From £85,576
Our base 911 is shorn of frills but isn’t short on appeal. It’s time to have some fun

Why we ran it: Because this is the world’s most famous sports car in its purest form. So how much Porsche 911 do you really need?

Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Prices and specs

Life with a Porsche 911: Month 3

Is the entry-level 911 Carrera the best all-round sports car that money can buy, as we suspected? - 3 February 2021

The Porsche 911 feels like a car that you know so well, but spend any time in one and, as the saying goes, you feel like you hardly know it at all.

You know it’s fun, but you don’t realise how fun, or how it can spark life into even the most mundane and shortest of drives. You know it’s usable and surprisingly practical, but not that it’s usable for a family of four with a dog and some bags. And you know how well crafted and engineered it is, but you don’t realise just how great the attention to detail is and how many Easter eggs you will uncover months after taking delivery.

This was a test not only of what life is like with the world’s greatest sports car but also of just how much of that sports car you really need. Porsche is known not only for filling the 911 range with evermore variants, but also – fairly or otherwise – for knowing how to keep standard kit to a minimum and then start charging big for options. Even on our relatively spartan Carrera, it added almost 10% to the list price.

So how much 911 do you really need, then? After a few short but sweet weeks with one, perhaps not even quite as much as our Carrera came with. The only additions that would alter the dynamics of our test car, which arrived not-quite-boxfresh after close to a year as a Porsche press demonstrator, were the Carrera S wheels (£1145) and sports exhaust (£1844). As we will come to, I could have happily done without either of those. The rest of the options were all cosmetic or for convenience, inside and out, and come down to taste.

The 911 in its purest form (pure, remember, still means £82,795) is just as special as its stablemates and certainly doesn’t suffer from ‘here’s what you could have won’ syndrome. It’s a car that made an impression on everyone who came into contact with it – even those who didn’t drive it. In those cases, it was for the way it looks. The 911’s appearance is so often taken for granted; it just looks like it always has done.

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But spend any length of time with the latest 911 on your drive and it quickens the pulse every single time you see it. The details on the car are fantastic, from the 3D badging on the rear to the sumptuous proportions, neat and tidy surfacing and about as evocative a design for a central brake light that I can remember. In fact, it’s about the only such central brake light design that I can remember.

What made this Carrera not standard visually was the fitment of Carrera S wheels, 20in at the front and 21in at the rear. They looked good and did little if anything to spoil the ride, but I could forgo them.

Indeed, the fact that our 911 wasn’t quite at its absolute purest gave inspiration for an upcoming comparison feature on various models and what options you really need to make the difference. One taking part is the purest of pure base Carreras, which has replaced our Aventurine Green car on Porsche’s press fleet.

Ah, Aventurine Green. I never thought this dull, dark colour would leave such a lasting impression on me, but I came to love its stealthiness. It just blends in and doesn’t draw attention to itself and has the added benefit of hiding dirt. I’m not the only one who thinks this; a well-known Autocar reader ordered his Carrera S in the same colour and loves it too. A very smart choice from a man who knows how to put on a show.

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To drive, our car certainly knew how to put on a show. Expanding on a point I made previously, the 911’s raw fun and feelgood factor is occasionally overlooked as people go looking for a deeper meaning to it. There’s plenty of depth to the Porsche, of course, yet at its core, this is a car that makes almost every moment of a drive and interaction an enjoyable one.

It starts with the lovely feel of rotating the starter dial to the right, causing the engine to fire up. It’s probably start-up where the six-pot sounds best, because for the most part it still lacks some aural character, even with the sports exhaust fitted. I’ve not driven a 992 or even a 991-generation 911 without a sports exhaust, though, so we’ll put an asterisk next to that judgement.

I digress. The Carrera isn’t an intimidating car to drive, and it involves you and rewards you even on a pootle round the roundabout outside the supermarket. Which is a good job, because even this ‘basic’ 911 has 380bhp, so flooring it in second or third gear will have your licence under threat in no time.

Luckily, it has the knack of making the sprint from 30mph to 70mph up a slip road a fun one. It also displays such remarkable composure and involvement on a B-road, which is where it feels most at home. The gearchanges feel crisp, the engine is willing to be revved, the control weights have nice heft while remaining comfortable and the car changes direction quickly and accurately, all while sending lovely feel back through the steering and your backside. It’s only really the ample road noise on A-roads and motorways that grates.

