My father is a Porsche obsessive who, back in 1974, managed to get his hands on one—a white '73 911T Targa with a black interior, to be precise. When I think back on that car, the pungent smells of leather and gasoline rush into my mind, along with the sight of my dad pulling on his trusty pair of driving gloves (yes, he was forty years ahead of Gosling on those, thank you very much).
So whenever I'm tasked with writing anything Porsche-related (a happily frequent occurrence), I call him to talk shop. This time around, when I tell him I'm going to be flying out to California wine country to test drive the new 911 Carrera, he quickly cycles through the five classic stages of driving envy: confusion, denial, anger, excitement, and then, finally, calm contentment.
I mention the big news that has the world of sports car connoisseurs all abuzz: Porsche has decided to turbocharge the new 911. "They've always turbocharged their cars!" he tells me. He's right, as usual—but before, only certain tiers of 911 would come turbocharged; now, for the first time ever, Porsche has decided to turbocharge every single one of its 911 engines straight out of the factory—a potentially anxiety-inducing move for the company's fanatical and often purist fan base.
And what is the result? Well, I could tell you that the result is a base-level Carrera with more torque than previous models that goes from zero to 60 in four seconds, all while weighing in about 150 pounds lighter. But I'd rather just tell you how it feels to be behind the wheel.
Porsche has long made its name by delivering automobiles that one feels honored to drive, and this one is no different. The 911 was introduced in 1963 as a bigger, four-seat successor to the 356—the company's very first car—and quickly made a name for itself on the racing circuit, winning over a bevy of celebrity fans in the process (perhaps most famously Steve McQueen, the era's very definition of masculinity). If my dad's '73 felt like a tiger, the newest 911 feels like the big cat has been given a top hat and tails—but it still roars. It Ping-Pongs its way effortlessly through windy stretches of Redwood forest and, as tends to be the case with true high-performance vehicles, it only feels more and more capable the faster it goes.
While I'm sorry to report that the new Porsches don't reek quite as strongly of petrol, what they lack in old-school aroma they make up for in modern accoutrements, with a dashboard offering touchscreen navigation, real-time traffic updates, smartphone connectivity, and fuel efficiency to the tune of an EPA-rated 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
All of these 21st-century improvements are important, of course, but they're not what's on my mind when I pull back onto the road after lunch. What I'm thinking about is the the hum of the engine, the wind in my hair, and the way this thing just takes off at the slightest command. And that truly is the telltale sign of a great car: it helps you keep your priorities straight.
And now, the current 911 fleet in all its glory:
911 Carrera S
911 Carrera Cabriolet
911 Carrera S Cabriolet
911 Carrera 4
911 Carrera 4S
911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet
911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
911 Targa 4
911 Targa 4S
911 Turbo S
911 Turbo Cabriolet
911 Turbo S Cabriolet
911 GT3 RS
For more, see thenew911.com.