Porsche 911 Coupe (2004 – 2012) expert review
Read the Porsche 911 Coupe (2004 - 2012) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.The Auto Trader expert verdict: 4.2 No sports car offers the breadth of choice and abilities as Porsche’s iconic 911 coupe.
- Easy to drive and own
- Fast yet really practical
- Incisive and loaded with feel
- A bit too popular for its own good
- Lots of tyre noise in all models
- Interior doesn’t feel special enough
At a glance
Few cars can genuinely be classified as iconic, but it’s true of the Porsche 911. The current car’s shape remains faithful to that of all its predecessors, making the 911 instantly recognisable. The large round headlamps, raised front wings, low bonnet and gentle sloping curvature of the rear – to the unique rear-mounted engine – are all obviously related to the 911’s forebears. Even the most basic Carrera model looks sensational. The higher performance versions gain deeper air intakes, tarmac-scraping splitters and ever larger rear spoilers, while four-wheel drive 4 models are slightly wider.
The driving position is as familiar as the exterior lines, with its upright windscreen, excellent all-round visibility and floor-hinged accelerator pedal. For a car costing as much as it does the rather hard plastics lack the premium look of rivals and it all feels surprisingly ordinary. Despite this it all works brilliantly and feels like it’ll last forever. A little bit more flair would help it no end – particularly heading up the range into the more expensive models. It’s possible to make it feel more special with option packs, but it’s not cheap to do so.
For a car that can accelerate, sustain speed and thrill as much as the 911 can it’s amazingly practical. It’s little wonder that for many the 911 is the default sports car choice, as it’s a useable daily proposition. There are four seats in all but the most extreme models, though the rear two are for occasional use only. Drop the seatbacks and it creates a useful – though uncovered – large luggage area. The front boot isn’t a great shape, but if clever with soft bags it’s possible to cram a surprising amount in.
Ride and handling
It might have an engine in the rear, but Porsche’s evolutionary engineering process has managed to tame the previously tempestuous 911 handling traits. The steering is among the finest of any car for feel, the steering wheel communicating to the driver about the road surface and levels of grip. The ride is understandably taut, but it’s rarely compromised – unless you select the over-firm sport setting on Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Traction is fantastic, even better with the four-wheel drive 4 models, while grip and cornering speeds possible with the go-faster Turbo/S and GT3/GT3 RS versions are scarcely believable.
From the entry-level Carrera with its 3.6-litre flat-six with 345bhp, through the 3.8-litre S models with 385bhp, to the GT3 and Turbo/Turbo S models with even greater power, no 911 is slow. The Carrera manages 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, while the Turbo S takes just 3.3 seconds. The naturally aspirated cars are the best, and you certainly don’t feel short-changed by the 3.6-litre car. It is beautifully free-revving and pulls very strongly from low speeds. The S models increase the intensity a bit, but the GT3 and RS models thrill like little else.
Given the performance potential on offer the 911 isn’t a bank-breaking ownership proposition. Servicing isn’t cheap, but it’s not in the league of exotics that its performance compares to. Insurance on all versions is in the very upper levels of the groupings, while consumable parts like tyres and brakes will wear quickly if you enjoy your 911. Fuel economy impresses, with the Carrera returning average fuel consumption of 29.4mpg while emitting just 225g/km. Heading up the range the owner isn’t punished for greater performance, with the loony fast Turbo S managing 24.8mpg on average.
Aside from the odd hiccup Porsche’s reliability is excellent. Germany’s tough reliability test shows the 911 to have few faults, which, given the performance potential, is very impressive. Turn-key reliability is a great part of Porsche’s appeal, and the 911 is very unlikely to let its owner down.
The 911 hasn’t been officially crash tested, but it should prove effective in helping avoid an accident in the first place. Stability and traction control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist are all standard, as are bright, self-levelling xenon headlamps. Two-stage front, side and head airbags and load-limiting seatbelts with pre-tensioners all help to protect in the event of the unthinkable.
It’s not unreasonable to spend a further 10-20 percent of the list price on options in a 911, though it does feature the basics as standard. Sat-nav and telephone/iPod connection cost extra. Start adding premium audio and the cost rises significantly. Few examples leave the showroom with the standard seats, buyers usually choosing full leather and selecting the sports seats option. Choose a PDK car and plan on shifting gears manually, then the sports steering wheel is a must-have option – as it includes paddle-shifters instead of Porsche’s counter-intuitive buttons on the steering wheel.
Few cars thrill like the Porsche 911. Yet it’s more than a mere sports car, as it’s genuinely useable as a daily driver. Few rivals can offer such a breadth of talent. At the entry point in the range it’s an enjoyable, fast car, but go up the range and it gets faster still – without losing its roundedness. Turbo models typify this, with shocking performance, while the GT3 and GT3 RS models appeal to a harder-core audience. PDK-equipped cars make traffic a breeze, but the manuals are so sweet-shifting they’re what we’d always choose.