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It crammed plenty in during its short time with us. A cameo role at our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest brought it face to face with 991-gen-2 the Porsche 911 Turbo S – which, it must be said, monstered our car at Castle Combe, although that was hardly surprising given the sodden conditions.

The Carrera really showed what it could do on track against the new Chevrolet Corvette C8 at Silverstone, where it revealed just how playful and sideways it could get. Colleagues racked up the miles, too, most notably prepress manager Darren Jones, who squeezed his whole family in at the same time.

The lasting impression the 911 will leave with me is the car’s sense of durability and depth of all-round ability. Even in its short time with us, I felt that the 911 was a car that could be driven anywhere, any time, for years to come even, and that could make each drive a memorable one.

It’s a very special car indeed, yet just how special and deep its talents lie made for a very pleasant surprise.

Second Opinion

My first and only drive in RE69 RSU was at ‘Handling Day’, on a soaking wet Castle Combe circuit, immediately after I had done a few laps in a Porsche 911 Turbo S. Safe to say you notice the Carrera’s lack of a driven front axle immediately. It’s obviously nowhere near as quick around a lap, but its greater appetite for wet-weather shenanigans means it’s still a huge amount of fun on track. It’s just a shame that you can’t get this base 911 with a manual gearbox.

Simon Davis

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Love it:

Ride comfort The 911 is a bit like a miniature McLaren in how it blends sharp handling with a comfortable ride.

Fantastic looks Boring? Don’t be silly. The 992 is a brilliant-looking car and a real high point in 911 history.

Rear seats So handy for so many things, they contribute to making the 911 
a sports car that’s useful.

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Loathe it:

road noise Lengthy motorway drives required a strong right turn of the volume dial to drown out the road noise.

instrument binnacle I found it all a bit information overload and never discovered a configuration I really gelled with.

Final mileage: 7550

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Whether in the front or the back, it will put a smile on your face - 20 January 2021

Farewell, then: the 911 is back with Porsche, perhaps even with a lucky new custodian by now (one careful owner and all that – promise…). It’s too soon to say goodbye, though, because its short but oh-so-sweet time with us means there’s a fair few tales still to tell before we give the car the full send-off on these pages in a couple of weeks’ time.

Aside from the trips to Castle Combe for our latest Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest and to Silverstone for a twin test against the Chevrolet Corvette C8 detailed in recent updates, most of the 911’s journeys have been the kind of mundane here-to-there trips that make up the vast majority of motoring.

Here, the 911 shines in an entirely different way. Much in the same way that the Volkswagen Golf GTI’s appeal lies in that it remembers to be a usable hatchback as well as a hot one, so the 911 is faithful to the car part of its sports car description.

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That usable appeal comes in little everyday things like the rear seats (useful for carrying shopping bags and other items) and the nifty pop-out cupholder, as well as the bigger but often-overlooked things like the major service intervals being at two years or 20,000 miles (the warranty at three years with unlimited mileage), rather than seemingly every five minutes. Sure, you will want to check regularly that everything is in tip-top condition, but such numbers are testament to the 911’s durability and usability.

It isn’t just me who has been enjoying the car but many of my colleagues, too – after a thorough douse of sanitiser, of course. Among them was Matt Prior, who donned the face mask and latex gloves to drive the 911 in its twin test against the ’Vette.

Prior loved the 911 on Silverstone’s Stowe circuit, where it revealed not only how smooth it could be – much like a Mercedes-Benz SL or even a pure grand tourer – but also how playful and rewarding to drive.

That the 911 is both of these things is often overlooked. The car has built up such an aura and has such a breadth of abilities that it can be easy to miss the obvious. At the end of the day, it’s a sports car – and a bloody brilliant one at that. Or, as Prior succinctly put it, “good fun”.

That sense of fun extends to the passengers, too. Our prepress manager Darren Jones borrowed it for a few days to surprise his son, who considers the 911 to be the ultimate bedroom-poster car. Although the 911 can hardly be described as family transportation, Darren’s wife and two kids all fitted into it for a 20mph pootle around Richmond – and there was even enough space at the front for their dog.

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And it turns out that it isn’t just those sat inside the car who can enjoy it. At a closed circuit with safety equipment in place, the 911’s front boot becomes the ideal place for a photographer to take some of the close-up action shots that adorn big features such as Britain’s Best Driver’s Car.

