That shape. It’s what your grandfather dreamed about. It’s what your father dreamed about. It’s what you dream about. What do you need to know before you buy a Porsche 911? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in the Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.
The 911 is, and forever will be, a lust object for those who have eyes. Or ears. Or hearts. It is the car that convinced a generation of Americans that German engineering is good engineering.
Stick a 911 in a time machine and go back to 1963 and everyone will instantly recognize it as a 911. Try doing that with an F-150.
That doesn’t mean the boys and girls in Zuffenhausen just decided to pull a Ron Popeil and set-it-and-forget-it. Nope, each generation is somehow faster than the one that came before it. The engine moves a little further forward, the car gets a little more power, and more modern creature comforts come in.
The latest generation of the most important Porsche model is now full of technology and features and is also the last iteration you may ever be able to get with naturally aspirated engines.
As with many high performance cars, the 911 you want is the 911 you get, and there’s more variations to even count. Want a devastating track monster? Get a 911 GT3. Want a convertible you can cruise around Malibu in? Get a 911 Cabriolet. Want a car that’s sometimes a convertible, but not entirely, that’s quick and you can also take to the ski resort over the weekend? Get a 911 Targa 4S.
Taste the rainbow, friends.
But let’s start with the basic premise of the car, which is to come up with a twitchy and bizarre way to layout a vehicle and then to engineer around this decision at every turn.
See, there was a time when it was presumed that sticking an engine way out past the rear-axle in a rear-wheel-drive car was a good idea because you’d put the motor over the wheels thus gaining more traction. This also causes the car to tend towards oversteer, which is more preferred on a performance car than understeer.
This reasoning is somewhat sound, and driving an older Porsche 911 is fun because you’re always having to keep your wits about you. However, as the cars have gotten more powerful and heavier this tendency towards oversteer has become a physics challenge for engineers and a ticket to destruction for owners.
The result is a car that shouldn’t work but does, every single time. If you’re getting a rear-wheel-drive 911 (and you probably should), this means a car that now has a lot of power that puts its power down with a delightful shimmy as you work out of the turn.
All-wheel-drive Porsches have a slightly different feel, especially with the bonkers 911 Turbo. These cars tend to be more neutral and it’s less about getting a sweet powerslide out of the car as it is give into the balance of the car (which means a little push on the front-end) going around a turn.
What’s most remarkable about a 911 when driving it, though, is how big it is. When you picture what the inside of a 911 is like if you’ve never been in one what you’re actually picturing is a Porsche Cayman. The modern 911 is actually quite roomy and comfortable and has a backseat for legless children.
It’s no longer that hard to drive a 911, but that doesn’t meant it isn’t rewarding.
Porsche’s 991 architecture found under all modern 911s made its debut in 2011 at the same auto show where the original 911 made its first bow all the way back in 1963: Frankfurt Motor Show.
The 911’s many variants underwent a steady transition to the new platform, with the 911 Carrera and Carrera S coupe and convertible trims leading the way for the 2012 model year. This seventh-generation 911 debuted with electric power steering, the world’s first 7-speed manual gearbox, auto start/stop technology, a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, a new rear axle and revised overall suspension, copious use of lightweight materials, a new Porsche Carrera GT-inspired cockpit design, and lots of new cool new performance tech.
In 2013, the all-wheel drive versions of the Carrera trim, called the Carrera 4, Carrera 4s, Carrera 4 Cabrio and Carrera 4s Cabrio, made their way from the old 997 platform to the new 991 architecture.
In 2014, the 911 Turbo models, the Turbo and Turbo S, the track-focused GT3, and the 911 Targa and Targa convertible joined the party and adopted the new 991 platform. 2015 saw the addition of GTS variants of the Carrera S and Carrera 4S. The GTS models offer a bit more horsepower (430 versus 420), a lower ride height, a sport exhaust system, active damping, torque vectoring, blacked-out headlights and lots more.
For 2016, Porsche launched a Targa 4 GTS model and a GT3 RS model to the mix, and the new Carrera and Targa models launch as 2017 models, bringing the total number of 991 Porsche 911 variants to 21. That’s a lot of models to choose from.
Engine power numbers are all over the board, because Porsche offers so many 911 variants. The 3.4-liter flat-six found in the Carrera, Carrera 4 and Targa 4 trims puts out the least power of all 911 engines at 350 ponies.
