Porsche 911 Coupe review (2004 - 2011)
The Porsche 911 is among most iconic cars ever, and a genuinely usable everyday supercar
Originally launched in 1963, the Porsche 911 has always been the mainstay of the whole Porsche range. And despite its practical four-seat nature, the range has the power and performance to worry supercars like the Audi R8 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage S. In fact, with a Coupe, Cabriolet, Targa and Speedster model available there is a Porsche 911 for everyone. Even when the bodystyle has been chosen, there’s a range of flat-six engines, auto and manual gearboxes and rear or four-wheel drive. There’s no eco model to choose, but the GT3 RS4.0 and GT2 RS are two of the most hardcore production cars available on the market.
Our choice: Porsche 911 Carrera S coupe
Park a current 911 next to one of the 1963 originals and it’s clear where the design inspiration has come from, and the evolutionary styling continues to split opinion. However, regardless of your take on it, the 911 has more visual impact than the BMW 6 Series or Jaguar XK. Still, it’s the most basic models that have the cleanest lines, the extreme versions often looking a little cartoonish. Even in cabriolet form it’s a distinctive car with plenty of visual attitude. There’s a narrow body Carerra, an optional wide body with muscular rear haunches as found on the turbo models and the GT2 and GT3 RS are the most expensive. The driving position is nigh-on perfect, and the controls all have a solid feel.
Hanging the engine out over the rear axle isn’t very conventional, and the earliest 911s had a reputation for tricky handling on the limit. Nearly 50 years on, and Porsche has honed the 911's handling to near perfection, and in the right hands can be one of the quickest cars on the road. Engine choices range from the entry level 3.4-litre flat-six with 350bhp to a 3.8-litre turbo flat-six with 530bhp. Those after even more performance should look to the storming GT and RS models, which employ weight saving to make the most of the power and grip available.
All 911 models come with a host of airbags and Porsche Active Stability Management (PASM) as standard. The 911 has never been tested by Euro NCAP, but the rear-engined layout ensures that the nose absorbs most of a frontal impact before it reaches the cabin. There have been a number of recalls for the Porsche 911, which include possible parking brake failure, issues with seat belt buckles and steering impairment. If maintained properly the 911 is fairly reliable, although if things do go wrong the 911 will be expensive to repair. Servicing is also costly, especially from main dealers. But you get what you pay for, as Porsche always does well in our annual Driver Power survey.
The engine is in the rear, so the only boot space in the 911 is in the nose. At 135 litres it’s better than rivals like the Audi R8. Most models in the range get rear seats, but these are only really suitable for small children, but they can also be folded flat to use for luggage. Rapid GT2 and GT3 models ditch the rear seats completely in favour of a roll cage. The 911 boasts a superb driving position and the large glass area means the view out is better than in many of its rivals. Relatively compact dimensions make it easy to manoeuvre, too.
Economy is generally one of the last priorities where a Porsche 911 is concerned, and it’s no surprise to find the Turbo S only manages 24.8mpg on the combined cycle. Still, the standard Carrera with 3.4-litre flat-six and rear-wheel drive can coax 29.7mpg with a manual gearbox, and a further 2.8mpg on top of that when fitted with the PDK automatic. The key to the Porsche 911 is the breadth of its range, which starts at around £70,000 and rises to £170,000 – meaning its rivals span from the BMW 6 Series to the Ferrari 458 Italia.