Snapper Max Edleston is known for always having a smile on his face, but I thought being exposed to the cold and pouring rain in 911’s front boot might on this occasion remove it. As you can see for yourself, I was wrong: the 911’s fun factor in evidence once more.

Love it:

Kerb appeal Now it’s gone, I realise how much I miss the 911. Even just seeing it parked outside my house through the window.

Loathe it:

Steering wheel trim This is nitpicking, I know, but the steering wheel’s trim doesn’t quite have the same quality of touch and feel as the rest of the cabin.

Mileage: 7520

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Life with a Porsche 911: Month 2

Go easy with the options: even an entrylevel 911 needs few extras, we’ve found - 6 January 2021

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Back in March 2017, Andrew Frankel took delivery of a then new Porsche 911 Carrera S to run on these pages over the following nine months.

Looking back at Andrew’s final report (Autocar, 17 January 2018), my eyes are drawn to the spec of his car: an £85,857 Carrera S became a £108,028 one after options. Which is a lot of options for a lot of money, and Andrew found that the likes of the £1530 rear axle steering and £2744 active anti-roll bars only really added to the cost rather than the enjoyment.

Loading cars with options and charging for everything is something Porsche is well known for. But it’s not just Porsche in fairness: our 992-gen 911 recently lined up alongside the new Corvette, a car that can be had for as little as around £44,000 in the US, but by the time it had been imported to the UK, in a higher trim level and with a few choice options, it came in at a mighty £132,000.

That spec list alone, then, has made this test three years on in the latest 992 Carrera all the more interesting, to see how pure and pared back an experience a 911 can still offer. Our incumbent 911 is an £82,793 car that rises to £90,891 with options, and of those it’s really only the £1145 Carrera S wheels (20in front, 21in rear) that do anything of note to alter the driving experience. (The £464 reversing camera and £699 dynamic LED headlights are must-haves, while everything that really costs on our car is a personal choice of colour, trim or convenience.)

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Reading Andrew’s conclusions, if I could write as well as he does I’d be tempted to just pass his work off as my own, given how similar they are: that a turbocharged engine brings more to the party than it takes away, considering how accessible it makes the performance, and once you’re over how good the car is to live with and reflect on how good it is to drive, you find yourself in disbelief that it sits at the bottom of the 911 range.

Andrew, of course, found all this in a more powerful S version costing almost £20,000 more after options. That so much of what he says is true of this most pure of 911s tells you how brilliant the 911 is no matter how little or much you spend on it. Why go for more when less is already enough?

Love it:

Paint colour Aventurine Green metallic paint is an £876 option that both looks stealthy and hides road grime.

Loathe it:

No Android Auto Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring works a treat, but it’s Bluetooth only for Android users.

Mileage: 7455

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BBDC sets up an impromptu comparison with the 911 Turbo S - 23 December 2020

At our 2019 Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest, the Porsche 911 Carrera S took a very creditable third place. This year’s rear-engined entrant from Stuttgart was the the latest Porsche 911 Turbo S, complete with four-wheel drive to carve through the sodden Castle Combe track.

All of which made turning up for the day there in our long-term 911 Carrera feel like going back to your old workplace. It’s all a bit awkward: they’ve already moved on from you, and you’ve been replaced by a shiny new version. Only two driven wheels and 380bhp? Try four-wheel drive and 641bhp this year…

And that’s before you consider that the shiniest of new Porsches, the Porsche Taycan EV, was also in the contest – the first electric car to be so. This was my first chance to try it, and although it’s different in so many ways, the bloodline it shares with the Carrera is clear through its accessibility, its directness and how it can make even the simplest of drives pleasurable.

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The Carrera’s presence also allowed for my own Britain’s Best 911 contest against the Turbo S – which highlighted just how big the differences between the pair are even before braving Combe. On public roads, the Turbo S is frankly too powerful and extreme to drive at even 50% of its limits – let alone 100% – while the Carrera is far more exploitable. If there’s such a thing as too much, the Turbo S is probably it.

