Friday 13th May 2011


PH goes 'back to basics' with a blat in a 'boggo' 911

Barely a day seems to pass without a PistonHeads story announcing the latest variant or special edition of the Porsche 911. Usually followed by healthy debate about the merits/constraints of the rear-engined coupe, or how the 911 is long overdue a replacement.

Current 911 trends seem to focus around an ever-increasing amount of power, spoilers and graphics, while interiors go in the other direction with equipment stripped and weight removed.

All very well for those of us who live on the track, commute via the Nurburgring, or who can really tell what difference a 10g saving makes when circumnavigating the M25. But what about the rest of us? Is a 'standard' Carrera special enough these days? Is the '1.3 GL' of 911s worth it? A press car booked in for the latest PH studio photography session meant it was time to find out...

Looking at a Carrera in standard-ish form (this was a 4S, not a Carrera 2 after all), and even in yellow/black 'check me out' colours it manages an elegant simplicity when freed from graphics and other additions. The lack of skirts and front spoilers make it seem a little taller than you might expect too. Dare I say that it almost looks 'ordinary'?

The interior of a Carrera could never be described as over-adorned, and even with Sport Chrono, navigation and climate control this car's dashboard looks uncluttered. Sit your average non-car person inside, and they might even be disappointed at the lack of drama. But everything works for the driver, and after approximately 30 seconds in the cabin, that 911 familiarity immediately makes you feel at home.

So far, so good then, but what about the lack of a turbo or track-focused suspension - the drive will surely disappoint as a result? Well a look at the figures suggest not, as 385bhp, 420Nm, 1585kg and 3.8 litres equate to a more-than-enough top speed of 183mph and a 0-60mph time of 4.3secs.

Suspension-wise the 'S' moniker gives a firm ride, so firm in fact that I glanced down to see if I had pressed the sport suspension setting. I hadn't, so you'll have to get used to a bone-shaking ride. It's not too intrusive after a while, but as councils skimp on road repairs you'll certainly notice it. A glance at the options fitted to this car showed the (no cost) sports suspension has been fitted, lowering the car 20mm. You'd have a very capable car without ticking this box, and as a daily driver you might appreciate it.

On the road this is one of the best dual-character cars there is. Pottering about listening to Radio 2, with a boot full of shopping, you can see out of all the windows and mirrors, the clutch is light and the gearbox is one of the best you'll use.

Point it along your favourite B-road for an hour or two though (well, you have to...) and you can cover ground at an immense pace with the minimum of fuss. Third or fourth will despatch most lines of traffic without hesitation and the tightest of corners can be taken without any fear because it's such a flattering car to drive fast. It feels so comfortable and predictable, but mostly because the performance available is so easy to exploit without working yourself into a sweat. You have to hand it to Porsche, they know how to build a great chassis.

Lack of character is a criticism often levelled at the 911, an odd claim considering the unconventional layout and pedigree, but I think effectiveness is often confused with a lack of soul. It certainly feels like a car that has a heart and, with the optional sports exhaust (£1465) it sounds glorious too, especially as it passes through 4000 rpm.

Speaking of options and prices, the Carrera 4S costs £80,785 in standard flavour, but this car tipped in at £89,303 with a few options added. Some of the options are desirable - the aforementioned exhaust, sports seats (with leather at £2403) but others like the black 19in wheels at (£1250) could be left behind as I'd imagine it would feel even sweeter on the standard eighteens.

Last year I was lucky enough to spend time in a GT3, and my poster car remains a GT3RS, but I will campaign with as much vigour as a local MP for the cause of the basic Carrera. For most of us it offers all the performance and usability we'll need and for the poseurs amongst us, the 911 still gets admiring glances wherever it goes.

I'm not saying you shouldn't buy a faster version, all I'm saying is sometimes a black coffee hits the spot better than a frappacappacinomocca with an extra shot and skinny milk.

Author: Garlick