The 2021 Porsche 911 Carrera is the industry benchmark for two-door sports cars. Introduced more than 50 years ago, today’s eighth-generation 911 is unique because the vehicle’s engine is in the rear of the chassis. And unlike most two-door sports cars, the 911 offers a 2+2 passenger cabin in most models that provides space for additional passengers during short trips. The subcompact vehicle is offered in rear- or all-wheel drive, in coupe, Targa, or convertible body styles, with a choice of turbocharged 6-cylinder engines. The 2021 Porsche 911 starts at just under $100,000.
The 911 rides on a unique rear-engine platform that isn’t shared with any other vehicle on the market – not even its brand siblings. This packaging defines the general shape of the vehicle, which has varied little in the model’s five decades of production. Locating the engine in the rear has advantages in terms of packaging, as it allows Porsche to have a generous trunk (“frunk”) in the nose of the vehicle and a passenger cabin that is more spacious than most everything else in its class.
Porsche redesigned the 911 for the 2020 model year (the new model is known internally as the Type 992), but the exterior design modifications were very subtle – the company was following the “don’t mess with success” philosophy. The new model enhancements include a new front fascia, motorized door handles, and LED taillamps that stretch across the rear bumper. Staggered size wheel diameters, with fresh designs, round out the exterior changes.
(The vehicle pictured in this review is a 911 Targa 4S in Gentian Blue Metallic over Club Leather in Truffle Brown .)
Although the exterior of the redesigned 911 was hardly altered compared to its predecessor, Porsche took much bolder moves within the cabin of the Type 992 to modernize and enhance the sports car with innovative technology and premium appointments.
The driver faces a traditional analog tachometer, which takes center stage on the instrument cluster. It is surrounded by digital multifunction displays on each side which complement the 10.9-inch infotainment screen in the center of the dashboard. The switchgear is easy to use, but not intuitive – the key is on the left side of the steering wheel (a long-standing Porsche tradition) and some of the knurled climate controls are hidden by the small transmission shift lever. There are average-sized storage cubbies on the doors and center console and a pair of cupholders for small beverages.
Front-seat passenger legroom, headroom, and shoulder room is generous. The 911 is one of the roomiest sports cars on the market. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive. The 2+2 cabin of the 911 offers two small seats in the rear, which fold to increase cargo capacity when not in use. They are useful for children, pets, or small adults for short-duration trips.
The 911 offers a surprising amount of utility for its size. Luggage may be stowed in the nose of the 911 (a pair of 22-inch roller suitcases fit perfectly) and there is more space in the cabin behind the front passengers as those small rear seats fold independently to create a cargo deck.
Porsche only fits horizontally-opposed flat-6-cylinder engines to the 911. Carrera and Carrera S models feature a 3.0-liter with a pair of turbochargers (379 hp / 331 lb-ft of torque and 443 hp / 390 lb-ft of torque, respectively). The range-topping Turbo (573 hp/553 lb-ft of torque) and Turbo S (640 hp/590 lb-ft of torque) boast a larger twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter engine. An 8-speed dual-clutch PDK (Porsche Doppel Kupplungs getriebe) automatic is standard on all models, but Porsche – in an unusual and welcome move to satisfy driving enthusiasts – offers a 7-speed manual as a no-cost option on the Carrera S models.
Rear-wheel drive is standard on the Carrera and Carrera S models, with all-wheel drive optional. All-wheel drive is standard on both Turbo models. Fuel economy varies from 15 mpg in the city to 25 mpg on the highway, depending on model. Premium fuel is required on all 911 models.
Many sports car makers fit powerful V8 engines to their vehicles in an effort to make them fast and competitive, but this requires a larger engine bay and it adds weight. Porsche, on the other hand, fits a smaller flat-6 to its sports cars and focuses on making the 911 light – it most cases it is several hundred pounds lighter than rivals. As a result, the 911 is nimble, agile, and responsive. Combine those qualities with very accurate steering, some of the industry’s most powerful brakes, and the driving dynamics are confidence-inspiring. All models of the 911 are engaging and a genuine joy to drive.
In terms of acceleration, the Carrera and Carrera S models will sprint to 60 mph in fewer than four seconds, which makes them some of the fastest cars on the road. The Turbo and Turbo S models, with a couple hundred more horsepower, shave a full second off those times (the Turbo S Coupe is one of the fastest accelerating cars in the world, with the ability to get from 0-60 in fewer than 2.5 seconds). The range-topping Turbo models are capable of exceeding 200 mph.
