Full 2008 Porsche 911 Review
What's New for 2008
For the 2008 Porsche 911, the pavement-rippling GT2 model returns, this time sporting 530 horsepower and a top speed exceeding 200 mph. Otherwise, changes are limited to newly optional carbon-fiber racing seats and a more effective sunshade for the 911 Targa's glass roof.
If you were to analyze the world's finest modern-day sports cars, you would find that they all have a front or midengine design that balances weight distribution and centralizes mass between the wheels. Yet the 2008 Porsche 911, with its engine hanging out behind the rear axle, thrusts a middle finger into the air toward conventional automotive engineering wisdom. That it simultaneously achieves truly legendary performance is all the more surprising.
Someone once wrote that the Porsche 911 is a "terrible design, brilliantly executed." And that pretty much explains why no other automaker is currently offering a rear-engine car. But more than four decades of research and development have morphed the 911 from a mostly entertaining but bedeviling-at-the-limit beast to a very capable and forgiving sports car. It simultaneously provides supercar performance and handling, along with daily driver comfort and livability. And with the ever-expanding 911 family, picking the perfect Porsche for your needs has never been easier. Provided, of course, you have the means.
For 2008, a Turbo Cabriolet joins the coupe, while the ultimate 911 -- the even more potent, lighter, rear-drive GT2 -- comes back into the fold. Other changes this year include optional carbon-fiber racing-style seats, a more effective sunshade for Targa versions and increased oil change intervals for most models (12,000 miles or one year).
As always, performance is paramount. According to Porsche, even the base 911 can run to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds and stretch its legs out to a top speed of 177 mph. Should that be inadequate and you've got pockets so deep that nearly 200K for a car doesn't make you blink, consider the 911 GT2. This ultimate 911 will rocket you to 60 mph and hit 205 mph flat out, making it the fastest 911 ever made. Between these bookends are other enticing selections -- the tweaked "S"; the foul-weather-friendly, all-wheel-drive "4"; the track-ready GT3 and the blindingly fast, yet docile and comfortable Turbo.
One of the reasons the 911 has become almost larger than life is its combination of ferocious performance and daily-driver livability. The car's basic design, with its large glass area, slim roof pillars and no-nonsense interior, has hardly changed since its debut in 1964. This provides a comfortable and stress-free environment for the driver, unlike some other sports cars where one sinks down low and has to contend with a view to the rear quarters that's tantamount to a Brink's truck. With its glass roof, the Targa model accentuates this feeling even more. Underway, the 911 is just as welcoming, with smooth power delivery, easily modulated strong brakes, and ultra-responsive but never nervous steering.
With such a wide range of offerings, the 2008 Porsche 911's various guises compete with many different sports cars, but it manages to stand up to them all. Savvy consumers will know that a strong argument can be made for choosing a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 over a 911, as it provides a tad more performance for considerably less money. The same goes for the Nissan GT-R, which also benefits from being all-new and this year's media darling. But the Corvette doesn't have the 911's build quality, nor its high level of driver interaction, while the GT-R lacks the 911's prestige and customization aspect. Perhaps the toughest, most direct rivals for the 911 are the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the Audi R8. Both are fantastic sports cars with moves to match their looks. But the Aston and R8 have a long time to go before they can match the history and legendary status of the Porsche 911.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Porsche 911 comes in five basic trim levels: Carrera, Carrera S, GT3, Turbo and GT2. The Carrera and Carrera S can be had in three body styles. The coupe and convertible ("Cabriolet") body styles are offered in either rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive ("4") versions. Equipped like a regular Carrera coupe, the 911 Targa 4 comes with a large power-sliding glass roof, a flip-up rear glass hatch and only all-wheel drive. The S version of the Targa 4 adds the same upgrades as the Carrera S.
The base 911 Carrera comes with 18-inch wheels, full power accessories, a trip computer, leather seating, a nine-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player, vestigial rear seats and automatic climate control. The S adds a more powerful engine, 19-inch wheels, active suspension management technology, bigger brakes, bi-HID xenon headlights, a sport steering wheel and unique exterior and interior trim. Most of these items are optional on the Carrera.
