2006 911 New Car Test Drive
The Porsche 911 lineup has been overhauled. For 2006, new Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S models join the Carrera and Carrera S models that were introduced for 2005. Cabriolet versions also join the 2006 Porsche 911 lineup. Essentially, every possible combination is available between coupe and cabriolet, 3.6-liter and 3.8-liter engines, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
Using Porsche's internal codename, all are new 997 models, replacing the 996 series produced since 1998. Only the Turbo continues to ride on the 996 platform.
These newest Porsches are thoroughly modern driving machines, packed with the latest in material advances, engine technology and electronic management. Yet one of the most striking things about them is that in some subtle but obvious ways, the 911 has devolved.
Over the past 10 or 15 years, as Porsche engineers ironed out some of the 911's handling quirks, they'd moved developed it in a more civilized direction. The 911 has adapted the accoutrements of a grand-touring coupe, with multiple-adjustment heated memory seats, automatic climate control, more sound insulating material and one-button convertible tops. To some hard-core 911 old-timers, it's become downright cushy.
These 997 models have changed that picture somewhat. Don't get us wrong. It hasn't become a spartan buckboard of a high-performance car. Comfort, convenience and high-tech features are still here, including Porsche's fully active suspension. Yet in certain, deliberate respects, the latest 911 is more primal than its predecessor. Perhaps it's the aggressive rasp from the exhaust or the way the engines deliver power to the drive wheels or the way the shift lever snicks between gears. Maybe it's an extra tingle of vibration through the frame channels. Whatever the reason, in standard trim the current 911 is edgier than the previous generation, and we're sure driving enthusiasts will appreciate the difference.
The Porsche 911 remains one of the easiest supercars to live with in daily use. It's more user friendly than competitors, from the Corvette to the Ferrari F430. It's relatively easy to get in and out of. It rides smoothly and comfortably, by sports car standards, and it's happy to putt around all day at a Buick pace, particularly with the Tiptronic automatic transmission. The 911 has earned a reputation for being nearly bullet-proof, and there's very little about it that's finicky.
This we say with certainty: Nearly 60 years after the company was founded, Porsche continues to make some of the world's great sports cars. The Porsche 911 remains the standard by which other sports cars are judged and this latest-generation 911 is the best one so far.
The Porsche 911 lineup starts with the Carrera ($71,300), powered by a 3.6-liter version of Porsche's classic flat six-cylinder engine generating 325 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Standard equipment includes leather-trimmed height-adjustable seats with power recliners, a digital AM/FM/CD stereo, trip computer, leather telescoping steering wheel, power windows, power locks with keyless remote, cruise control, 18-inch wheels and a speed-dependent retractable rear spoiler. The Carrera Cabriolet ($81,400) is similarly equipped.
The Carrera S ($81,400) and Carrera S Cabriolet ($91,400) are powered by a 3.8-liter six-cylinder, delivering 355 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Besides the bigger engine, the Carrera S gets the Porsche Active Suspension Management system (PASM), 19-inch wheels, bigger brakes with painted red calipers, Bi-Xenon headlights, a sport steering wheel and aluminum-look interior trim. The Carrera S Cabriolet is similarly equipped.
The new Carrera 4 ($77,100) is equipped similarly to the standard rear-drive Carrera, but with the added advantage of all-wheel drive. There are also other tweaks, such as larger standard wheels and tires, and the wider fenders needed to accommodate them. The same idea holds for the Carrera 4S ($87,100), Carrera 4 Cabriolet ($87,100), and Carrera 4S Cabriolet ($97,100).
The 911 Turbo models are based on the older platform (known within Porsche as the 996), but are impressive cars nonetheless. The all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo S ($131,400) gets Porsche's race-bred, twin-turbocharged version of the 3.6-liter engine, creating a whopping 444 horsepower. The Turbo S comes with Porsche's Ceramic Composite Brakes, which use exotic nonmetallic discs, and comfort and convenience upgrades such as full leather interior and a high-power, Bose-tuned stereo with a six-disc CD changer. The Turbo S Cabriolet ($141,200) features a power-operated convertible top.
Safety features on all models include Porsche Stability Management, an electronically controlled system that helps a driver maintain control in the event of a skid. Carrera coupes employ curtain-style head protection airbags, which deploy from the doors and augment the front and side-impact torso airbags.
A long list of options is available, ranging from a roof-transport system that can turn a 911 into a building material or bike-hauling workhorse to Ceramic Composite Brakes that can further its other hauling roles. Options include Porsche Communication Management, which incorporates audio, navigation system, and trip computer into a single control interface ($2,680); heated seats ($410); metallic paint ($825); and a CD changer ($715). The 911 can be personalized with Deviating Front Seat Stitching Color ($335), a Leather Dome Lamp Cover ($335), or Non-Metallic Paint to Sample ($4,315), where Porsche will match any color your heart desires. Porsche maintains its long tradition of factory customization, with options that cover colors and materials for virtually every part or surface inside the car. And if there's not an existing option, Porsche will likely go off the card, for a price. Ostrich door pulls or jade-faced pedals might be doable. It never hurts to ask.