The acceleration of the Carrera, meanwhile, is fast enough to enjoy without feeling like you’re going to lose your licence. The kickdown function is a joy too, and as well judged as any automatic I can remember. It simply doesn’t get old, dropping the speed a bit and then hitting the throttle. Married to a chassis that’s perfectly in tune with the driver and a joy to interact with, whether you’re at said 50% or 100%, less is definitely more here with the 911 as a road car.

On the track, I found the opposite to be true. Like many others, I grabbed the keys to the Turbo S before anything else, given the wet conditions. The Turbo S is known for supreme stability, thanks in part to its four-wheel-drive traction, and so it proved, even with all that power: nothing on the day gave me more confidence to drive quickly but safely.

If we had the stopwatch running, we would have stopped the count as soon as the Turbo S posted a time. Yet others were more involving still, even at much slower speeds in some instances, hence why the Turbo S just fell short of the BBDC podium. The Carrera, on the other hand, struggled a bit at Combe: understeer on the way into a corner and oversteer on the way out was the order of the day. I’m putting that mainly down to the weather more than anything, but still the difference between it and the Turbo S is stark, almost as if the pair aren’t related.

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As capable as the Carrera feels as an involving, intimate sports car, the Turbo S feels just as capable as an all-roads, all-weather supercar. All this goes to show just how much variety there is in the 911 range. Some might ridicule Porsche for stringing out the 911 across a seemingly never-ending spectrum of variants, but even between the Carrera and Carrera S there are real, noticeable differences, let alone between the Carrera and the Turbo S.

Love it:

Rear seats Don’t underestimate their appeal: they’re so handy for extra storage, making the 911 a real everyday option.

Loathe it:

Instrument binnacle Almost too wide and displays too much information for its own good, as where I set the steering wheel obscures the outer two displays.

Mileage: 7420

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Life with a Porsche 911: Month 1

The kind of car you really can drive every day - 11 November 2020

What strikes you very early on in 911 ownership is just how usable the car is. It’s the VW Golf GTI of the sports car world, one with an on/off switch for when you want to cover plenty of miles in a fuss-free way. In fact, there hasn’t been a single journey I’ve avoided in the 911 in its first 1000 miles with us. It’s only really the road noise that gripes, yet a turn of the volume knob soon sees to that.

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Mileage: 7360

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Welcoming the 911 to the fleet - 21 October 2020

Home working meant it had been six months since I’d met up with Autocar’s picture editor, Ben Summerell-Youde, and even more time had passed since seeing snapper Olgun Kordal, photographers being strangers to the office at the best of times.

On our reacquaintance one sunny early autumn day in a rural Oxfordshire car park, the small talk lasted about eight seconds before we all started poring over Porsche 911 I’d arrived in. Cue nerd alert.

Olgun pointed out that the engine cover at the rear has nine vent slats on each side and then an ‘11’ motif in the middle for the central vertical brake light, thus spelling 911. I admired the 3D Porsche badging at the rear, loving its integration below the horizontal light bar. Ben was cooing over the surfaces, noting how the increase in size of the car actually allowed for not only better proportions but also better looks.

This went on for quite a few minutes before we decided we should actually go and take some photos of the car. As I pulled away, I smiled: the pre-photoshoot car park meet is ordinarily something Autocar does hundreds of times a year, but I can’t recall one with so much time spent examining a car’s details, nor one when we knew about so many of those details in advance.

But that’s the 911 for you. They’re special cars; familiar, but in a good way. Not everyone will love them, but everyone (well, nearly everyone) respects them and has their own story to tell. Many enthusiasts know a lot about them and shudder at any suggestion that all 911s are, and always have been, the same. The variants seemingly grow with each generation, but pretty much all arrive with a pretty clear purpose.

What we have here is the new Porsche 911 992 generation. It’s not totally box-fresh any more, having been first launched last year. (And since then, incidentally, Ben, Olgun and I have all spent plenty of time around them, which only goes to show what a special moment any time with a 911 is, however ‘familiar’ it might be.) This particular version, on our fleet for just a few short but special weeks, is the one from which all future versions of the 992 will be derived: the standard Carrera.

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Our classy-looking Aventurine Green 911 has been on Porsche’s press fleet for almost a year. In that time, it has racked up more than 6000 miles and been driven by many other motoring titles – and ourselves, for a brief first drive late last year. Steve Cropley actually drove this car to my house halfway through his test, and the 20 miles or so I managed in the pouring rain confirmed enough about its breadth of qualities while also whetting the appetite for more.

