The Porsche 911 is a luxury sports car that’s available as either a coupe or convertible. Even though the 911 has kept the same basic shape for 50 years, it has improved its looks and performance through the years. The 911 is without a true competitor, but the Chevrolet Corvette, Audi R8, and the Jaguar XK and F-Type make for interesting alternatives.
The Porsche 911 is a two-door coupe or convertible luxury sportscar. It has maintained its same basic layout for over 50 years, while evolving in virtually every way possible to offer both explosive performance and iconic looks. The 911 is without a true competitor, though alternatives range from cars like the Chevrolet Corvette and Audi R8 to the Jaguar XK and new F-Type models. It's available between $80,000 and more than $240,000, offering a 911 that will suit just about any taste.
Since 1963, the 911 has seen nearly endless permutations, but only five major generational changes. The original 911 ran from 1963-1989 in its core form with a variety of rear-mounted engines, including turbocharged variants. It established the fastback, sloping hood, and bulging fender look that has defined the car's exterior appearance ever since. The second generation 964 series 911 ran from 1989 to 1993. It added four-wheel drive as an option, an automatically deploying rear spoiler, ABS brakes and power steering. These all served to improve handling, performance and daily usability, but somewhat softened the 911's image. The third generation, or 993 series, 911 saw an all-new front- and rear-end treatment, though the spirit of the original still showed through. A new multi-link rear suspension improved handling, and the chassis was improved for further gains. This was the final generation that used an air-cooled engine.
The fourth-generation 996 series 911 moved to a water-cooled engine, but kept the famous flat-six layout. It also was the first complete redesign of the 911's exterior, each body panel different yet adding up to a look that still adhered to the basic 911 formula. All-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, turbo, twin-turbo, GT3 and GT2 variants offered a wide variety of performance options, while all relied on the same core underpinnings.
The 997 series of the 911 Carrera began its run in 2005. Initially offered with a 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder, the 997 911 upgrades to a 3.8-liter engine in the Carrera S. Available in both coupe and cabriolet forms, the 997 911 can also be had in no fewer than 17 variants, including the Carrera, Cabriolet, Targa, and Turbo each offering all-wheel-drive and sportier 'S' variants, plus the GT3, GT3 RS, and the just-released GT2 RS. This wide variety of engine, drivetrain, and body layouts makes the 911 one of the most flexible sports cars on the market, ranging in power from 345 horsepower in the base Carrera to 620 horsepower in the GT2 RS. Transmissions available include a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed dual-clutch Porschedoppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) transmission.
For the 2012 model year, Porsche introduced the 991 series, though it continued sales of 997 models as well. The new 991 boasts upgraded engines, a new seven-speed manual transmission, a revised PDK dual-clutch transmission, a wider front track and longer wheelbase. In addition, the 991 911 is about 100 pounds lighter than the 997. A heavily revised and improved interior makes it the most comfortable yet, and the improvements to the chassis and powertrain make the 991 generation the most high-performance production 911 to date as well.
The Carrera 4 and 4S joined the model lineup in the 2013 model year, in both coupe and cabriolet variants. With wider rear track than the rear-drive Carreras, the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 range adds improved traction in foul weather while maintaining the rest of the 911's excellent dynamic characteristics. Also new for 2013 is a standard adaptive cruise control system in PDK-equipped models, as well as forward collision avoidance, and a panoramic glass sunroof option.
The 991-based GT3 finally joined the range at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, bringing with it a 3.8-liter engine rated at 475 horsepower, a new GT3-specific setup for its PDK transmission, and rear steering. This track-focused version of the 911 will likely confuse traditionalists, but for those focused on lap times, it will be the 911 to own--at least for now.
While the 991-series 911 is becoming more fleshed out, the top end of the 911 range continues on as 997-based models for the present. The rest of the range, including Turbo, Turbo S, and GT2 models are expected over the coming years. The 2014 911 Turbo has already been spied completely undisguised, indicating it will arrive in production form soon.
Classic Porsche 911s lack the power and handling you'll find in newer models, but collectors love them for their history and heritage, and have driven prices rather high in recent years. Even the late-model versions of the original run, built from 1984-89, known as the Carrera 3.2, have seen prices begin to rise. More modern versions, starting with the 964 generation, are still holding value as well, while 911s in the 2-6-year-old range may be among the best bargains, offering modern performance and equipment at a discounted price versus new. Whichever used Porsche 911 model you choose, you're buying into a piece of history--but potentially also into large repair and restoration bills, so be sure to fully evaluate mechanical and electrical condition before buying.