By the late 1950s it was obvious to Porsche that the 356, which had started as basically a heavily modified Volkswagen Beetle in 1948, was small and not particularly powerful in comparison to other sports cars at its lofty price level. But it was also the car upon which the company was built and was essentially Porsche's sole product. Replacing it was necessary, yet perilous. Who knew that the eventual replacement for the 356, the 911, would surpass its predecessor in sales, longevity and glory? Or that it would be so fanatically cherished by its owners that Porsche hasn't been allowed to replace it despite trying a couple of times?
Almost immediately after it went on sale in September 1964 (as a 1965 model) the 911 established itself as an icon of '60s cool. Then it segued gracefully into being an icon of '70s performance, then an icon of sophistication and affluence in the '80s, then an icon of athleticism and power in the '90s and is now simply an icon of all that's right with Germany and automobiles.
It has also been an incredibly successful racecar. Almost as soon as it went into production, buyers were using it in hill climbs and autocrosses and Porsche itself has come up with dozens of racing variations, including the legendary RSRs, 935s and Paris-to-Dakar winning 959s. To keep this story down to a somewhat manageable length, untangling the tale of 911 racing will have to be left for other venues.
The 911's evolution through the decades has often been incremental but occasionally radical. While other cars have been around as long as the 911, none have so unwaveringly sustained such a singular personality. Or had more racing success. And if you ask most engineers, the 911's engine has always been in the wrong place.
With Porsche's limited resources and the enormous consequences for the company in getting the 356's replacement right, the gestation of the 911 was a long one. Development of a 356 replacement was instigated by Ferry Porsche (son of the firm's founder, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche) way back in 1956. He was assisted by 1960 stylist Butzi Porsche (Ferry's son), body engineer Edwin Komenda and powertrain engineer Ing Hans Tomala who had developed the "Type 7" prototype with styling that obviously led to the 911.
Like the 356, the Type 7 was built as a 2+2 with useful rear seats and a fastback shape. However, the front end was an obvious precursor to the 911. What the Type 7 retained from the 356, and this was supposedly unquestioned within Porsche, was a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine with horizontally opposed cylinders. The 2.0-liter engine in the Type 7 had six cylinders (two more than the 356's) but was otherwise similar in that it used pushrod valve actuation and two valves per cylinder.
It was the decision to build an all-new flat six with overhead camshafts in place of the pushrods that defined the direction of 911 development after the Type 7. The new engine not only had more efficient valve actuation, but also was physically hefty enough that it could accommodate future displacement increases. Through its life the engine would prove amazingly flexible and grow from its original 2.0 liters to as much as 3.6 liters. It was also turbocharged for both production and racing purposes.
By early 1963 the new engine, along with a decision to cut back on the rear-seat accommodations, resulted in what was then called the Type 901 and shown publicly by Porsche. The wheelbase had been slashed to a mere 87.0 inches, which was 4.4 inches longer than the 356's, but 16.1 inches less than the wheelbase of a 2003 Honda Civic coupe. Prototype and preproduction 901s were such common sights in Germany during 1963 and 1964 that many consider these cars the first of their type. But French carmaker Peugeot claimed the right to any car names with a numeral zero in the middle, so when the 901 went into regular production in the fall of 1964, its name was changed to 911.
The 1965 911 was a tiny machine packed with high-tech pieces. In an era where most sports cars offered a four-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, the 911 had five forward gears. Most '65 cars used solid rear axles suspended on leaf springs. The 911 had a sophisticated semitrailing arm and torsion-bar-sprung independent rear suspension that was also a big step forward from the swingarms used on the 356. Up front, the 911 used MacPherson struts (at a time when practically no one knew what they were) and a precise ZF rack-and-pinion steering gear in an era when steering was typically by recirculating ball. The first 911 also carried four Dunlop disc brakes and rode on P165HR15 radial tires.
