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2014 Porsche 911 builds on the sports car’s laudable heritage

Very few models drive with as much character as this rear-engine wondercar

Published: January 30, 2014 03:00 PM

The legendary, lust-worthy Porsche 911 has just celebrated its 50th birthday, and it’s never looked better. We’re not talking mere cosmetics, here. Although the iconic styling is unmistakable, the 911 has evolved under the skin for decades. And based on our time behind the wheel, this latest iteration improves the breed.

We’ve just bought the 2014 edition, a Carrera S coupe with a manual transmission, which rang in at $110,630. Between cold spells, we have been logging break in miles, realizing it may be a long wait until weather permits true performance testing. 

First impressions: The new 911 retains its traditional core values of superlative agility, immediate responses, decisive brake feel, and a bespoke driver-focused cabin. Three electronically-controlled driving modes tailor your style, from a Sunday drive to race track blast. Reasonable visibility, the presence of a rear seat, albeit a very tight one, and a decent sized front trunk make it one of the most practical true sports cars out there.

The distinctive snarl emanating from the rear-mounted six-cylinder boxer engine sounds familiar, but it is more muted than it used to be. Every minute nudge on the gas pedal produces an instant-yet-measured thrust. While the 400-hp, 3.8-liter is not a torque powerhouse, the fluid acceleration and smooth ascent through the rev range is satisfying to the point of intoxication. The new manual transmission’s seven gear ratios seem perfectly distributed, resulting in a fairly calm cruise in top gear—something that was never the case in previous 911s.

Handling remains extremely agile, with instant turn-in response and a body that stays flat and even keeled. Still, the new electrically assisted steering lacks the high-fidelity feedback that’s been a Porsche hallmark for literally generations. Yes, it’s still quick, linear, precise, and nicely weighted. But it’s not the same as the pure unfiltered feedback that’s been a source of such special pleasure in this car.

Another trait that shouldn’t be whitewashed is the stiff ride. While the ride is totally acceptable for such a high-performance car riding on very low-profile tires, it’s not exactly what you want from a $100,000-plus machine when you’re driving around town. There is token compliance, but short abrupt body motions are part of the repertoire here.

Nor will some middle-aged people adore a low-slung body that requires considerable bending and twisting to get in and out. Once situated in the snug cabin, they might be appeased by the terrific suede-covered headliner, the supple, genuine leather upholstery, and the brushed-aluminum switchgear.

The front seats provide luxurious support, and they and the steering wheel are heated, lending at least a shred of credibility as winter transport. While the controls seem daunting at first, they’re really not that hard to master. The touch screen is an easy reach, but there are no steering wheel audio controls and no rear-view camera—inexcusable in a car costing six figures.

CR's take:  The new 911 feels less raw than its predecessors, but retains its capability, relative practicality, and undeniable cachet. Its modern mechanicals and electronics may be less fun to a die-hard Porsche purist but slightly more palatable to the wider super-luxe sports-car fan base.

—Gabe Shenhar 

   

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