The track-oriented, coupe-only GT3 comes with a 415-hp engine, lightweight 19-inch wheels, a fixed rear spoiler, unique front and rear fascias, specialized suspension tuning, a reduced curb weight and sport front seats. There is also the GT3 RS, which is even more hard-core with upgrades that include a wider rear body and track, an adjustable suspension and a carbon-fiber rear wing.
The Turbo (available in coupe and Cabriolet form) comes with a 480-hp engine, 19-inch wheels, fully powered front seats with driver memory settings and a Bose surround-sound audio system. The GT2 (coupe only) substitutes rear-wheel drive for the Turbo's all-wheel-drive system -- one of the reasons the GT2 is more than 300 pounds lighter. The GT2 also features a 530-hp engine and heavily revised bodywork. As with the GT3, the GT2 is a racetrack-oriented 911.
An active suspension management system is optional on the Carrera and Targa 4, and standard on all the other trims. Dubbed PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), this feature provides a smooth ride over the bumps, yet tightens up considerably when the car is being driven hard through the curves.
Porsche offers a dizzying array of expensive options, including custom color schemes, different seats, upgraded stereos, custom leather trims and a choice of wood, aluminum and carbon-fiber accents. Other highlights include race-bred ceramic disc brakes, a navigation system and a Sport Chrono package. In addition to supplying lap times and records, the Sport Chrono option also remaps the electronic throttle for quicker response and, on automatics, the transmission for quicker downshifts and holding lower gears during aggressive driving to keep the power on tap for powerful corner exits.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard 911 Carrera is equipped with a 3.6-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that produces 325 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. The Carrera S has a 3.8-liter version of the flat-6 rated for 355 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The 911 Carrera and Carrera S can be had in either rear-wheel- or all-wheel-drive ("4") versions. The Targa 4 can also be had in standard or S trim and as indicated by the "4," comes only in AWD form. An optional Carrera Power Kit for S models bumps power up to 381 hp.
The GT3 and GT3 RS are rear-wheel-drive only and come with a 3.6-liter flat-6 with 415 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The Turbo features all-wheel drive as well as a twin-turbocharged 3.6 that makes 480 hp and 460 lb-ft. The GT2 is rear-drive and packs a 530-hp version of the turbocharged 3.6. All 911s come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while all trims except the GT3s and GT2 also offer a five-speed Tiptronic automatic as an option.
Every 911 can perform the 0-60-mph sprint in fewer than 5 seconds, with the Turbo and GT2 doing it in well under 4. Top speed approaches 200 mph for the GT3 and Turbo and exceeds that in the GT2.
Six airbags (including side curtain), antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control are included on all 2008 Porsche 911 models except the GT3, which does without the stability control.
Interior Design and Special Features
The driver-centric Porsche 911 interior features a single-pod gauge cluster and supportive bucket seats that feature firm side bolsters that hold you in place during aggressive cornering, yet don't make you feel constrained. More aggressively bolstered sport seats are also available. A wide variety of trim accents and color choices allow one to tailor the cockpit's style to their liking. Large footwells and a tilt/telescoping steering column virtually guarantee that most drivers will be comfortable behind the wheel. In back, all but the GT3 and GT2 have a pair of deep-set bucket seats. In a pinch, they'll work for small children, but no more than that. Those seats fold flat, providing some stowage space (accessed by a glass hatch in the Targa), but the 911's principal cargo area is located underneath the hood up front.
Driven at normal speeds, the 2008 Porsche 911 delivers a firm but mostly pleasant ride that's suitable for daily commutes. Thankfully, though, the omnipresent growl of the flat-6 reminds one that this is a serious performance car. Lay into the power and the 911 comes alive. Acceleration is effortless and the turbocharged models are especially thrilling without being unruly in normal driving.
The 911's variable-rate steering feels slightly numb at certain speeds, but turns in crisply and with precision, and is largely unaffected by broken pavement. The brakes are powerful and respond promptly in a linear fashion. When slicing through a twisty road, the 911 remains composed and hunkered down. The stability control provides enough leeway to allow experienced drivers to push the car hard, while also offering enough of a safety net to keep them pointed the right way.