The first 911 coupe (the only body style) was almost delicate-looking, with chrome accents around the windows and bumpers along with chrome steel wheels with flat hubcaps similar to the 356's. The Porsche name was spelled out across the tail in block letters with 911 in script just above and to the right of the maker's name, and below a large single air intake at the top of the lid.
Breathing in through twin Solex carburetors, the original 2.0-liter 911 flat-six made an impressive SAE gross 148 horsepower, which was enough, claimed Road & Track, to push the 2,360-pound car to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds and to a top speed of 134 mph. But it wasn't cheap at $5,990. A '65 Cadillac Coupe DeVille was, for comparison, $5,408 and a base '65 Chevrolet Corvette coupe went for just $4,321.
There's essentially no difference between a 1966 911 and the '65 edition. In fact, the best way to tell the two apart is by referencing the serial numbers. In mid-'66 however, Porsche did replace the troublesome Solex carbs with new Webers and fitted booted constant-velocity joints to the rear half-shafts in place of U-joints.
The big news for '66 was the introduction of the 912, essentially a 911 fitted with the 1.6-liter, four-cylinder motor from the just-discontinued 356 1600 SC with a price tag over $1,400 cheaper. The 912 may be unloved today, but back in '66 Porsche sold almost twice as many of them as 911s.
Just about a year after showing it in prototype form, Porsche put the 911 Targa into production in the fall of '66 as a 1967 model. Using a roll bar under a stainless steel cover, the Targa featured a removable, foldable top from that bar forward to the windshield header and a soft canvas cover with a flexible plastic window that could be unzipped from the car and removed. The first Targas were miserable; the tops leaked and the rear windows were distorted when new and quickly yellowed after being exposed to the sun. But the Targa would improve.
For enthusiasts, even more exciting news for '67 came with the introduction of the 911S for Super available as both a coupe and a Targa. Porsche threw some spark curve and timing changes into the regular 911 engine, bumped the compression ratio up from 9.0 to 1 to 9.8 to 1 and the result was an output jump to 180 horsepower in the 911S. The S also came with a new set of gears in the five-speed transmission; a set of gorgeous, unmistakably Porsche, Fuchs five-spoke alloy wheels; a rear anti-sway bar; and ventilated disc brakes. There was also, in a fit of inelegant engineering, a 24.2-pound weight fitted to the front of the S in an attempt to help the car's weight balance.
Worth a mention were 20 911 "R" models built during the '67 model year with stripped interiors (no carpet, for instance), thin-skinned aluminum doors, fiberglass deck lids, taillights swiped from a Fiat, oversize carbs, a magnesium engine case, dual spark plug cylinder heads and much more. With about 210 horsepower on board, these race-ready, lightweight rockets were the start of the 911 racing legend.
New emissions regulations knocked the 911S out of America for 1968, so Porsche instead shipped over a 911S with the regular 911 drivetrain and called it the 911L to sell alongside the regular 911 and 912 (both carrying new emissions equipment). Both the 911S and a new, lighter 911T were offered in Europe during '68. Around the middle of the year customer complaints about the Targa's crummy rear window persuaded Porsche to offer a neat wraparound piece of glass as an alternative. Beyond that, the wheels were widened an inch, the door handles were new, the engine case switched at midyear to magnesium construction and the four-speed "Sportomatic" semiautomatic transmission was offered and for the most part promptly ignored. The widened wheels brought with them slight fender flares as well.
Porsche made major improvements to the 911 for 1969. First by increasing the wheelbase 2.25 inches by shifting the rear wheels back, thus improving weight distribution, and then by bringing back the S and equipping it with fuel injection. The company also introduced a new injected 911E model and brought over the 911T as an entry-level 911 (the 912 carried forward almost unchanged).
