2005 Porsche 911 Carrera
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Just when it seems Porsche can't make its iconic, rear-engine 911 any better, the small, prestigious German automaker comes through with a significantly improved version of the car.
Such is the case with the 2005 911 Carrera coupe. The 911 was introduced in Germany in 1963 and in America in 1965. The car has been revamped numerous times, but retains the original's basic shape and rear-engine design, which Porsche has no intention of changing.
Porsches initially were derived from the Volkswagen Beetle, which had a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine and was developed by Ferdinand Porsche in the 1930s. Porsche was an elderly man in poor health when the first prototype Porsches were developed in the late 1940s, but lived to see the first production models.
Derived From Volkswagen Beetle
Porsche also developed a limited number of racing cars that did well, including the one bought by actor James Dean. Beetles never had sufficient power or handling to be raced.
Early Porsches were expensive, with a 1952 coupe costing $4,200 in early 1950s dollars. They were sold in such places as legendary car importer Max Hoffman's prestigious European car dealership on New York City's ritzy Park Avenue. (A 1952 Cadillac convertible was $4,163, but you could buy one in Peoria.)
The high Porsche cost factor hasn't changed — the standard 2005 911 Carrera coupe is $69,300 while the higher-horsepower "S" version I tested is $79,100.
Retaining the older 911 design — at least for now — are the Turbo S coupe and cabriolet.
Snob Appeal Remains
Porsche is big on tradition. For instance, the first Porsche to wear the "S" badge was the 1952 356 model with a 1.5-liter "Super" 4-cylinder engine. The most famous S model in Porsche history arguably is the 911 S introduced in 1967, when many movie and music industry stars were driving 911s.
Porsche is very careful about tampering with the 911. At first glance, the average person probably would say the new 911 Carrera coupe and higher-line Carrera S version look much like the 2004 911 coupe. In fact, all dimensions are virtually the same, but nearly all body panels are new — with the roof being the only carryover item.
Porsche 911 fans were annoyed that the last-generation 911 headlights resembled the less costly mid-engine Porsche Boxster's teardrop-shaped lights, but they've been replaced on the 911 Carrera by traditional 911 round headlights.
Retro Styling Touches
Horsepower is the main difference between the two trim levels of the new 911 Carrera, although the S has four round exhaust outlets instead of two oval-shaped ones for the standard Carrera.
The standard Carrera has a 3.6-liter 325-horsepower 6-cylinder engine, which has gained 10 horsepower. The S has a new 3.8-liter 6-cylinder with 355 horsepower and more torque; it allows easy second-gear takeoffs, with a direct shift to fourth gear in town if a driver feels lazy. Both engines have the usual 911 compact design, with horizontally opposed pistons.
Fast With Awesome Brakes
An improved 5-speed manual-automatic 5-speed Tiptronic transmission with steering-wheel controls delivers smoother shifts when in fully automatic "drive" mode, although it's not one of the smoothest automatics around.
Nobody buys a 911 for sparking fuel economy, but estimated fuel economy with either transmission is 18-19 mpg in the city and 26 on highways. Not bad for such a high-performance sports car with a good number of comfort, convenience and safety features.
More Stable Than Ever
A new Porsche Active Suspension Management system (PASM) that provides "two suspension systems in one" is standard on the Carrera S and optional for the lower-horsepower version. It can be put in Normal or Sport modes, although the Sport mode makes the ride pretty stiff — while sharpening handling for winding roads or race tracks. Standard for both trim levels is a new-generation Porsche Stability Management System.
No Spare Tire
Both 911 versions are easy to drive on a routine daily basis, but are rockets if a driver is in the mood for spirited driving. The updated chassis is stiffer, with a revised suspension, better brakes and more use of high-tech materials.
Variable-ratio power steering is used for the first time on a 911; it's quick and accurate — and increases agility on twisting roads while retaining excellent high-speed stability.
More lateral support is provided by new seats, and sport seats with even more such support are offered.
The 911 is the first sports car offered with a Bose Surround Sound System, with 13 speakers.
Safety features include no less than six airbags.
While the new 911 Carrera is markedly improved, Porsche has managed to give it the basic feel of older, revered 911 models. Why change the feel of a thoroughbred?