The world has seen its share of sports cars over the last half-century. But year after year, the Porsche 911 emerges an unrivaled victor. The Porsche's performance is, of course, one factor in its dominance, but anyone who has driven a 911 knows this coupe delivers more than just neck-snapping performance.
Somehow, speed-record breaking Porsches are also comfortable in the grocery store parking lot. Even more, the 911 delivers a living, breathing tangible connection between driver and car that simply must be experienced to be understood. This is what sets the Porsche 911 apart from other vehicles (including other Porsches).
Customers looking only for extreme performance have a dizzying list of options in the $80k to $120k price range, but customers who value ease-of-use, daily joy and driver-vehicle connectedness as well as performance usually find that the 911 is their baby.
The 911 traces its origins back to 1959, when Ferdinand Porsche began designing it for the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show. In its 50 history, the 911 has seen refinements, but the major design characteristics and personality remain unchanged. A two-by-two seating configuration (in which the rear seats have never been much more than a shelf) and a rear-mounted engine—all wrapped in the recognizable body shape and unique headlights that have long been the 911's trademarks.
Porsche revealed the latest series of the 911 in 2011, as the third new platform since the original. The revision includes a stronger, more efficient engine, body updates and a more refined interior. Like most auto manufacturers, Porsche switched to electric power steering (a move that improves fuel efficiency and is more or less required to meet new government regulations). As with all other cars that have switched to electric power steering, some purists complain that the driving experience has suffered due to changed feedback from the steering wheel.
Porsche buyers have no shortage of options. The new Porsche Cayman, which starts at $52,00, feels an awful lot like a 911 from a few years ago. Purists and others who set on owning a piece of history with an actual 911 have many options within the 911 family. The "base" 911 coupe starts at about $80k. It offers a 350-horsepower 3.4 liter six cylinder engine, good for a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds. That's incredibly fast, but a bit sleepy compared to other variants of the 911, including the popular Carrera GTS ($103k), the Carrera GTS4 ($110k) and the insanely fast GT2 and GT3, which were developed for Le Mans racing ($245k and $185k, respectively). The 911 GT2 and GT3 are literal super cars that compete with Ferraris and Lamborghinis, with 0-60 times around 3 seconds.
Even in its humblest form, the "base" Porsche 911 offers acceleration and handling that can be fully enjoyed on typical American roads—if not fully tested. Unless you race for a living—or want the status cache of the higher-end 911's, the standard 911 coupe will be more than enough to thrill and comfort you daily.
If you're considering a lease or purchase in this price range, you simply must test a 911 for yourself. Its simple and unstrained delivery of performance and control remain unrivaled. If you have not driven a 911, do yourself a favor, and feel for yourself why this Porsche remains a storied and unrivaled legend.
© Copyright 2013, John Dickerson and John Kehlenbeck Horsepower Auto Reviews