Rated at 125 horsepower, the 911T's 2.0-liter engine used a low 8.6-to-1 compression ratio and carburetors and fed a four-speed transmission. The 911E's 2.0-liter had a 9.1-to-1 compression ratio and Bosch mechanical fuel injection and put 158 horsepower through its five-speed. The 911S was again the ultimate Porsche and used a stout 9.9-to-1 compression ratio to knock out a thrilling 190 horsepower that it piped through its own aggressively geared five-speed transmission. The Sportomatic was needlessly offered on the 911T and 911E and all three were available as Targas.
The '69 is the best of the 2.0-liter 911s (Car and Driver had a 911S rip to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds). But the best was yet to come for the 911.
Porsche pushed the 911 into the '70s with a slightly larger 2.2-liter version of its flat six. Otherwise the 1970 911 lineup varied little from 1969. However, the 912 was killed off as Porsche was now selling the midengine, Volkswagen-powered 914.
The extra displacement boosted output of the Zenith-carbureted 911T to 142 horsepower, the injected 911E to 175 horsepower and the injected, high-compression 911S to a full 200 horsepower. Not only was the new engine larger, but it also used new aluminum cylinder heads with larger valves for better respiration. Also for the first time, a limited-slip differential was offered as an option.
With a myriad of other detail changes like new undercoating and a buzzer that went off if the driver left the ignition key in, the 1970 911s were easily the best ever. So good that they continued through 1971 basically unchanged.
Building on the success of the 2.2-liter engine, Porsche bumped the 911's six to 2.3 liters (actually 2,341 cubic centimeters, which Porsche badged as a "2.4") for 1972 by bumping the stroke up to 70.4 millimeters from 66 millimeters while keeping the bore at 84 millimeters. This pushed output of the 911T engine (now with Bosch fuel injection) to 157 horsepower, the 911E to 185 horsepower and the 911S to a potent 210 horsepower. The new power led Porsche to install a new, stronger five-speed transaxle and a new, more robust version of the still ludicrous Sportomatic.
Except for a small chin spoiler on the 911S (offered as an option on the other two models) and the "2.4" badge on the deck lid's air intake, the '72 911s were visually almost indistinguishable from the '71s.
Porsche applied the name "Carrera" to the 911 for the first time during the 1973 model year. The RS Carrera was a homologation special for racing and as such featured more radically flared fenders, larger (185/70VR15 front and 215/60VR15 rear) tires on appropriate wheels, a big 2.7-liter version of the 911 engine (achieved by blowing the bore up to 90 millimeters) making 200 "net" (more conservative than "gross") horsepower and, of course, the classic ducktail rear spoiler. Not surprisingly, this lightweight car was too good to sell in the United States, but 1,800 were built for the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, over here, the '73 911s had their "2.4" engines also rerated using net figures to 135 horsepower for the 911T, 159 horsepower for the 911E and 181 horsepower for the 911S. Otherwise, if you could perceive a difference between them and the '72s, you were a Porsche fanatic of the highest order. Midway through the year, Bosch electronic fuel injection replaced the mechanical unit on the 911T and that engine was rated down a single pony to 134 horsepower, but drivability soared.
Both the 911T and 911E disappeared from the 1974 lineup as the 911 got its most serious makeover yet. Taking their place were a letter-free 911 and, finally in America, a Carrera. All featured versions of the 2.7-liter engine introduced on the Carrera RS and new styling to accommodate energy-absorbing bumpers mandated by U.S. regulations.
The new body-colored bumpers made the '74 911s look more contemporary and featured black rubber boots at the ends that looked like bellows. All the engines also adopted electronic fuel injection as emissions regulations grew even tighter. That put the output of the 911's 8.0-to-1 engine at 143 horsepower, and the 911S' and Carrera's 8.5-to-1 power plant at 167 horsepower.
The U.S. Carrera carried the same bodywork, wheels and tires as the European Carrera RS, but had to stay with the 911S engine to meet emissions. Other changes to all 911s included new aluminum and magnesium suspension components, new front seats with integrated head restraints, some other interior revisions and a rigid fiberglass top for the Targa.
