Porsche 911 is an automotive icon, a world-class standard in sports cars. Many of us grew up wanting one. Today's Porsche 911 offers the latest in engine and chassis technology and more performance than all but a few exotic cars sold in America. What's really impressive, though, is how easy it is to drive a 911. It's easier to drive quickly than the Italian exotics or, for that matter, the Dodge Viper, and it's easier to live with on a daily basis.
Porsche 911 is built on race-proven architecture with a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine mounted in the rear. Upgraded and enlarged last year, Porsche's normally aspirated boxer engine, which comes on all Carrera and Targa models, delivers 315 horsepower. Porsche strengthened the body structure last year and revised the front styling to make the 911 models look more like the 911 Turbo, less like the mid-engine Boxster. About the only change for 2003 was the installation of a new digital AM/FM in-dash CD stereo.
Let's cut to the chase: The 911 Carrera Coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds, according to Porsche. That should be more than quick enough for anyone. For those who need more, the 415-horsepower 911 Turbo can accelerate from 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 189 mph. The lighter, race-inspired GT2 delivers even quicker performance and a top speed of 195. For most of us, the normally aspirated models are more than quick enough and cost significantly less. New for 2003 is the GT3, the most powerful non-turbocharged Porsche has ever offered for street use in North America. Accelerating from 0 to 60 happens in just 4.3 seconds and it can hit 100 in 9.4 with a top track speed of 190.
Handling and braking are extraordinary. Steering is quick and direct, yet the car isn't darty and feels as solid as Gibraltar on the highway. Handling is devoid of any of the characteristics of the Porsche 911s of old. It rides smoothly and more softly than you might expect. It's an easy car to live with on a daily basis, easier than a Boxster. The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth and wonderful. Order the Tiptronic automatic and just about anyone could drive one of these cars. And that sound! The classic Porsche exhaust sound returned to the 911 last year along with the increased power and improved efficiency.
Porsche continues to make some of the world's greatest sports cars, and you're looking at one of them. A 911 doesn't come cheap, however. Its purchase price is high, even more so when options are added in, and Porschephiles love options. Past 911s have been costly to maintain. If you can justify the price, though, the latest Porsche 911 should more than live up to your expectations.
Eight iterations of the Porsche 911 are now available. Assuming you can't justify a Turbo or the highly focused GT2 or GT3 models, it comes down to whether you want a hardtop, a convertible, or the Targa with its unique sliding glass roof. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available and there's a choice between six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic automatic.
Carrera and Targa models all come with the same normally aspirated (non-turbo) engine rated 315 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 273 pounds-feet of torque at 4250. Porsche's six-speed manual gearbox is standard; the five-speed Tiptronic S automatic ($3,420) is optional.
Carrera Coupe ($68,600) is rear-wheel drive. It is the least expensive 911. It's lighter and, therefore, slightly quicker than the other regular-production normally aspirated Porsches. (The exception is the new race-inspired GT3.) The 911 Carrera Coupe is sometimes called the C2, or Carrera 2, for Carrera 2WD.
Targa ($76,000) features a giant sliding power glass roof that opens nearly twice the size of the sunroof of the Carrera Coupe.
Carrera Cabriolet ($78,400) features a fully automatic convertible top.
Carrera 4 Cabriolet ($78,400) adds all-wheel drive to the convertible. Its styling is shared with the Carrera 2 models. The main difference here is the all-wheel-drive system, which directs anywhere from 5 percent to 40 percent of the power to the front wheels, depending on available traction and how hard the driver is pushing down on the throttle. The all-wheel-drive system is not intended to merely serve as an all-weather traction assistant. Instead, it is designed to help the driver handle unexpected curves and bends. is optional. The Porsche Stability Management System is standard on the Carrera 4 Cabriolet.
Carrera 4S ($81,800) combines the 315-hp normally asipirated 911 Carrera engine with the 911 Turbo model's body design and feature content. It shares the Turbo's suspension, all-wheel-drive layout, huge brakes, and massive wheels and tires. Only well-trained eyes can distinguish the Carrera 4S from the Turbo.
Turbo ($116,200) gets Porsche's race-derived 415-hp twin-turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. It develops an awesome 415 lb.-ft. of torque at 2700-4600 rpm. If that isn't enough, an optional engine performance package increases the twin turbo's output to 444 hp and 457 lbs.-ft. of torque.
911 models come well equipped with the new digital radio and in-dash CD player, automatic climate control, heated power mirrors, partial leather seats with power recliners, power windows with one-touch auto up/down, telescoping steering wheel, anti-theft system, trip computer. LEDs gently illuminate door handles, ignition switch, and light switch. Turbo and Carrera 4S get full leather seat upholstery and full-power adjustable seats.
GT2 ($181,700) is lighter and more powerful than the Turbo. More boost pressure helps it develop 456 hp at 5700 rpm and 457 lb.-ft. of torque at 3500-4500 rpm. It's 200 pounds lighter by eliminating all-wheel drive, the spare tire, the rear seats, and by using lighter sport seats in front. 0 to 60 comes in less than 4 seconds and lap times are improved. The ultimate Porsche model for 2003, the GT2 broke all-time track records for street-legal production cars while testing at Germany's famed Nurburgring racetrack.
GT3 ($99,900), new for 2003, takes a similar less is more approach as the GT2, but is powered by the normally aspirated engine tuned to 380 hp and 285 lb.-ft. of torque.
Standard safety technology on all 911 models includes dual frontal airbags, door-mounted side airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), and a patented crumple-zone body structure. The available Porsche Stability Management System (PSM) enhances handling by applying braking to individual wheels or altering engine power whenever it detects a loss of grip.
Porsche offers special options that allow customers to turn their 911s into unique cars. Special interior trim and