The Porsche 911 has always been a dream car to me. Such an exotic sports car is a rare treat in our test fleet. In fact, the last time Consumer Reports tested a 911, a Carrera S, was back in 2006, and it set us back $87,250. To me, that seems like quite a long time ago. I was 19 then and just starting out at Consumer Reports as a shop technician and part-time college student.
So, I was delighted when Gabe Shenhar, who organizes our car purchases, chose me to be the secret shopper for our next 911—a 2014 Carrera S with a seven-speed manual transmission. Since most of the cars I buy for testing live more in the Honda Civic to Toyota Camry neighborhood, this was a significant step up.
Gabe didn’t want to go crazy with features, and consequently the price, since the Porsche is destined to be a playmate for our $73,000 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51. But with the new 911 starting at $98,900, there was definitely going to be a significant price difference. The comparable configuration we were aiming for was the rear-wheel-drive, 400-hp Carrera S with its 3.8-liter flat six-cylinder engine and a seven-speed manual transmission. Estimated sticker: $103,000.
But as I searched dealer inventories online and by phone around our region, I discovered that most available 2014 Carreras had the PDK automatic transmission or were 520-hp turbo models with all-wheel drive, priced from $115,000 to above $140,000. It took some work, but the closest match I could find had the key features we preferred and a few extras. As I discovered, Porsche has a way of piling on expensive à la carte options.
The chosen car was a Carrera S with heated power seats ($690) and Sport Chrono package ($1,850), which enables adjustments to make the car more track-competitive. Sport seats added $3,825. Then there was the sunroof ($1,490), self-dimming mirrors ($420), and so on. Final sticker came to $110,630—the very cheapest Carrera S we could find.
I was a little nervous that the Porsche dealer wouldn’t take a 27-year-old guy seriously who said he had $110,000 to spend on a car. I prepared by putting on nice clothes, brought my girlfriend along as a diversion, and cooked up a story about a recent inheritance. My salesman could not have been nicer on the phone, and he invited me up to have an espresso from their new $10,000 coffeemaker. (Apparently business is good.) He was equally accommodating when we visited the dealership, and he didn’t even say anything about the black eye I was wearing thanks to catching an elbow in a recent soccer incident.
He took us inside, made us feel at home, and of course let us try out the coffee machine.
We talked about the car for some time and pretty soon had a handshake deal at $107,000. I left a small deposit to hold the car and picked it up without any drama a few days later on a beautiful Saturday. As we pulled out of the dealer parking lot like celebrities, my girlfriend said, “Where to?” I smiled and headed straight to Newport, R.I., to clock some brisk break-in miles.