Opt for the S versions of those trims and you get a bump in displacement and horsepower to 3.8-liters and 400 horsepower, respectively.
The GTS’s 3.8-liter mill puts out 430 horsepower, followed by the GT3’s 475. The 911 Turbo makes 520 horses, while the Turbo S cranks out 560. That Turbo S comes with the most powerful engine, and is also the fastest to 60, posting sprint times as low as 2.9 seconds.
The biggest engine is the 4.0-liter flat-six, which is found in the race-tuned GT3 RS. It turns out 500 naturally-aspirated horses.
These engines are attached to either a 7-speed manual gearbox or a 7-speed dual clutch box.
2016 Porsche 911 Engine Options
Engine Max Horsepower (hp) Max Torque (lb-ft) 3.4-liter flat-6 350 @ 7400 rpm
(Carrera, Carrera 4, Targa 4)
287 @ 5600 rpm
(Carrera 4, Targa 4)
400 @ 7400 rpm (Carrera S, Carrera 4s, Targa S)
430 @ 7400 rpm (GTS)
475 @ 8250 (GT3)
520 @ 6000 rpm (Turbo)
560 @ 6500 rpm
325 @ 5600 rpm (Carrera S, Targa S)
325 @ 5750 (GTS)
325 @ 6250 rpm (GT3)
487 @ 1850 rpm (Turbo)
516 @ 2100 rpm (Turbo S)
4.0-liter flat-6 500 @ 8250 (GT3 RS) 338 @ 6250 (GT3 RS)
If you put a gallon of gas into your 911’s tank, chances are you’ll make it about 20 miles. On the freeway, you can travel pretty close to 30 miles on a gallon of the good stuff as long as you’re not driving a Turbo or GT3 model. Those like to drink lots of fuel.
Either way, the 911 is a car whose sole purpose is to provide one of the world’s most engaging, invigorating driving experiences. So you’ll have to forgive Porsche if fuel economy took the back burner.
2016 Porsche 911 Fuel Economy Ratings (City/Hwy/Combined)
_ 3.4L Flat-6 3.8L Flat-6 4.0L Flat-6 Fuel Economy- Manual 19/27/22 (Carrera, Carrera cab, Carrera 4)
(Carrera 4 cab)
(Carrera GTS, Carrera 4 GTS)
(Carrera GTS cab, Carrer 4 GTS cab)
(Carrera 4s cab, Targa 4 GTS, Targa 4s)
(Carrera S, Carrera S cab)
NA Fuel Economy- Automatic 20/28/23 (Carrera, Carrera cab, Carrera 4)
20/27/22 (Carrera 4 cab)
(GTS, GTS cab, 4 GTS)
(4 GTS cab, Targa 4 GTS, Targa 4s)
19/26/22 (Carrera 4s)
(Carrera 4s cab)
20/27/23 (Carrera S)
19/27/22 (Carrera S cab)
(Turbo, Turbo S)
Trim Level Breakdown
There are a million different 911 trim levels, so understanding which comes with what can sometimes be a challenge. Let’s break it down.
The main 911 trim levels are: Carrera, Targa, Turbo and GT3. The Carrera is considered the base model 911. It’s the cheapest and least powerful of the bunch. The Targa means you get a Targa top, which is a partially-removable roof. In the olden days, you had to remove that roof piece by hand, but today’s Targa comes with a crazy power-retractable panel.
The 911 Turbo is, well, a turbocharged 911. It’s got the most powerful engine of any 911 and will rip a 0-60 pull in no time. The GT3 trims are all about track performance. They’re not the most powerful or the quickest in a straight line, but they are the fastest around a racing circuit. They get their own naturally-aspirated big 4.0-liter flat-six and track-tuned aerodynamics, brakes, suspension, seats and more.
There are tons of variants of these four main models. These variants generally add the letters “GTS,” “S” and/or the number “4” to the end of the aforementioned main trim levels. The Targa trim, though, must be had as either a Targa S or a Targa 4.
The number “4” means the car is 4-wheel drive. The letter “S” means you’re getting a more powerful, more performance-oriented version of the car that precedes the “S.” “GTS” stands for “Grand Turismo Sport,” and denotes a car that gets even more power and handling capability than the “S” model. Finally, “Cabriolet” is the German word for convertible, so if you see that at the after one of the main trims, you’re getting a drop-top.
