2000 Porsche 911 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
It doesn't get any better than this.
Porsche continues to make one of the world's great sports cars. If you can justify its price, the Porsche 911 Carrera will not disappoint.
Porsche lists eight models, but it comes down to whether you want Coupe or Cabriolet, 2WD or 4WD, 6-speed manual or 5-speed Tiptronic.
The Coupe retails for $65,590, the Cabriolet $71,020. Tiptronic adds $3,420 to the price of all models. Four-wheel drive adds $5,430. The 420-horsepower Turbo will go on sale soon, but pricing was not available at press time.
Based on the 911 Carrera, the 911 Carrera 4 differs mainly in its four-wheel-drive system. Other differences are subtle: Carrera 4 comes with a different wheel design, plainly visible titanium-color brake calipers and a titanium-color logo on the rear engine hood.
Porsche offers special options that allow customers to turn their 911s into unique cars. Special interior trim and exterior pieces along with special paints and leather colors are available. Though expensive, they offer some interesting combinations.
With its classic lines, the Porsche 911 is a beautiful car. Totally redesigned for the 1999 model year, the Carrera's body is longer, wider and sleeker than any before. During its 34-year history, Porsche has refined the 911 body several times, but the roofline and windshield had always remained the same as the original model. For 1999, the roofline, windshield and all other body sections were new. This newest-generation 911 represents the first clean-sheet redesign of this legendary sports car since its introduction in 1965. Nevertheless, it maintains the unmistakable 911 profile and classic styling cues.
Some decry the fact that the 911 shares styling with the front half of the Boxster. You'll have to decide whether that's an issue for you. Most people can easily tell the two apart, though the 911 Carrera Cabriolet can fool you when it is coming directly toward you.
Porsche 911 is packed with more technology than we can adequately cover here: Porsche Stability Management, standard on Carrera 4, optional on Carrera, applies braking force to individual wheels and, if necessary, reduces engine power when it detects a loss of grip at the front or rear. On the racetrack, PSM can lend a helping hand through the slaloms and fast corners.
Though thoroughly modernized in this fourth-generation 911, the interior is unmistakably Porsche. 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. 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.
It is a sports car, however: I had to lay my dry cleaning down on the back seat. By using this back seat, you can make a big grocery run in the 911. But when it came time to pick someone up at the airport, I left the Carrera 4 at home and took a sport-utility vehicle, as luggage capacity is not the 911's forte. Likewise, I jumped in a Range Rover for the hour-long drive to my local trout stream.
For 2000, Porsche upgraded the appearance and feel of interior materials, applying a special soft-touch grain to the console, door trim, instrument panel and other areas. New aluminum-look trim for the shifter, door handles and handbrake release button lends a touch of classic sports car elegance to the design. The automatic climate control now features as standard the previously optional activated charcoal odor filter.
The performance of this Porsche is nothing short of extraordinary.
There are those who argue Porsche's Boxster does nearly everything the 911 can do for $24,000 less. The Boxster is, of course, a terrific sports car and the Boxster S comes even closer. But the 911 provides much more power. Even more noticeable is its chassis sophistication. An example: Charge into a bumpy turn and you'll need to slow the Boxster down a bit because the car will slide toward the outside of the corner as the tires skip over the bumps and momentarily lose grip. In a 911, the massive tires stay in contact with the road because the suspension keeps them there. Whether it's a 30-mph switchback or a 100-mph sweeper, the 911 driver can blast through at the absolute limit. You'll be busier and slower in the Boxster.
The 911 rides very nicely over rough pavement. You know the bumps are there, but they aren't jarring. Some writers have accused this refined new 911 of losing some of its feel, but the Carrera 4 offers plenty of feedback. You can sense the rear weight bias and you can actually feel the changing amounts of grip the front tires have as the car goes through an undulating corner.
With all of its technology, the Carrera 4 may offer better accident avoidance capabilities than any other car on the road. First of all, it has excellent brakes. Huge brake rotors and one-piece calipers derived from the GT1 racecar, along with ideal weight distribution and massive tire contact patches allow the 911 to generate incredible braking forces. As a result, this car takes off speed in no time. Porsche requires brakes to provide 25 consecutive full-force stops without fade. Its anti-lock brake system is excellent, allowing the driver to steer around the problem while braking at the threshold. These 911s stop quicker than just about any production car built.
While the Carrera 4 offers superior traction on slippery surfaces, Porsche designed the system to offer superior handling on mainly dry surfaces; it's designed for performance, not as an all-weather traction assistant. Though it adds a substantial $5,430 to the price, the four-wheel-drive system improves safety and makes this Porsche even easier to drive. From a standing stop, you can crank the steering wheel over for a 90-degree turn and stand on it without any need for steering corrections. The rear end won't slide out (power oversteer) and the front end won't wash out (understeer); the Carrera 4 simply accelerates away -- very quickly. In the middle of an on-ramp, you can stab the throttle then lift abruptly off the throttle and the car won't do anything nasty. It merely takes a different set on the suspension as weight is being transferred fore and aft.
Sports car enthusiasts can easily recognize a Porsche by its sound. Whether one is driving by on a country road or roaring past at Le Mans, they have a distinctive sound that is legendary. Granted, there is no such thing as too much horsepower, but the Carrera 4 did not leave me longing for a Turbo. Output has been increased to 300 horsepower through a new exhaust system for model year 2000, allowing both models to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 5.0 seconds.
Our Carrera 4 came with the Tiptronic transmission. In automatic mode, it's possibly the best, smoothest-shifting automatic I've ever driven. Upshifts and downshifts are super smooth in manual or auto mode. The manual mode is fun: By pressing a button on the steering wheel, you can go down through the gears as you brake for an exit ramp. But it's not necessary to shift manually. The automatic mode works superbly. Auto holds it in gear when it senses you are attacking the corners. All in all, the 911's Tiptronic is a fantastic automatic.
In spite of all that, I'd order my Carrera 4 with the manual gearbox for its superior control, superior performance and superior fun.
Pirelli's P-Zero tires offer good grip. In a week's worth of driving through rural Maryland, I never came.
Yes, there are other sports cars. One could argue that none of them have that Porsche 911 mystique that is impossible to place a value on. One could argue they don't have Porsche's panache. But those arguments aren't necessary because this is truly one of the world's finest sports cars. You can make various arguments by looking at performance numbers. A Viper may beat you at the local road racing circuit, Corvettes offer an excellent value and Ferraris are exotic. But few sports cars can match the Porsche 911's combination of chassis sophistication and power. It is precision machinery. It is easy to drive. And it offers levels of satisfaction that grow over time. As they say, there is no substitute.
2WD Coupe ($65,590); 4WD Coupe ($71,020); 2WD Cabriolet ($74,970); 4WD Cabriolet ($80,400).
Options As Tested
metallic paint ($805); All Leather Seats ($3,215); headlight washers ($225); Litronic headlights ($1,070); 18-in. Turbo Look light alloy wheels ($1,190) includes P225/40ZR18 front tires, P265/35/ZR18 rear tires; On-Board Computer ($275); AM/FM/CD ($345).
4WD Coupe Tiptronic S ($74,440).
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