2003 Porsche 911

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2002 Porsche 911

This 2002 review is representative of model years 1999 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Porsche's "best of breed" sports car gets better and better.
Pros:
  • More power
  • Slicker styling
  • Superb handling and braking
Cons:
  • Awkward entry
  • Stiff clutch
  • Small cargo area

The Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe is the least expensive choice in the iconic 911 line at $67,900. But don't let that fact lead you to think that this rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car is a marginal version. It's easily one of the world's best pure sports cars.

Other 911 trims cost up to $179,900 for 2002—although most have base prices that stop at $83,200. Those include a convertible and offer features such as all-wheel drive and ferocious turbocharged engines. (The mid-engine Porsche Boxster costs $42,600-$51,600.)

Small, prestigious Porsche has steadily been improving all 911s since the 911 debuted in Europe in 1963 and went on sale in America as a 1965 model. The 177-mph Carrera Coupe thus is quite impressive. (Other 911s weren't available for testing and consequently will be reviewed at a later date.)

If the Carrera Coupe's price seems too high for a small high-performance car with marginal luggage space, consider such things as its superb construction, limited volume and high resale value.

Revered Engine Layout
The 911 has the rear-engine layout used by the first Porsches in the late 1940s and is revered by Porsche buffs and many sports car enthusiasts. A number of front-engine Porsches have come and gone, but the 911 never has been out of the lineup.

"Porsche is making its Cayenne sport-utility vehicle (due in late 2002 as a 2003 model) for the company's long-term survival. Many Porsche car owners have a sport ute in their garages, and we want some of that action," Porsche Cars North America President Fred Schwab said in an interview. "Still, 2001 will be a record year for 911 sales in North America."

For Daily Transportation
The Carrera Coupe is a comfortable car that can be used for daily transportation in all sorts of weather, unlike some other cars with similar performance. It comes close to feeling like a race car with its sizzling acceleration, stable handling and awesome brakes.

The Carrera Coupe is well-equipped with such items as a power sunroof, automatic climate and cruise controls, an AM/FM/cassette stereo, power windows, remote locking and even heated power outside mirrors.

More Distinctive Styling
The Carrera Coupe no longer resembles the less exclusive Boxster. In response to 911 owner complaints, the 2002 model has a slickly redesigned front end, widened rear quarter panels and new taillights. In fact, the Carrera Coupe now looks a lot like the $115,000 911 Turbo.

Porsche is a no-nonsense outfit, so design changes are more than cosmetic. For example, the new front air intakes increase airflow to the twin front-mounted radiators. The new bodywork also reduces aerodynamic lift—no small improvement with such a high-speed car.

Bigger, Better Engine
The biggest news is an increase in displacement of the compact 6-cylinder engine to 3.6 liters from 3.4 liters, and a jump in horsepower from 300 to 320. Also, the engine has a new valve timing system to make it ultrasmooth—along with more torque and a broader torque curve.

Although docile, the fairly light, 2,910-pound Carrera Coupe hits 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and reaches 100 in 12 seconds. Merging and passing are no-sweat maneuvers.

Fuel economy is an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 26 on highways. But a driver can top the city figure by starting out in second gear and then shifting to fourth or fifth without engine protest because of the high torque.

Superb Roadability
Steering is quick and sensitive. The all-independent suspension provides a supple ride despite the car's short 92.6-inch wheelbase. The Carrera Coupe also has nearly race-car handling—especially with the $1,325 18-inch (up from 17-inch) alloy wheels and super-wide performance tires. The brake pedal has a reassuringly firm feel and stopping distances are incredibly short.

Safety items include door-mounted side airbags, a patented crumple zone body structure and new seat-belt pretensioners and load limiters.

Be careful of options unless you have plenty to spend. Extras such as the $1,230 stability control system and $3,240 Advanced Technic Package with headlight washers, 6-disc CD changer and 12-speaker Bose digital sound system can cause the price to soar. Actually, Porsche can provide a buyer with many individual customizing touches; all that's needed is the money to pay for them.

Comfortable Fit
Two tall adults comfortably fit in the fairly quiet Carrera Coupe's cockpit, although there is little room to spare. You "wear" the car like a glove. There's a small rear-seat area, but it's for tots and cargo. The front cargo compartment is best suited to a moderate amount of soft luggage.

Thank goodness that awkwardly designed controls have been replaced with sensible ones, although radio and climate controls still are too small and the cassette holders seem flimsy.

The one-touch power windows should operate more quickly, although they're preferable to one-touch windows that are nearly impossible to stop when zipping up and down at lightning speed.

Don't Get Trapped
It can be tough to get in and out of the Carrera Coupe because of long doors and low seats. Occupants can find themselves trapped in the car in tight parking situations because they won't be able to open the doors wide enough to get out.

The 6-speed manual gearbox works beautifully, but the stiff clutch has a long throw and can be tiring in stop-and-go traffic. Don't want any part of that action? Then opt for the 5-speed automatic transmission from the 911 Turbo; it has a clutchless manual shift feature via steering-wheel buttons.

However, the Carrera Coupe really should have the manual gearbox because it's such a genuine sports car, with considerable input from Porsche's long, successful racing experience. It's as much—if not more—fun than sports cars costing more than twice its price, although the $49,705 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 coupe is as fast.

Other New Features
Other new items include a computer that can display driving range, engine oil level, outside temperature and 35 warning messages in plain text. There also are a 3-spoke steering wheel to replace a 4-spoke wheel, a lockable glove box, redesigned tailpipes that help visually set off the rear end, and cupholders integrated into the dashboard, which has an instrument panel from the 911 Turbo.

The 911 has been around for so long that one might wonder how long Porsche can continue to significantly improve it. But the new Carrera Coupe shows it can keep making the car substantially better.

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BB05 - 9/18/2014 11:21:22 PM