The base 911 Carrera, Carrera GTS models, Targa S and Targa 4 GTS get four piston calipers to clamp 13.4 inch brakes in the front and 13-inchers in the back. The Carrera 4 and Targa 4 get the same rear discs but have smaller 13 inch brakes in the front. Carrera S has the same brakes as the Carrera, but adds a couple of pistons to the front brakes. The 911 Turbo, GT3 and GT3 RS also have six and four piston calipers in the front and back, but swap out the front brakes for 15-inch plates.
The 911 Turbo S also has six piston calipers in the front and four-pistons in the back but the discs are huge 16-inchers up front at 15.3-inch rotors in the back.
Suspension is a unique Macpherson Strut design, which comes bolted on a subframe together with an electric power assisted steering rack.
- Carrera: Starts at $84,300. Notable standard features: 3.4-liter 350 horsepower flat-six, 7-speed manual transmission, 19-inch alloy wheels with 235mm wide front and 285mm wide rear summer tires, electric park brake, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain sensing wipers, power heated sige mirrors, Porsche Communication Management with navigation, 7-inch touchscreen display, 9-speaker stereo with 235 Watt output, Bluetooth, 4.6” TFT display for instrument cluster, partial leather power sport seats, Bi-Xenon automatic headlamps, engine stop/start. Variants: Carrera, Carrera S, Carrera Cabriolet, Carrera 4, Carrera 4S, Carrera 4 Cabriolet, Carrera 4s Cabriolet, Carrera GTS, Carrera 4 GTS, Carrera GTS Cabriolet, Carrera 5 GTS Cabriolet. S models ($98,900) get 400 horsepower 3.8-liter flat-six, bigger brakes, unique wheels, uniquely tuned suspension and more. 4-wheel drive models ($91,030) get a wider rear axle and Porsche Traction management. GTS ($114,200) models get 430 horsepower 3.8-liter flat-six, active damping.
- Targa 4: Starts at $105,630. Similar options as Carrera: Variants: Targa 4, Targa 4s, Targa 4 GTS. S models get 400 horsepower 3.8-liter flat-six, bigger brakes, unique wheels, uniquely tuned suspension and more. 4-wheel drive models get a wider rear axle and Porsche Traction management. GTS ($132,800) models get 430 horsepower 3.8-liter flat-six, active damping.
- Turbo: Starts at $151,100. Notable standard features over Carrera: 520 horsepower turbo 3.8-liter flat-six, PDK automatic transmission, all-wheel drive with Porsche Traction Management, active damping, torque vectoring, bigger brakes, unique exterior trim, unique 20” wheels, 245mm front and 305mm rear summer tires, Bose 12-speaker stereo. Variants: Turbo, Turbo S, Turbo Cabriolet, Turbo S Cabriolet. S ($182,700) models get 560-horsepower 3.8-liter turbo flat-six, bigger brakes.
- GT3: Starts at $130,400. Notable standard features over Turbo: 475-horsepower 3.8-liter flat-six, unique 20” wheels, bigger front brakes, 4-speaker audio system, unique sport seats, unique aerodynamic features. Variants: GT3, GT3 RS. GT3 RS ($175,900) adds 500-horsepower 4.0-liter flat six, unique wheels with 265mm ZR tires up front and 325mm ZR tires in the rear.
This one is tough as the track rat in us wants a Porsche GT3 RS, but the penny pincher in us says it’s fine to get a 911 Carrera 2S and just call it a day. Ultimately, we’ll stick to our general guidance on Porsche products and just get the GTS . For a few grand more than the 911 Carrera 2S you get standard PASM active dampers, Bi-Xenons with Porsche Dynamic Lighting, Sport exhaust, and alacantara all around. Twenty-inch gloss black center-lock wheels are standard as well as the AWD Porsche’s wide-body and the Carrera s Powerkit that boost horsepower to a reasonable 430.
MSRP: $89,400-$175,900 Top Speed: 197 MPH [Turbo S]
Acceleration: 2.9s to 60 [Turbo S]
MPG: 22 city / 32 hwy / 26 combined [3.4L, Automatic]
Engines: 3.0-liter flat-6, 3.8-liter flat-6, 4.0-liter flat-6
Max Horsepower/Torque: 560hp/516 lb-ft
Curb Weight: ~3,131-3,692 IIHS Safety Rating: NA
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Rear Engine, RWD
Photo credit: Porsche