How to Buy a Porsche 911: When Passion And Reason Collide

11/17/2017 12:31 pm ET

The decision to buy a Porsche 911 is not driven by prudence or rationality. It is almost entirely emotional. For those who truly have a passion for the driving experience, the Porsche 911 offers boundless joy and exhilaration. It feeds the primal urge that all car enthusiasts share — that feeling of power, acceleration, control, and G-forces. It’s a rush. However, once the decision has been made, the process of buying a Porsche 911 is highly calculated and requires serious consideration.

The Porsche 911 has been in continuous production for more than 50 years, making it one of the oldest car models on the planet. With more than one million 911s produced to date, it has a rich and storied history. Indeed, the Porsche brand has become synonymous with the 911. Some would say it’s the only true Porsche produced in any meaningful numbers. But the 911 is really just a platform. This is what can make the buying process so dizzying, as there are four different types of 911 — Turbo, Carrera, Targa, and GT — with the addition of convertible (Cabriolet), high-performance (S), extra-high-performance (GTS), and all-wheel-drive (4) versions offered across several of them. Then add the hundreds of options from which to choose. One can spend hours at the Porsche.com car builder and just scratch the surface. The potential configurations number in the millions.

As a first-time Porsche buyer, I decided to see what I could get on the pre-owned market through my local dealer in Salt Lake City. The website showed almost a dozen available, mostly 2015 models, including a GT3, several Turbo S’s, and a Carrera Cabriolet. I loved the idea of a Turbo S with north of 500 horsepower. But could it be too much? With two young kids, I also though a convertible would be fun, since the back seats of a 911 are great for anyone under five feet tall. I ruled out the GT3, despite having the best resale value, because it lacks the rear seats. The GT3 is the full-on race model in the 911 lineup. I went back and forth, weighing so many pros and cons.

When I consulted with friends who know Porsches, however, they informed me that there was a significant update to the 911 for 2017 — a mid-model refresh with the software-like designation of 991.2. The original 991.1 debuted in 2012 and ran through 2016. For 2017, the most dramatic (and controversial) change was the addition of twin turbos to all Carrera and Targa engines. In the name of fuel efficiency, the naturally aspirated flat six was a thing of the past. But the magazine reviews universally celebrated the 991.2, claiming turbo lag is non-existent and the boost is so smooth and linear that it’s hardly even felt. The only consistent complaint I read was a more subdued and less distinctive exhaust note. Hence, buying a pre-owned 2015 was no longer an option. But I still needed to decide on the right configuration for my particular wants and needs.

Assuming I was going to buy a new car, all options were on the table. I quickly eliminated the Turbo and Turbo S due to cost. I was not prepared to spend $200K+ on a car. In choosing between the Carrera, Carrera Cabriolet, and Targa, I opted for the function of a roof rack to haul bikes, skis, and snowboards. Which eliminates the Cabrio and Targa. This is one of the things that sets the Porsche 911 apart from other sports cars — it can be a daily driver with the practicality of a mid-sized sedan. Given that I live in Park City, Utah, I also needed four wheel drive to handle the snow. And because I want as much horsepower as possible, the choice became clear: the Carrera 4S with 420 hp and a zero-to-sixty time of 3.2 seconds.

From the Porsche car configurator, I designed a custom 2017 C4S that happened to look a lot like the model reviewed in Car and Driver magazine: the new-for-2017 graphite blue metallic color, 20” RS Spyder design wheels, graphite blue/chalk two-tone interior, automatic PDK transmission, and electric slide/tilt sunroof in glass. I considered the rear-wheel steering and sport exhaust options (as significant cost) but didn’t think they were essential for my first Porsche. So I knew exactly what I wanted, but I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. Until the dealer in Salt Lake City called. They just got a used 2017 C4S with about 5,000 miles on it. When they sent me the spec sheet, I was amazed. It was the exact car I’d configured online. It was a sign!

Less than a month later, I drove off the lot in a like-new 2017 Porsche 911 C4S — which happened to also include a set of snow tires and all-weather floor mats — at a savings of more than 13% from the original purchase price.

The joy I feel and and the passion I have for driving this car is tough to describe. I’ve driven a lot of cars. Hundreds of them over the years as an automotive journalist, including the Porsche 911s of the early 2000s. This car is unlike anything else. These days, it’s not all that impressive to unleash 400 or 500 horsepower with a flick of your right toe. Power has become a commodity. What’s so impressive is how the 911 channels that power to create a driving experience that is inspiring and altogether addictive.

With a home base in Park City, Utah, I have a clear advantage over those living in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and other urban centers. My drive to Salt Lake City International Airport is 30 minutes of traffic-free bliss down a winding canyon on Interstate 80 with swooping turns that can be taken comfortably at more than 100mph. With the factory roof rack, it makes the drive to go skiing or mountain biking as fun as the skiing and mountain biking itself. Pure joy rides take me along sinewy reservoir roads, through mountain canyons, and over passes to places like Deer Valley and Snowbird Ski Resorts. It’s a 911 playground, where a good radar detector is worth its weight in bitcoin.

If there is one word to describe the driving experience, it’s confidence. With all-wheel-drive, traction control, and plenty of rubber meeting road, it takes corners flat at pretty much any speed. This is what I enjoy most. When the freeway signs recommend slowing to 45mph before a tight curve, you can punch it up to 90mph and pull through with ease. With the slightest correction of the steering wheel, you can tighten or widen a turn by mere degrees with amazing precision and zero loss of traction or momentum. Which is to say I’m quite satisfied with my decision to buy a Porsche 911 and with the model I ended up buying.

Up next: The Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles is where I’ll go to learn how to drive a Porsche 911. Stay tuned!

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