911 Turbo Final Assessment: Too. Much. Car.

There is such a thing as too much car. That's what I learned from my year with a 2002 Porsche 911 Turbo.

Don't get me wrong, it's a remarkable car. The common wisdom is that the 911 Turbo is the "everyday supercar," combining insane performance while also being practical enough to drive every day. That's mostly true, but...

The single best thing I did was drive the car home from Dallas after buying it. On smooth, empty highways crossing the high, dry desert, the Porsche was a dream. I set the cruise control at 125 mph, and the car was happy to go like that for hours. It's utterly at ease at those speeds, with plenty of acceleration still on tap.

In fact, let's pause for a moment on the subject of acceleration. It's really rather shocking ("face-melting" in Jennifer's words). Other than the Tesla Model S, it's hard to get the same feeling of rocket launch acceleration without unnecessary drama. I will miss that.

But unlike a lot of "incredibly fast in a straight line" cars, the 911 is also a great handling car when you get to the twisty mountain road, with loads of grip to spare on those huge tires and all-wheel drive and traction control to rescue you if you get too ambitious. 

So, why is it too much car?

If you regularly find yourself stuck in traffic, or barely reaching 30 miles per hour between city stop signs, then the 911 Turbo is too ... much ... car. The suspension is deliberately stiff, which is great on a race track or well-maintained freeway, but murder on the crappy pavement of San Francisco. And the clutch is a real challenge to deal with, working more like an on-off switch than a traditional clutch. It's hydraulically assisted, which makes it "light", but also robs it of feedback. I've been driving a stick my entire driving life, and I stalled it about 1 in 5 times I drove it. Starting on a hill was always anxiety provoking (and in SF, that happens often).

But I did enjoy owning it, and it taught me a lot. And even though I was never tempted to keep it on a long-term basis, I do admire what it represents. These 911 Turbos from 2001-2005 (aka 996tt) are truly among the greatest bargains in high performance cars. Try one before the prices really turn around (they are already beginning to climb). Just watch out for those pesky coolant pipes coming loose...

Comments

  1. I've been a manual transmission guy all of my life also but the trick to urban driving a 996tt is to buy the tiptronic equipped version. Still faster than a speeding bullet without the constant stirring in city traffic or tough starts on SF hills. As far as the stiffness, I don't find the stock suspension too stiff for a comfortable ride, but the aftermarket semi-track setups are. And the stock non sport seats are very comfortable. Straight out of the box this is a great GT car. Thanks for the interesting write up.

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  2. LOL: "I stalled it about 1 in 5 times I drove it." "the clutch is a real challenge to deal with" " feeling of rocket launch acceleration" - Someone's gonna be doing a clutch on their 996tt soon!

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