You hear people talk about the Porsche 911 a lot. They all either want one, or had one, or want another one. To hear them talk about the market for these cars, you’d think you were listening in on a panel discussion with Bernanke and Greenspan about key interest rates.
As with the world of high finance, you’re not supposed to ask what the big deal is. It’s shameful to admit you don’t really get it. And what’s worse, if you do ask the question, you’ll get a confusing answer.
Well, let’s clear that up right now. The Porsche 911 is special primarily because it’s been around so long. And, like all things that are truly great, the 911 has stood the test of time by getting better with age. The first one rolled off the production line in the early ’60s, and it’s been in continuous development ever since.
In that time it’s picked up every accolade a car could. You name it, the 911’s won it: Le Mans, Daytona, the Nurburgring, Targa Florio. Hell, they even put mud flaps and big tires on it and sent it racing across the desert to win the Paris-Dakar rally in the ’80s. And yes, because you might have heard a rumour about this, the 911 is kind of a distant relative of the classic Volkswagen Beetle. You can see the family resemblance by looking at the engine — both have it where the trunk should be (although the new Beetle’s engine is up front). In fact, the 911 design is credited to Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who designed the first Beetle.
But what about today’s Porsche 911? Why are car people still obsessed with this ancient design? Simply: The 911 is the practical sports car holy grail. You can quench your need for speed, and drop your kids off at school. You can do track days and road trips, getaways and groceries. And what’s more, thanks to the over 50 years of development, Porsche has attained an enviable degree of flawlessness: no rough edges or weaknesses. As far as luxury purchases go, the 911 is among the most justifiable.
What’s new for 2017? A change car people will be debating for decades: turbocharged engines. Like the switch from air-cooled to water-cooled in the late ’90s, many fans have their pitchforks out and are ready to riot. But for the rest of us, this is good news. It means mid-range torque — the thing that makes an engine feel meaty and big — is going way up and fuel consumption is going down.
The only question left is which 911 to get? With more than 20 variations currently on sale, there’s plenty to debate the next time you’re stuck with a bunch of car people.