Critics frequently point out that the rear-engine 911 has its powerplant at the wrong end of the vehicle, but the company’s engineers have long-since tamed any odd or peculiar driving dynamics. In fact, the additional mass on the rear wheels improves both acceleration and braking – literally enhancing the way it performs.
- 911 Carrera (starts just over $99,000) – This is the entry-level rear-wheel drive Carrera coupe
- 911 Carrera Cabriolet (starts about $112,000) – Mechanically identical to the Carrera coupe, but with a power-operated convertible roof
- 911 Carrera 4 (starts about $107,000) – Adds standard all-wheel drive to the Carrera coupe
- 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet (starts about $119,000) – Adds a power-operated convertible roof to the all-wheel drive model
- 911 Carrera S (starts about $115,000) – Upgraded with more power, more features, and performance upgrades.
- 911 Carrera S Cabriolet (starts about $128,000) – Convertible version of the Carrera S
- 911 Carrera 4S (starts about $122,000) – Adds standard all-wheel drive to the Carrera S
- 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet (starts about $135,000) – Adds a power-operated convertible roof to the all-wheel drive Carrera 4S model
- 911 Targa 4 (starts about $119,000) – Mechanically identical to the Carrera 4, but with a motorized center section of the roof that tucks away behind the rear decklid
- 911 Targa 4S (starts about $135,000) – Mechanically identical to the Carrera 4S, but with a motorized center section of the roof that tucks away behind the rear decklid
- 911 Turbo (starts about $171,000) – Larger and more powerful engine, adds standard all-wheel drive, plus more standard equipment, and performance upgrades
- 911 Turbo Cabriolet (starts about $184,000) – Mechanically identical to the Turbo, but with a power-operated convertible roof
- 911 Turbo S (starts about $204,000) – Enhanced engine output, upgraded performance equipment, and more standard features compared to the Turbo.
- 911 Turbo S Cabriolet (starts at about $216,000) – Mechanically identical to the Turbo S, but with a power-operated convertible roof
If you are looking for a more accurate idea of pricing, you can build and price a 911 on Porsche’s official web site.
The Porsche 911 is a sports car that requires minimal compromise. Unlike nearly all of its competitors, which require owners to make concessions for interior space, ride quality, or utility, the 911 is equally as capable as a daily driver as it is at home on a racing circuit. And the availability of all-wheel drive across the lineup makes it a true four-season vehicle for those in the Snow Belt.
Our choice is the Carrera 4 (starting around $107,000). The standard 379-hp engine is more than sufficiently powerful for the vehicle’s weight (0-60 mph takes about four seconds) and all-wheel drive ensures traction regardless of what Mother Nature presents. Most Porsche buyers will spend at least $10,000 in options, so choosing the less expensive Carrera 4 allows some room for upgrades and customization while keeping the price below $120,000.
All 911 models are fitted with WET mode, which is an innovative technology that uses sensors in the wheel wells to determine of the road is wet. If dampness is recognized, the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and Porsche Traction Management (PTM) is reconfigured for lower traction to improve stability and safety. Porsche also fits Warn and Brake Assist to all 911 models. This system is designed to reduce collisions by alerting the driver (visually and audibly) to pending collisions. If the driver doesn’t react, the system is capable of automatic emergency braking to assist.
While the 2021 Porsche 911 meets all of the stringent crash test requirements of the DOT, the NHTSA and IIHS have not crash tested the sports car because its production volume is too low (this is common with vehicles in this segment).
Porsche engineers its 911 for driving enthusiasts – those who are very passionate about automobiles. The brand is known for its countless racing victories and many owners drive their 911s on racing circuits with car clubs or race competitively, an endeavor that Porsche actively supports.
Although perfectly suited for use as a daily driver, most 911 owners have another vehicle in their garage. Consumers seeking something with a bit more room than a 911 are encouraged to check out the company’s sporty four-door Panamera, or the Macan and Cayenne crossovers.
The 2021 Porsche 911 deserves its benchmark status among sports cars. Porsche found a winning formula and has continuously refined and polished the 911 over the past half-century to the point where it is able to offer literally dozens of different models (expect the enthusiast-oriented GTS and the track-ready GT3 models to arrive in late 2021) to satisfy nearly every driving enthusiast.
Premium build quality, a comfortable cabin, useful utility, and innovative technology are just part of its accolades. Add in respectable reliability and strong resale value, and we can’t think of any reason to not put it on our recommended list.
- Audi R8
- Aston Martin Vantage
- Chevrolet Corvette
- Jaguar F-Type
- Mercedes-AMG GT
Photography by Michael Harley.