Do you love cars? Like, really love cars? Do you crave the thrill of being swept forward on a tsunami of acceleration? Do you get giddy twirling a steering wheel so precise and responsive it could be hardwired into your gray matter? Do you cherish sitting in a driver’s seat that fits tighter than a pair of Spanx? Then you need a Porsche 911.
Any 911 will do. Porsche has been building them since 1963, so there’s no shortage of standout models to choose from. Some are better than others, but each sports its own distinct character and is a thrill ride in its own way.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to drive a fair few. I still tremble when I think of my attempt to tame the cruise missile that was the 930 Turbo from the late ’70s. A memory second only to my experience driving Steve McQueen’s slate-gray 1969 911S Coupe with his son, Chad, in the passenger seat.
Then there’s the 1982 911 SC Targa I owned in the ’80s. It was my car of choice for a midnight thrash along Paris’ Rive Droite, top stowed, the scream of its flat-6 motor ricocheting off the tunnel walls, Eiffel Tower in the rearview. Magical. Just magical.
The term “icon” is overused, but for me and millions of other Porscheistas, the 911 is the undisputed icon of the sports car world. And painstaking, continual improvement has made today’s 911s better than anything that came before.
Take the 2017 911 Carrera S Cabriolet I’ve been piloting. This $115,700 bundle of open-air joy is the latest example of how white-coated Porsche engineers have continued to evolve, hone, and refine this iconic two-seater.
In the quest for better fuel economy and lower emissions, the previous 911’s 3.4- and 3.8-liter flat-6 engines have been jettisoned. Now there’s a new 3.0-liter flat-6 equipped with not one but two turbochargers.
Yet, despite the reduction in engine displacement (3.8 liters down to 3.0), this Carrera S punches out an extra 20 ponies to take the corral up to an impressive 420-horsepower. And whereas the old 3.8 was good for 325 pounds per feet of torque, this turbo-6 delivers 368 pounds per feet of twist.
But that’s only half the story. While the 3.8 served its maximum thrust at a lofty 5,600 rpm, this new motor unleashes its full quota of torques from a mere 1,700 rpm. That hugely enhances the drivability of this latest 911. Now, when you step on the gas, especially when you’ve opted for the lightning-fast 7-speed PDK double-clutch automatic, the response is light-switch immediate.
Just how quick? From standstill, it’ll catapult you to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Compare that to the ’70s 930 Turbo—a true neck-snapping supercar back in its day—and the zero-to-60 dash would have taken 4.9 seconds. That’s progress. And remember, this new 911 can average 28 mpg on the highway.
Alas, only a 911 aficionado will be able to distinguish this model from its predecessor. Porsche’s 54-year 911 philosophy of evolution, not revolution, continues here.
Yes, there are new four-spot LED headlights, larger front-air intakes, a redesigned rear deck–air intake, and some fancy 20-inch alloys, but the car essentially looks the same as before.
But to pilot this thoroughbred is to absolutely adore it. Drive it roof down and the heart grows even fonder. It takes only 13 seconds for the tight-fitting canvas top—realized in an eye-popping cherry red in the case of my tester—to scoot backwards.
Newer generation Porsches have always been sensational to drive, and this latest Carrera S raises the bar. The car’s electric-assist steering feels scalpel-precise, and its poise, balance, and agility when hammering through curves is breathtaking.
It’s as if the 911 has grown up, upping its sophistication in the process. It’s evident in the suppleness of its ride; hit a pothole and the car’s I-beam-stiff body structure just shrugs it off.
People often ask me what car I’d buy if money were no object. My answer is always the same: Porsche 911. Driving this latest turbo Carrera only reinforces that choice.
- PRICE: $115,700/$156,375 as tested
- ENGINE: 3.0-liter turbo flat-6
- POWER: 420-hp
- TORQUE: 368 pound-feet
- TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
- 0-60: 3.8 seconds
- TOP SPEED: 198 mph
- LENGTH/WIDTH: 177.1/71.2 inches
- WHY WE LIKE IT: Because it’s the thrill ride you can enjoy every day.