Porsche eliminated the base 911 for 1975, narrowing the line to just the 911S and Carrera with one engine. More modifications were made to deal with emissions regulations and that hacked the output of the 2.7-liter six down to 157 horsepower in every state except California, where it was rated at just 152 hp. These were not the quickest 911s ever.
Except for a new rubber-rimmed "whale tail" rear spoiler on the Carrera, the '75s looked much like the '74s. But there were 1,500 special "silver anniversary" edition 911s created to celebrate the company's first quarter century. All the silver anniversary cars were painted, well, silver.
But the big news for '75 was taking place in Europe with the introduction of the fabulous Turbo Carrera that didn't quite make it to the United States that year. But it would for 1976.
The 911S was the only normally aspirated 911 for '76 and, virtually unchanged from '75, it was easy to overlook. In fact it was a joy to overlook as all eyes fixated on the 234-horsepower 930 (Porsche's internal model number) Turbo, which had one real, live turbocharger blowing into its big 3.0-liter engine.
With even bigger fender flares over humongous (for the time) 215/60VR15 front and 225/50VR15 rear tires, a deep chin spoiler, headlamp washers and that whale tail spoiler, the 930 was an instant classic. Surprisingly, because of the Turbo's torque output, the only transmission aboard it was a four-speed manual. Car and Driver had the $25,850 Turbo blitzing to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds and topping out at 156 mph simply astounding performance for a time when most cars were strangled by primitive emissions controls. The 911 Turbo Carrera is one of the few great performance machines of the 1970s.
Except for a move of the Turbo from 15- to 16-inch wheels and tires, the 1977 911s were very much carryovers from '76. The front quarter windows no longer opened, the ventilation system was revised for more output, and there were new vacuum brake boosters, but otherwise status quo was maintained.
In 1978, with emissions regulations threatening engine outputs, Porsche upped the displacement of all naturally aspirated 911 engines to 3.0 liters, switched back to aluminum engine cases and reworked the 911S into the new 911SC. The injected 911SC engine was now making a healthy 180 horsepower (172 in California) and 16-inch wheels were optional.
The Turbo's engine swelled to 3.3 liters and now featured an intercooler to boost output to a stunning 253 horsepower. The intercooler put the whale tail spoiler atop a large box covering most of the rear deck lid.
But '78 was supposed to be the beginning of the end for the 911 as Porsche introduced the front-engine, water-cooled, V8-powered 928 as its replacement. The 928 was at least interesting when it was introduced and it matured into a fine touring machine.
So Porsche didn't change much on the 911 for 1979. After all, the '80s would belong to the 928. Or would they?
Inauspiciously, Porsche started the 1980s by canceling the Turbo in the United States. While the most powerful 911 continued to be sold across Europe during 1980, North America made do with just the 911SC, which was now equipped with a catalytic converter and rated at 172 horsepower in all 50 states and Canada. Air conditioning and electric windows were made standard for the first time and all the window trim was now black, eliminating chrome from the 911 completely.
If there was any compensation for the loss of the Turbo, it was the special "Weissach" model offered with larger wheels and tires, special paint, specific interior trim and the whale tail spoiler. Hey, it was something.
Canada got the Turbo back for 1981 (with the special order option of the 935-like flat-nose bodywork available), but the U.S. went forward with just a barely changed 911SC. If you had always wanted halogen headlights on your 911SC, '81 was the year for you! And the '81 was so popular they almost completely left it alone for 1982.
Big news for 1983 came in the form of the first 911 full convertible, the Cabriolet. Based on the Targa body shell, the Cabriolet featured a manually operated canvas top with a zip-out rear window. But otherwise, the 911SC was virtually unchanged. The introduction of the Cabriolet devastated sales of the Targa.
