There are many things that seem to be the general consensus of the auto community; things that are mutually agreed upon. But there’s always exceptions to these common opinions. In this particular case, I’m that guy who dislikes 911s.
*Gasp* “How is it possible to dislike a 911?!” you’re probably asking. Well, allow me to do you an educate: they’re ugly, the drivetrain is wrong, they sound like garbage, they’re selling for 15 times what they’re worth, and they haven’t been updated since WWII. And to me, it’s really that simple.
I’ve received an increasing amount of grief over the last few years regarding my opinion on the 911, as the resale market is proving its current [see: temporary] relevance to enthusiasts and collectors. I decided to take this opportunity to rent one from Turo and try it out for myself. Of course, I was heavily biased right off the bat, but if it’s to be as good as everyone says, then it should have no problem changing my mind in quick fashion. Spoiler Alert: it really didn’t.
The particular car I rented was a 2006 Carrera 4S. The reason I rented this particular example was simple: it was the only 911 available within a 100 mile radius at the very start of our New England winter. This model was a three-tone silver paint, gray vinyl wrap, and black duct tape, with the gray and black covering up the heavily chipped and damaged parts of the car. It had 130,000 hard miles, and felt as if it was last maintained on the day the first owner took delivery in 2006. Oh, and it was also an automatic. Not a PDK transmission, but a real torque-converted automatic. So needless to stay, I was doomed from the get-go. But Turo hooked this up at no charge (I’ll explain another day), so it was hard to complain too much.
My initial thoughts upon picking up the vehicle was how wide and large it appeared, which was then immediately accompanied with the realization of how shockingly cramped the interior is. I have no idea how Porsche managed to turn such a large exterior footprint into 1 cubic foot of usable interior space. The car sounded like a constant exhaust leak at idle, though I’ve come to realize that all Porsches do, not just the air-cooled cars. The gray interior was absolutely atrocious, and the touch points were garbage. Every interior component that wasn’t wrapped in leather, was finished in this horrible rubberized coating, which is probably all too familiar to anyone who owns a Volkswagen product from the last 20 years. All of said coating was literally coming off on my hands through this entire project, really emphasizing the prestigious charisma of the 911 namesake.
Now driving it was interesting. I’ve always been told that a 911 won’t let you forget that the motor is hanging off the rear bumper, and that’s a very true statement. The driving-feel of this car is unlike anything I’ve been in before, though often a bit more unnatural than exciting. Taking the car to 6,000+ rpm informed me that the engine is actually capable of being audibly pleasing, albeit stinking like burning oil immediately upon returning to idle.
The handling of the car was interesting, though I can’t really fault Porsche here, since this was a shitty all-wheel-drive model that someone voluntarily exchanged US currency for. Given that I don’t have any two-wheel-drive Porsche experience to compare it to, the car did feel a bit heavy in the driveline, and did have a tendency to push a bit when you exited a corner hard, which was to be expected. That being said, it responded beautifully to aggressive steering input, and the engine made enough power to blast between corners as fast as I was comfortable going on cold New England pavement. The brakes were great, however I think any non-auto enthusiast would struggle with the pedal feel being as stiff as it was.
The (unintentional) focal point of this whole experience, though, was the transmission. This car was equipped with a 5 speed automatic transmission. My only other Porsche experience in my life was in a PDK-equipped car, which set the bar way too high. For anyone who doesn’t know, the PDK is a dual-clutch transmission, exclusive to Porsche. The acronym stands for Porsche Doppelkupplung, which sounds more like a weird sex act you’d find on urban dictionary, than a state-of-the-art transmission. The PDK was introduced in the 911 for the 2009 model year, which meant every 997 listed as an auto leading up to 2009, was equipped with a torque-converted 5 speed tiptronic automatic. This transmission is atrocious. There really is no other way to put it. When the car was cold, the transmission wouldn’t leave third gear. As if trying to convince you to keep the engine at the rev-limiter to warm it up quicker, or something. When the car was warm, the transmission would wander, aimlessly dropping gears on the highway under light-throttle conditions. It truly was a basket case. Really, the only way to remedy this was to use the tiptronic mode, which posed its own issues. The 997 has these tiptronic buttons on both sides of the steering wheel, which you can rock upwards to upshift, and downwards to down shift. Except their response was laughable, and didn’t do anything to remedy the driving experience, except convincing the trans not to downshift into third at 80mph on the highway.
Overall, it was hard for me to really develop an opinion on the whole experience. The car was not the ideal example to try and like. It was wrong-wheel-drive, it had the worst transmission ever put in a road-going vehicle since the birth of the automobile, it was the wrong color, with the wrong interior, and it was a heavily-used example of all the above. I believe a little bit of 911 did show through, and that glimmer of excitement still interests me. Now it’s time to find myself a proper example to do this whole process over again.