The story here, then, comes in the form of three questions. What does a 911 feel like after a year of hard use? Well, I can answer that after the 300 miles I’ve done so far: as good as it felt back in December when I first drove it. Second, we know how usable 911s are, but how does usability extend to even the most mundane of drives, week after week? And third, just how much 911 do you need? That last question is particularly pertinent given the spec of our car. The Carrera is, of course, rear-wheel drive and has the lowest power output of any 911. Yet 380bhp from its twin-turbo 3.0-litre flat six instead of the 444bhp of the Carrera S a step up the food chain sounds plenty enough to me. We shall see.

This car has relatively few options. I know, £8098 worth of extras on top of an £82,793 car sounds like a lot, but it still costs less to buy than an optionless Carrera S. Remove the £1145 S alloys and the £1599 14-way adjustable electric sports seats and you’ve arguably got all the 911 you really need. That’s not a definitive conclusion, though, in case anyone at Porsche thinks we’re done with the car already…

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Given we’re not commuting to the office for now, I’m doing far fewer miles, so each journey has a different kind of purpose. I’m also running a Honda E, a short-range electric city car that is proving to be ideal for the 80% of journeys that really are just down the road. As such, the 911 spent 48 hours on my drive before I drove it in anger for the first time.

That drive was wonderfully humdrum – a five-mile trip to a neighbouring town on a Saturday morning – but it was a delight. From behind the wheel, the 911 feels nowhere near as wide as it looks. It manages bumps with far greater compliance than its big wheels and sports car silhouette would have you believe. And, road noise aside, it’s quiet and comfortable enough for general pottering around.

Put your foot down and this 911 feels the right kind of fast: definitely more sports car than supercar, progressive in its power delivery and never threatening to overwhelm either its driver or the road. It flatters and lets you have fun, which is a word I think we’ll be coming back to over these next few weeks.

Second Opinion

This car confirms a lesson I learned 30 years ago: that while owners commonly add many thousands in options to their base 911, if they restrained themselves they’d still have a great car. The only thing a 911 needs is LED headlights, ideally the matrix type. Otherwise, a 911 Carrera is terrific out of the box, as this car proves.

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Steve Cropley

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Porsche 911 Carrera specification

Prices: List price new £82,795 List price now £82,795 Price as tested £90,891

Options:venturine Green metallic paint £876, Black and Island Green two-tone leather interior £422, privacy glass £387, sports exhaust £1844, 20in/21in Carrera S wheels £1145, Porsche Crest wheel centres £114, Dynamic LED headlights £699, automatically dimming mirrors £387, Park Assist including rear camera £464, 14-way electric memory sports seats £1599, Porsche Crest embossed headrests £161

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 26.2-27.4mpg Fuel tank 64 litres Test average 24.2mpg Test best 29.1mpg Test worst 12.1mpg Real-world range 341 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 4.2sec Top speed 182mph Engine 6 cyls, 2981cc, turbocharged, petrol Max power 380bhp at 6500rpm Max torque 332lb ft at 1950-5000rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Boot capacity 132 litres Wheels 8.5Jx20 (f), 11.5Jx21 (r) Tyres 245/35 ZR20 (f), 305/30 ZR21 (r), Pirelli P Zero Kerb weight 1505kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £1053 CO2 233-245g/km Service costs none Other costs none Fuel costs £338.11 Running costs inc fuel £338.11 Cost per mile 22 pence Faults none

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Join the debate

Add a comment…
H Walker 25 February 2021

I am finally in the postion to buy a 911, its on order. I have yet to have a proper test drive, I hope it lives up to the dream. The main problem I have had was finding a Porsche dealer who has shown any interest in selling me one, it has taken four attempts.

Rather ride a m... 6 January 2021
A reversing camera is an essential extra? You should be ashamed!
NoPasaran 6 January 2021

I concur, reversing camera in 911 which has very good visibility.

I would not get dynamic LEDs either.

Put these moneys towards sport exhaust or something sporty like that.

gagaga 25 February 2021

Having seen what my wife did to the rear of our M2 with a reversing camera, this will be an essential tick if this was to be a daily.

rob26 24 November 2020

It's not about it's looks. It's about how spectacular they are to drive. If you want a car for the golf club car park, get one of those disposable Jags or an orange McLaren.