The 3.0-liter 911SC was gone from Porsche's 1984 line and replaced by the 911 Carrera as the sole 911 model sold in the United States. A virtually all-new 3.2-liter version of the 911 flat six powered the Carrera and knocked out an impressive 200 horsepower. That new engine, equipped with Bosch's latest Motronic fuel injection, provided scintillating performance. Motor Trend reported a 5.7-second 0-to-60-mph time for a 911 Carrera coupe with a 146-mph top speed and outstanding everyday drivability. But if scintillating performance wasn't enough, Porsche also offered the infamous "Turbo Look" body package for the 911 Carrera coupes that mimicked the appearance of the Turbo including the whale tail spoiler without that pesky turbocharger.
For 1985, Porsche added one-touch centralized locking to the 911 Carrera (especially helpful to those who couldn't or wouldn't reach across the narrow cockpit to the only other door to lock or unlock it). Otherwise the 911 was unchanged.
Finally, the Turbo returned to the United States during the 1986 model year thanks to new engine electronics that finally got the 282-horsepower, 3.3-liter engine through emissions compliance. However, the $48,000 Turbo was still offered only as a coupe and with only a four-speed manual transmission. The regular '86 911 Carrera soldiered forward through the year almost indistinguishable from the '85.
Tweaking the engine electronics boosted output of the 911 Carrera's 3.2-liter six to 214 horsepower for 1987 and it fed a new Getrag five-speed manual transmission. Also for the first time, the Turbo was offered as a Cabriolet and Targa in addition to the coupe. And if you wanted that "slant nose" look (at $23,244) on your $76,500 Turbo Cabriolet and then picked just one more option, the result was the first factory 911 to cost more than $100,000. But at least that Cabriolet, like all '87 Cabriolets, would have a power-operated top.
One 911 that never made it to the United States (at least in a legal road-going form) was the awesome 959. Delivered to its patient buyers beginning in late '87, the 959 was a homologation special built to qualify the car for FIA's Group B racing. The 959 featured wildly soft-edged bodywork, electronically controlled all-wheel drive fed by a six-speed transmission and a radical twin-turbocharged, 2.85-liter flat six with liquid-cooled DOHC cylinder heads, four valves per cylinder and every other technology imaginable to mid-'80s man. Porsche sold only 200 of the 450-horsepower, 197-mph 959s at somewhere north of $240,000 apiece. Oh yeah, a 959 would blast to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds according to Auto Motor Und Sport.
What's most amazing about the 959 is that it presaged future development of the 911. Much of what made the 959 exotic was normal 911 stuff by the mid-'90s.
Exhausted by the 959 effort, Porsche could only tweak the electronics on the regular 911 Carrera for 1988. That was good enough to push output up to 231 horsepower, just three ponies less than that of the original '76 930 Turbo. Also new for '88 was a "Club Sport" model of the Carrera with a stripped-down interior to minimize weight perfect if you wanted a 911 but didn't want to be comfortable. And finally, the Turbo was now equipped with a five-speed transmission.
The year 1989 brought forth few changes to the regular 911 Carrera lineup as all the major mechanical pieces carried over intact in both normally aspirated and turbo form. However there was one significant addition to the line that year, the Speedster.
Inspired by the late-'50s 356 Speedster, the '89 version used a cut-down windshield, lightweight convertible top and deleted the rear seats. If you liked the styling, and could live with the impracticality, the Speedster was available for $65,480, which was just about $9,000 more than a regular 911 Cabriolet.
About halfway through the '89 model year, Porsche introduced a heavily revised 911 known internally as the 964. While the 964 may have been introduced as a 1989 1/2 model, it's more properly considered as the first 911 of the '90s.
With new bumpers, new mirrors and other detail changes, the 911 sold during late '89 and into 1990 was a definite break with traditional 911 styling and incorporated a small spoiler that would rise mechanically from the rear deck at speed. All that new styling was wrapped over new engineering.
First, the new 911 Carrera was offered with both two- and four-wheel drive for the first time, with the two-wheel drivers now known as Carrera 2s and the four-wheelers known as, you guessed it, Carrera 4s. The accommodation of the all-wheel-drive system meant the underside of the 911's structure was heavily revised for the first time.
