1996 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA
Used Car - 1996 Porsche 911 Carrera in Pasadena, Md
Actual costs may vary.
Major Accidents, Lemon History and Odometer Problems
» Get A Free CARFAX Record Check
1996 Porsche 911 ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Superb high-speed transportation for the spirit.
Sports cars do not lend themselves to the kind of rational evaluation found elsewhere on these pages. Every virtue most car-buyers hold dear--low price, fuel economy, spacious accommodations or minimal maintenance cost--is conspicuously absent from the attribute lists of these high-performance machines.
The fact of the matter is that sports cars are not designed to appeal to consumers. Rather, they are directed at driving enthusiasts, people who choose transportation based on input from their hearts, not minds. The motivations here can seldom be justified, and really don't need to be. Every sports car on the road represents a victory of want over need.
Porsche owners--specifically, Porsche 911 owners--are at the peak of this small but intense class of customers. They are fiercely loyal, usually vocal about their reasons for purchase and are, almost without exception, as much in love with their cars as a car owner can be.
Such partisanship is understandable. Porsche has experimented with a variety of engine layouts and body designs over the years, but at the core of its business the 911 series, first introduced in late 1964, stands alone.
The 911's preeminence is now fact as much as fable. All current Porsches are 911 derivatives, whether entry-level 911 Carrera coupe, Carrera Targa (with its innovative sliding glass roof panel), flip-top Cabriolet, all-wheel drive Carrera 4 or 4S, or overachieving 911 Turbo. Over a 32-year production span, they have been improved in countless ways, to the point where they blend real-world comfort with performance that can only be exploited to the maximum on a race track.
Logically, the 911s have a host of competitors. The Acura NSX, Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra Turbo and Nissan 300ZX Turbo are all ultra-high performance machines, and most are less expensive.
But this is not an arena where comparison shopping has much meaning. If you're in the market for one of these cars, your heart will tell you which dealer to visit.
Our test car was the top-of-the-line 911 Turbo, one of the true rocket sleds of sportscardom.
Few automotive shapes are as instantly recognizable as that of the Porsche 911. Years of development have affected almost every panel, but the whole is as familiar as can be.
Efficiency is the key. The 911's smoothly contoured body panels barely cover the wheels, passengers and hardware underneath. Every air intake, opening and seam has a purpose; nothing is there for the sake of style alone. Slower cars may sport rear wings to make them appear racy, but the 911's wings (fixed on the Turbo, electrically extended at speed on other versions) are there to enhance stability at the elevated speeds attainable on a German Autobahn. They also house an oil cooler.
Even with a common basic structure, differences between the various 911s are easy to spot. Wheels are one example; though all have innovative pressure-cast light-alloy rims, each model gets its own style. Rear wings, as mentioned, are another. So are front bumpers, which sport a variety of air inlets to deal with different cooling needs. And the Cabriolet, with its lined canvas top (power-operated, of course) and sliding-top Targa stand out by virtue of their rooflines.
Finish quality has long been a Porsche strength. Panels fit with exquisite precision and the paintwork is flawless. These cars are built to endure hard use and to continue looking good while doing so.
If the 911 exterior has maintained its identity through many alterations, the interior seems hardly changed from the original. Yes, there are dual airbags now, and much improved air conditioning and sound systems, but aside from cosmetic updates the instruments, control layout and driving position are pure 1965. The designers pretty much got it right the first time.
You sit low in a 911, with an upright steering wheel and pedals that pivot down from the floor ahead. The pedals are slightly offset to the right, but that's a momentary distraction. Big, round dials communicate necessary information; beyond vehicle and engine speed and fuel level, all are concerned with the state (pressure, temperature and level) of the engine oil. Oil is the lifeblood of the air-cooled 911 powerplant, and the gauges are a necessary emphasis.
Some details are distracting. The ignition key is on the steering wheel's left, the heat and air conditioning controls are hidden by the lower right portion of the wheel rim, and stowage space is minimal. Window and central-locking switches are throwbacks to an earlier age when they were considered less important. But these are things that just don't seem to matter once you're buckled in and rolling, none of those details seem to matter; you simply adapat.
Though billed as a '2+2' (indicating the presence of rear seats), you'll only try sitting in the back of the cabin once. After that, you'll find the space useful for soft bags and other small inanimate objects.
But the driver and passenger are coddled in a luxurious environment. The standard seats are near-perfect in terms of comfort and support, while the optional 'sport' seats are even better. And the 911 is quiet except when driven hard, quiet enough to make enjoyment of the excellent standard sound system (which can be augmented with a remote 6-disc CD changer or upgraded to match the 10-speaker unit standard in the Turbo) a realistic proposition.
With almost every imaginable convenience feature standard, Porsche still manages to make a few extras available. A car phone is one, a pair of heated leather seats is another. An electronic display can be added to the instruments (it's standard on the Turbo) to make even more data available to the driver.
The most significant developments made to the 911-series are to be found in its suspension and running gear. Forget the stories of tail-heavy 911s that would slide or spin when run hard through corners; that was true of the early years, but it no longer applies.
Today's 911 is a sure-footed handler that takes to winding roads as if wired directly to its driver's nervous system. Operated with care, it can be hustled along at speeds most of us would never dream of driving. But its responsiveness and the sheer precision of steering, brakes and throttle can be enjoyed even when cruising. The brakes, four huge discs with standard ABS, are beyond reproach. Every trip, whether to the corner store or across the country, can be enjoyed in safety and comfort.
Yes, comfort. The ride is always firm, never harsh, and effort levels for steering, clutch, brakes and shift lever have been reduced to make them easy for almost any driver.
Performance ranges from exhilarating (base Carrera) to astonishing (Turbo). The Turbo will accelerate from rest to 60 mph in less four seconds, and its passing power is equally eye-opening. The standard Carrera takes a whole second longer to 60 mph. Obviously, there's no shortage of power here.
What needs to be said is that all 911 powerplants are as smooth, unfussed and flexible as can be. They may revel in being run at three-digit speeds, but they are equally adept at handling stop-and-go traffic. And they sound wonderful.
The standard transmission for all 911s is a superb 6-speed manual. The wide selection of gear ratios allows both quick acceleration and relaxed cruising. No matter how good the optional Tiptronic automatic (with impressive computer-aided manual gear-selection capability, not available with Turbo) is--and it is very good--the manual gearbox is jewel and should be first choice.
We could have used many more superlatives in describing the Porsche 911 series, and every one of them would have been deserved. By every measure a driving enthusiast might use, whether quality, performance, handling, comfort or safety, the 911s stand out. And even though the price of entry is high, they're also exceptional in terms of holding their value over the years.
Stripped of their mystique, they are simply wonderful automobiles. Add the aura of history that surrounds every Porsche, and they come as close as any car can to being magic.
Given the interest (which, if you've read this far you almost certainly have) and the financial wherewithal, there is simply no reason not to own a 911. This is a car every true sports car enthusiast should possess at least once in his or her lifetime.
Options As Tested
Turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, 18-in. alloy wheels, leather upholstery, floor mats, 6-disc CD changer, adjustable front-seat lumbar supports, gas-guzzler tax ($2600).