speed gearbox isn’t as quick as its PDK relation (nor as slick as shift as we’d really like), as it adds a dimension to the 911 driving experience that makes it so much more enjoyable and, increasingly among its rivals, unique.
Recommended engine: 911 Carrera GTS manual
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Safety Features: (7/10)
The 911 comes with a full suite of airbags, including driver and passenger front, side, thorax bags, as well as curtain airbags. There are seatbelt pre-tensioners up front, plus ISOFIX preparation for the front passenger seat, ABS with traction and stability control as standard too. There’s also Blind Spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, but they’re options.
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Specs and Trim Levels: (6/10)
The 911 comes with the standard Porsche palette with black, white, yellow, and red no-cost options, an additional eight metallic hues and four ‘special’ colours possible on top of that. Porsche’s Exclusive department can ‘paint to sample’ your 911 any colour you choose.
As with the rest of the range trims are defined by the engine’s output. So there’s Carrera, Carrera S, and Carrera GTS. All come moderately equipped, so the intricacies of the differences need plentiful Porsche configurator time to truly understand. You can’t go wrong with the GTS though, as it adds all the kit you’d want on an S, with a bit more power, too.
Size and Dimensions
Figures below are for the Carrera 2
Max towing weight without brake
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Running Costs & Fuel Economy: (7/10)
The 911 is a sports car, with the associated costs, though Porsche’s economy figures aren’t too bad, while the emissions keep the Porsche relatively sensible on the running costs front. Start factoring in the level of performance the 911 brings and it all starts to look quite reasonable.
Reliability and servicing
There’s a service indicator inside, but we’d have it looked at more often than it perhaps suggests.
20,000 miles or every two years
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The 911 might not be quite as much of a bargain as it once might have seemed, but it’s got near supercar performance, which does tend to soften the blow. It’s a shame you need to spend so much on extras (many of which are arguably essentials), but that’s long been the Porsche way and it’s done nothing to dent sales.
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The 911 Carrera GTS, manual, it’s all you need. Brilliant.
With any you can option ISOFIX on the passenger seat and fit babies in the back, too. No?
Buy a bog-standard Carrera 2 and have it de-badged, Porsche does that for free.
More exotic, more exclusive, but not as rounded, however magnificent it is.
BMW 6 Series
BMW really needs a 911 competitor and the 6 Series isn’t really it.
Folding hard-topped SL is as long-lived and iconic as the 911, but it’s more a cruiser than sports car.
Arguably Porsche’s toughest foe, but the 911 is the wiser choice
Aston Martin Vantage
Ancient but growing old beautifully, it’s more charming, if not as polished as the 911.
What others say
“The half-century lineage has had its ups and downs, but there’s never been a class act like the 911.”
“A fantastic sports car and one of the few you could live with every day.”