Also offered for the first time during the '90 model year was the Tiptronic four-speed automatic transmission that could be shifted using buttons on the steering wheel. It was better than the old Sportomatic, but still not the transmission of choice for most Porsche lovers.
Both Carreras were powered by a new 3.6-liter, twin spark plug version of the 911 engine making a stout 247 horsepower that's 13 horsepower more than the first 911 Turbo. The suspension was also revised with MacPherson struts retained up front and a new rear suspension using coil springs instead of torsion bars with new trailing arms. Also part of the rear suspension was Porsche's "Weissach" rear axle that added self-steering elements to the rear end to minimize the chance of unwanted oversteer. And with the "964," the 911 got front airbags for the first time. Initially at least, there was no Turbo model, but the coupe, Targa and Cabriolet all returned.
The 964-based Turbo emerged for the 1991 model year with its turbo-inflated 3.3-liter engine whacking out an astounding 315 horsepower. Available only with rear-wheel drive and a five-speed transmission, the new Turbo was the quickest 911 yet (outside the 959) with Motor Trend measuring a 0-to-60-mph time of just 4.8 seconds. The other 911s went forward with few changes.
For 1992 Porsche offered a 911 Turbo S2 with a lofty $118,935 price (not including luxury tax) that had longer gearing and, to many minds, somewhat disappointing performance. Also offered in '92 was a 911 Carrera 2 RS with a fixed whale tail rear wing. Other changes were slight.
Though technically a '94 model, Porsche introduced the awesome Turbo 3.6 about halfway through the 1993 model year. While otherwise similar to the previous 3.3-liter Turbo, the 3.6-liter Turbo blasted forth with a jaw-dropping 355 horsepower.
Other models offered during '93 included an RS America coupe and the America Roadster that mated a Turbo cabriolet body with the standard 3.6-liter, normally aspirated engine and deleted the rear seats.
While most 911 Carrera 2 and Carrera 4 models carried over into 1994 almost unchanged, the chopped-top 911 Speedster did return for a second appearance. But by the middle of the year, the new 911 was ready and it is rightly considered the best air-cooled 911 of them all.
With its distinctive laid-back headlamps and gracefully rounded bumpers, the 1995 911 (known internally as the 993) wasn't just a new-looking 911; under that new bodywork was a much better car in almost every way.
A new A-arm rear suspension and thoroughly revised front MacPherson strut suspension underpinned the 993. The 3.6-liter engine now made a thrilling 270 horsepower in both Carrera 2 and Carrera 4 models and fed a new six-speed transmission. The disc brakes were larger and controlled by a new ABS system, and 17-inch wheels were now standard equipment. About the only things missing from the new 1995 911 was the Turbo and, alas, the Targa.
The Turbo returned for 1996 with two compressors now feeding its 3.6-liter maw and a six-speed and all-wheel drive delivering the resulting 400 horsepower to the pavement. It was almost everything the 959 had been a decade earlier for the bargain price of just $105,000.
Also new for '96 was a heavily revised Targa, which used a new Webasto-built roof with sliding glass panels on the 911 Cabriolet's body (a body which in turn was based on the original Targa). However, as Motor Trend noted, "Particularly at night, the reflections in the two [overlapping] rear windows can be wacky."
The new Targa, like all normally aspirated 911 Carreras that year, also benefited from engine revisions (new cylinder heads with 1-mm-larger intake and exhaust valves, a revised camshaft and a new "Varioram" variable induction system) that swelled output to 282 horsepower. Motor Trend's six-speed Targa leapt from zero to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds and gobbled up the quarter-mile in only 13.5 seconds at 103 mph.
Also new in '96 was the Carrera 4S that featured the wide body of the 911 Turbo (but not the rear spoiler) and the Carrera 4's normally aspirated drivetrain.
