With its classic lines, the Porsche 911 is a beautiful car. Porsche has refined the 911 body several times during its 40-year history, but the roofline and windshield remained the same as the original model until it was totally redesigned for the 1999 model year. The current Carrera body is longer, wider and sleeker than any before. For 1999, the roofline, windshield and all other body sections were new, representing the first clean-sheet redesign of the legendary sports car since its introduction in 1965. Nevertheless, it maintains the unmistakable 911 profile and classic styling cues.
Carrera models were restyled last year (2002) to look more like the 911 Turbo, which included a new headlight design, reshaped front end, widened rear quarter panels, and redesigned oval exhaust pipes. This better differentiates the 911 from the Porsche Boxster. The design changes were more than cosmetic, however. The new front air intakes increased airflow to the radiators by 15 percent. Reshaping the front wheel arches and adding small flexible spoilers ahead of the front wheels reduced aerodynamic lift by 25 percent at the front and 40 percent at the rear. New air intake ducts enhanced front brake cooling, while a new under-floor duct enhanced transmission cooling by 20 percent. The rear spoiler deploys automatically at higher speeds. Carrera Coupe comes standard with a power sunroof.
Standard aluminum alloy wheels measure 17x7 inches in front with 205/50ZR17 tires; the 17x9-inch rear wheels mount 255/40ZR17 tires. Optional packages mount 18x8-inch wheels with 225/40ZR18 tires in front, 18x10-inch wheels with 285/30ZR18s in back. Porsche Exclusive allows 911 owners to specify special limited-availability paint colors and custom interior trim.
Carrera 4 Cabriolet is distinguished from the C2 Cabriolet by plainly visible titanium-color brake calipers and a titanium-color "Carrera 4" logotype on the rear engine hood.
Turbo is distinguished from the Carrera models by three large intakes that dominate the lower front fascia to provide cooling air to the car's three radiators. The 911 Turbo also has a wider stance, particularly at the rear, where the Turbo is 2.6 inches wider to accommodate its massive rear wheels and tires. It comes fitted with 225/40ZR18 tires on 18x8-inch front wheels and 295/30ZR18s on 18x11-inch rear wheels. Air scoops integrated into the leading edges of the rear fenders channel cool air to the turbo intercoolers, while louvers in the sides of the rear cover let the hot air out. The engine compartment lid carries a two-piece rear wing, the upper part of which automatically rises at speeds above 75 mph and lowers at 50 mph.
Carrera 4S looks almost exactly like the Turbo. The Carrera 4S aggressive front spoiler differs slightly. Carrera 4S retains the automatic-deploying rear spoiler from the 911 Carrera instead of the Turbo's two-piece wing. Carrera 4S shares the Turbo's wide rear stance, but the side intake ducts are not present. From the rear, the C4S is distinguished by its own glass-reinforced plastic decklid with a reflector strip connecting the taillights.
Though thoroughly modernized in this fourth-generation 911, the interior is unmistakably Porsche. Driving position is perfect with excellent lateral support for spirited driving. This is a comfortable car for traveling long distances. Visibility is superb all around and instruments are an attractive, quick read. The ignition key is, of course, on the left, a tradition carried through from a bygone era when Le Mans starts required drivers to run across the pit lane to their car, jump in and take off, fastening their harnesses as they headed onto the front straight.
As comfortable as it is, the Porsche 911 is a sports car. Dry cleaning gets laid on the back seat. By using this back seat, you can make a big grocery run in the 911. Luggage capacity is not the 911's forte, however. Carreras can carry 4.6 cubic feet of cargo in the front trunk and 7.1 cubic feet in the rear with the seats folded. By comparison, a Corvette can carry 13.3 cubic feet, a couple of big duffle bags. When it came time to pick someone up at the airport, we left a Carrera 4 at home and took a sport-utility vehicle. Likewise, I jumped in a Range Rover for an hour-long drive to a trout stream. Cargo matters aside, the Porsche 911 makes for superb daily transportation.
Cabriolet's power soft top folds compactly into a compartment behind the rear seats. It features a glass rear window with integrated defroster. A solid tonneau cover fits flush against the body with the roof lowered, preserving the sleek, uncluttered appearance. An supplemental safety bar structure is ready to deploy automatically in the unlikely event of a rollover. A removable aluminum hardtop with a heated rear window comes standard, but can be deleted for credit.
Targa features a glass roof panel that really lets sun in. A cloth sunblind helps reduce heat and glare when the roof is closed, but only partially. I'm not sure I'd want that much sun all the time. When the glass roof opens, it slides under the rear window. I found it impeded rearward vision somewhat. A wind deflector deploys to reduce turbulence in the cabin. Sliding the cloth screen in place helps keep in heat when it's cold. Unlike the other 911s, the Targa features a glass rear hatch that provides convenient access to the rear luggage compartment. Its design allows provides 8.1 cubic feet of cargo space, compared to 7.1 cubic feet in the Carrera Coupe.
Porsche upgraded the appearance and feel of interior materials for 2000, applying a special soft-touch grain to the console, door trim, instrument panel and other areas. Aluminum-colored trim for the shifter, door handles and handbrake release button lends a touch of classic sports car elegance to the design. The standard automatic climate control comes with an activated charcoal odor filter. Carrera 4S comes with nicer interior trim on the dash and center surround.