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1999 Porsche Carrera C2 Review

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Porsche 996 (shown)

‘99 Porsche Carrera C2

If we are to believe the folks at Porsche, the 1999 911 Carrera has almost nothing in common with its predecessors. According to Frederick J. Schwab, president and chief executive officer of Porsche North America, the original 911 had reached “its maximum point”, and it was time to start with “a clean sheet of paper” and design a new model. They’re claiming it’s the first all-new 911 in 34 years.

With all due respect to Mr. Schwab, I say, stuff and nonsense. The latest Porsche Carrera is very much a product of all that came before it. It’s still propelled by a rear-mounted flat-six, sports that unmistakeable shape, handles like a Porsche, and carries the same stratospheric price tag. And I’ll tell you something else for free: it doesn’t matter. New design or not, the new Carrera has all the performance thrills, presence, and panache of the last version. There are changes in abundance, but the basic Porsche driving experience is very much intact.

Yes, the body has been subtly restyled, but what really separates the new Carrera from the old is the drivetrain…specifically, the engine. It is now liquid-cooled, and displaces 3.4 litres (207 cubic inches). With twin overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and a new fuel injection/cam timing system, it develops 296 horsepower at 6800 rpm. There are two transmission choices: a six-speed manual and Porsche’s patented five-speed Tiptronic. This new engine owes much of its design to the Boxster powerplant, which is slightly smaller (2.5 litres), and both share technology. It’s interesting to note that the Boxster, which is a much less expensive automobile, has inspired the changes in the Carrera powertrain line-up. Usually, it’s the other way around.

Porsche purists need not be concerned about any changes in the overall character of the 911. There is still a huge amount of power to play with, and throttle response is just as immediate as it ever was. Tromping the pedal in just about any gear produces a satisfying roar from the engine, and neck-snapping acceleration. Officially, the 1999 911 Carrera goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds with the manual transmission version, and six seconds with the Tiptronic. Top speed is pegged at 174 mph (280 km/h). If it matters, fuel economy is 13.8 L/100 km (17 mpg) in the city, and 8.6 L/100 km (25 mpg) on the highway for the manual gearbox model.

Inside, it’s still very much Porsche-land. You sit low, in firmly padded and maybe just a little on the spartan side leather bucket seats, and everything is tastefully done. Polished aluminum bits and pieces set off a grand touring style of interior, and Porsche has cleaned up the instrumentation so that all gauges are in your line of vision. The key/ignition switch is still on the left, however, and my car occasionally balked when I tried to get it started. Sometimes, the key simply would not turn and I had to take it out and try again several times. Definitely worth the effort, but this is a $100,000 automobile, after all. If anything, the Carrera has become more of a grand touring automobile, shedding some of its rough and tumble ambience. It still satisfies all your senses, but is a little more subtle about it.

Externally, Porsche has extended the 911’s wheelbase by 3.2 inches, and streamlined the body. Changes to the front end are especially noticeable, and the Boxster’s styling influences are pretty obvious…particularly the headlight treatment. The new 911 also has less drag than it used to, and a retractable rear spoiler helps keep things stable at higher speeds. When the car hits 75 miles an hour (121 km/h), it goes up automatically. Overall, the look is still muscular but definitely more….oh….genteel. All new 911s have seating for four people. But anyone contemplating riding in the back seat of the C2 better not be a large person. There just isn’t a lot of room back there, and if you’re at all claustrophobic, forget about it.

The Carrera comes in several models. The 2WD coupe, which I drove, an all-wheel-drive C4, and the Cabriolet, which is available in two or all-wheel-drive. Let’s get the prices out of the way right now. A bare-bones Coupe starts at $95,200; the C4 goes out the door for $103,200; the Cabriolet two-wheel-drive, $109,000; and the Cabriolet C4, $117,000. In most cases, you can tack on another five grand for the Tiptronic transmission. Personally, my choice would be the car I drove; it may not have the versatility of all-wheel-drive, but it comes with ABS and a limited-slip differential, and can be ordered with a traction control system that utilizes both ABS and the engine management system. Other standard equipment includes dual front and side airbags, air conditioning, sunroof, heated outside mirrors, power windows, cruise control and central locking. There is also an extensive options list including, among other things, a GPS system, rear window wiper, heated front seats, power seats, and an upgraded suspension set-up. Much as I love this car, I figure for almost one hundred large, the only option should be choice of paint.

Which, of course, is the 911 conundrum. Excellent automobiles with unmatched lineage and pedigrees, but invariably very pricey. The Boxster, at just under $59,000, represents a much more sensible choice, all things considered.

But I still want one.


Price range: $95,200 - $121,830 Drivetrain: 3.4 litre horizontally-opposed six cylinder engine; six-speed manual/five-speed Tiptronic transmission; two or all-wheel-drive. Power: 296 hp at 6800 rpm Performance: 0 - 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds Fuel economy: 13.8 L/100 km (17 mpg) city/8.6 L/100 km (25 mpg) hwy. Brakes: Ventilated four-wheel discs w. ABS Wheelbase: 92.6 in. (2350 mm) Curb weight: 2901 lb. (1319 kg)