For 1997 most 911s were barely changed from '96. The major exception being the new Turbo S model that featured a power boost to 424 horsepower something no one really needed, but was appreciated nonetheless.
While Europe was already getting the all-new water-cooled 996 during the 1998 model year, the 993 marched on in the U.S. shorn of its Turbo and Turbo S models and otherwise mostly unchanged.
The first truly all-new 911 finally appeared for the 1999 model year with the "996." Sharing no body panels, no underbody structure and no major mechanical components with previous 911s, the 996 had more in common with the Boxster than it did with any previous car that wore the 911 name. The 996 was 6.8 inches longer than the 993 overall (a total of 174.5 inches just two-tenths of an inch shorter than a 2003 Civic Coupe) and rode on a relatively long 92.6-inch wheelbase. The engine, however, was still in the back where it "doesn't belong." The front suspension was again MacPherson struts and the rear was held up by a new multilink system with coil springs.
The 996's engine was a wholly new piece itself. Still a flat six, it was now water-cooled and used DOHC heads with four valves per cylinder and incorporated variable valve timing. Displacing 3.4 liters, the new engine ripped out 296 horsepower while breathing through the latest Bosch Motronic fuel injection.
The driving experience of the 996 is different than all previous 911s. It's a more civilized ride, with less immediate reflexes and more composure over bumps and road irregularities. Is it as good as the old 911? That's a subjective evaluation. Some like it more, some feel it to be a betrayal of the car's air-cooled heritage.
There were no Turbo or Targa models available during '99 but both two- and all-wheel drive were offered with either the coupe or Cabriolet. That just gave Porsche a Turbo and Targa to develop during the 21st century.
The 2000 model naturally aspirated 911s were carried over from '99 except that a new exhaust bumped output to 300 horsepower. And stability control, already standard on the Carrera 4, becomes optional on Carrera 2 models. This was enough to impress Edmunds' own Karl Brauer. However, in Europe, the Turbo was already back, and it would return to America during 2001 with a vengeance. A 911 GT3 was offered during 1999 and 2000 in Europe with a 3.6-liter engine making 360 horsepower and featuring a radical two-tier rear wing. It was mighty special and indicated to the world that special-edition 911s would continue with the 996 generation.
The new 2001 911 Turbo used a twin-turbocharged, water-cooled 3.6-liter flat six to make 415 horsepower which it distributed through an all-wheel-drive system. Edmunds.com got its first taste of the 911 Turbo in 2001 with Senior Road Test Editor Brent Romans pronouncing, "This car is the pinnacle. It is The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's, a bottle of Dunn 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon or Star Trek's Wrath of Khan." For the first time, the Turbo could also be had with an automatic Tiptronic transmission. Why anyone would want that remains open to speculation. Other updates for '01 included power releases for the engine cover and front luggage compartment, a new audio system boasting a subwoofer, a redesigned (three-spoke) steering wheel and "Turbo Look" wheels for non-turbo 911s.
For 2002, Porsche rolled out the most extreme 996-based 911 yet, the GT2. Weighing 200 pounds less than the mighty Turbo and with an even more powerful engine, the 456 horsepower GT2 was not for the foolhardy or inexperienced pilot it sent all those restless horses to the rear wheels (unlike the Turbo with its all-wheel drive) and couldn't be had with Porsche's stability control system. The standard 911s got more power (now up to 320 horsepower) via a bump in displacement, from 3.4 liters to 3.6 liters). Other big news included the return of the Targa model after a four-year vacation and the fitment of a glass rear window to the Cabriolet. Detail changes included the fitment of Turbo-style headlight clusters (that helped differentiate the $70,000 911 from its $43,000 baby brother, the Boxster), the installation of a real glovebox and a single cupholder along with the option of Bose audio and a number of new wheel designs.
The 911 quietly rolled into 2003 with minor changes including slightly revised front and rear fascias and gray-tinted (versus the previous yellow) turn signal lenses.