For a full half century now, the Porsche 911 has defined what a pure, no compromises sports car can, and more importantly, should be.
And during the last 50 years, the 911 has stayed laser-focused and true to Porsche’s vision of a sports car through countless automotive trends, market changes and fads.
If you bought a 911 new in 1964 and a 2014 model today, you would instantly understand the connection, how what the German automaker created way back when has evolved into what it is today. The new 911, now in its seventh generation, is every bit as targeted today as it was in ’64. And that’s a very good thing indeed.
Despite myriad Porsche models that have come and gone since the launch of the 911 – everything from the 914 to the 924 and 928, and now the Panamera, Cayenne and Macan – some purists still regard the 911 as only “true” Porsche model. I wouldn’t go that far, certainly, but it remains as iconic today as it was in the 1960s.
I guess I’m waxing nostalgic a bit because this week’s test car is in some ways a bit of throwback, a base 2014 911 Carrera coupe, sparsely optioned with a 7-speed manual transmission, no sunroof and minimal extras. And came trimmed in the definitive Porsche colors, with Guards Red paint – a/k/a Arrest Me Red – over a beautiful black leather interior.
With a base price of $84,300, the 911 Carrera is the least expensive of the 16 separate 911 models Porsche lists on its website. The 16 are differentiated by a choice of two- or four-wheel-drive; base or higher horsepower powerplants; naturally aspirated or turbocharged engines; and a host of other options and features. And price, too.
The more powerful 400-horsepower 911 Carrera S model starts at $98,900, while the 911 50th Anniversary Edition starts at $125,095. Let’s not forget the top-of-the-line 911 Turbo S Cabriolet, which is a wallet-melting $195,595 dollars. Real money that is right there, folks.
Also, it should be noted that Porsche offers no less than 10 option package categories, with more than 100 options offered within those packages. It’s really easy to make an $84,300 car quickly become a $100,000+ car.
That said there was something refreshingly old school about our tester, which mercifully lacked some of the tacked on frippery.
The base 911 comes with a 3.4-liter, horizontally opposed, six-cylinder engine, which produces 350 horsepower and 287-pound-feet of torque. Those numbers might not sound especially impressive, but given that the base 911 weighs barely over 3,000 pounds, it’s enough to move this car with alacrity. And the new powerplant is both smaller in displacement and more fuel efficient than the engine it replaces.
The base 911 goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.6 seconds, with a top speed of 179 miles per hour. It’s quicker still with the optional PDK 7-speed automatic transmission and Sport Plus package. In that trim configuration, 0-60 mph takes just 4.2 seconds.
Of course, Porsche’s have never been about straight-line speed. The joy that one experiences behind the wheel of a Porsche hits its peak when the road gets twisty and full of turns.
To that end, Porsche has substantially improved the seventh-generation 911 so that it handles even better than before. The new 911 is longer, lower and has a wider front track. It is also chocked full of new high-tech goodies including a new rear axle design to improve dynamic precision and stability, a new electro-mechanical power steering system, Porsche Torque Vectoring, Porsche Active Suspension Management and enhanced dynamic engine mount technology.
“The result raises the bar in driving dynamics with even more sure-footed tracking and roll stability,” Porsche says. And I would be hard pressed to refute that.
The new 911 feels so completely connected to the road that it feels like it’s hard-wired directly to your brain. Push the 911 hard through the corners and it seems to anticipate your needs, with amazing reflexes that allow you to push hard with confidence.
Years ago, Porsche fixed the old trailing-throttle oversteer bugaboo that made the early 911s a handful at the limit of grip. The new 911 is much easier to drive, in my opinion, but it demands that the driver stay involved and engaged. This isn’t the kind of car where you put the cruise control and blandly go 75 miles per hour for hours on end.
Nope, this car insists you drive it and prefers when you drive it hard. And it is a genuine pleasure to drive a high-performance sports car that feels so utterly in control at all times.
From a cosmetic standpoint, it’s pretty basic, really: Anyone who knows anything about sports cars who takes one brief look at this car, knows it’s a Porsche 911. It virtually cannot be mistaken for anything else. The design, while updated, is timeless and in step with the original.
In short, Porsche has done exactly what it set out to do with the 911: Take a great car and make it even better. Surely, the seventh-generation 911 is the best 911 yet and certain to continue to hold its rightful place high up in the automotive hierarchy.
Vehicle Type: rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car
Engine: 3.4-liter flat six, 350 horsepower, 287 ft.lbs. of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed manual
Wheelbase: 96.46 inches.
Overall length: 176.81 inches
Curb weight: 3042 pounds
EPA fuel mileage: 19 city/27 highway