Porsche 911
With the exception of a few disparate models scattered over the decades, Porsche has built its fame and fortune on a single rear-engine sports car, the 911. From rather humble beginnings, the Porsche 911 has gone on to be one of the most influential and most recognizable vehicles in the world. Today's version of the car provides stunning levels of performance without sacrificing much in terms of day-to-day usability, and many Porsche purists still consider the 911 the only "real" Porsche.
The history of the Porsche 911 dates back to the 1960s. In 1965, it superseded the 356, Porsche's first production sports car. Like the 356, the 911 had a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine. This basic layout can be attributed to Ferdinand Porsche's original design for the VW Beetle (from which the 356 had its mechanical roots) and offered the practical economy-car benefits of tight packaging and enhanced traction.
Alas, what might have worked on a 24-horsepower Bug suddenly became somewhat of a problem on a 160-hp sports car. In short, having that much mass at the rear of the 911 made it susceptible to massive oversteer. There are countless stories of drivers of earlier Porsche 911s entering a turn too hot, intuitively lifting off the throttle and being left hapless as their shiny Porsches pirouetted off into the bushes. Or worse.
Surprisingly, this basic configuration of a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine driving and hanging over the rear wheels has held true through each one of the 911's 10 generations. Thankfully, Porsche's engineers have been making continual improvements to quell the car's peculiarities while keeping its distinctive attributes of lightness, responsiveness and power. The 911 has also had enormous success as a racecar and spawned many iconic variants, such as the Turbo, Carrera RS and GT3.
For the sports car shopper, a wide choice of drivetrains and body styles through the years means there should be a new or used 911 that fits one's desires. And although other sports cars have been able to outperform the 911 in one area or another, nothing has yet to match Porsche's overall blend of performance, practicality and that endearing connection between car and driver.
Current Porsche 911
There are essentially 15 models available for the current Porsche 911. The most common are the Carrera and Carrera S (both of which are available with all-wheel drive -- indicated by a "4" after the "Carrera"), which are further broken down into regular coupe, convertible Cabriolet and the Targa 4 with its giant glass sunroof. There are also the high-performance offerings, including the sublime GT3, the track-ready GT3 RS, the ferocious Turbo and the ultimate GT2. Each has its own docket of standard equipment, but all 911s have a lengthy optional features list that can elevate the price quickly.
At once refined and visceral, most of the 911 variants are equally comfortable tearing through a twisty road or smoothly dealing with the daily commute. In short, the car offers world-class performance while being more than civilized enough to serve as a daily driver. The high-performance editions are less commuter-friendly, but they offer performance and handling on par with exotic supercars. Yet the "base" 911 Carrera should be more than enough, as that car will blast to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds and hit a top speed approaching 180 mph.
The current 911 is part of the car's 10th generation, which debuted for 2005. This update brought with it a return to the classic 911 face with the headlights and turn signals as separate units. Compared to past models, the current 911 features a wider track for better handling, larger wheels and tires, an available active suspension system and a much improved interior in terms of materials quality, comfort and ergonomics.
Although the present 911 is mostly unchanged since its debut, its full model range was unfurled over time. The Turbo, GT2 and GT3 models produced for '05 actually belonged to the previous generation and went on hiatus until they re-emerged in their present form. The all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 and 4S arrived for '06, while the Targa, GT3, Turbo and limited-edition GT3 RS followed the next year. The GT2 emerged for '08.
Past Porsche 911 Models
The previous (ninth) generation Porsche 911 (1999-2004) marked the first time water cooling was used for the car's flat-six engine. Styling was an evolutionary step, but the front end, especially the lighting clusters, was identical to the Boxster. The switch to water cooling and the Boxster-like nose left many 911 fans irked. There was, however, no dissatisfaction with the increased performance, thanks to a jump to 300 hp (and later, 320) for the standard 911 and a heady 415 hp in the Turbo.
The eighth generation (1995-'98) marked the last of the air-cooled 911s, which were now producing 270 hp. This era also brought a glass-topped targa model and saw the Turbo put out 400 hp and adopt all-wheel drive. For some 911 buffs, these are considered the last "real" 911s. The seventh-generation car (1990-'94) brought smoothly integrated bumpers along with available all-wheel drive and the Tiptronic automatic gearbox. Standard Carreras at this time were pumping out 247 hp, while the Turbo's output ranged from 315-355 hp.
According to consumer feedback in our forums, any one of these Porsche 911s will provide plenty of thrilling performance and should prove to be fairly reliable, though as expected, maintenance is pricey.

Porsche Boxster
When it debuted in the late '90s, the Porsche Boxster ushered in an era of the more affordable Porsche convertible. Featuring a finely balanced midengine layout, sublime handling and steering, and the performance of a proven, sophisticated flat-6 engine, the Boxster quickly became part of the Porsche legend and one of the best-selling cars in the luxury roadster class.
There are several big-name competitors with equivalent cachet, but one drive in a Boxster is often all it takes to end a sports car shopping trip. Several evolutionary updates and detail changes through the years have kept the Boxster generally competitive in the face of faster and newer rivals. The latest version is the most powerful ever, with almost 300 horsepower available.
Inside, the quality of materials used has improved over the years and late-model Boxsters certainly project the aura of a premium sports car. With two ample cargo holds front and rear, the Boxster is a mostly practical daily driver, too. Though its competitive breeding can manifest an edgy nature that's sometimes a bit much around town or during lengthy commutes, our editors believe the Porsche Boxster is the quintessential top-down, high-speed weekend getaway device for two.
After a decade in production, the classically styled Porsche Boxster also remains a serious, purpose-built midengine sports car designed to travel hard and fast -- sometimes demanding a driver's undivided attention but rewarding the skilled pilot with razor-sharp feedback and unmatched thrills and satisfaction behind the wheel. If that's what you're after and you can swing a sometimes pricey bottom line, you couldn't convince us of a more compelling choice, new or used.
Current Porsche Boxster
Now in its second generation, the Boxster continues to be available in the base version or as the more powerful Boxster S. The base model has a horizontally opposed 2.7-liter six-cylinder engine. Mounted amidships, it's rated at 245 hp and 201 pound-feet of torque. The Boxster S has a 3.4-liter version that produces 295 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. A manual or automatic transmission is offered. Standard equipment on both models is respectable, but most Boxsters leave the dealership floor with a fair number of additional options, which elevate the price rather quickly.
In our reviews, the Porsche Boxster's midengine power and classic styling, not to mention its sublime steering and brakes and relative practicality, give it a level of desirability that's hard to deny -- particularly among true sports car enthusiasts. If you keep the options list under control, it can also provide unmatched luxury sports car value.
Past Porsche Boxster Models
The present-generation Boxster arrived for 2005, after Porsche applied evolutionary changes to much of the car that preceded it. The styling was subtly tweaked for a sleeker look, while the quality and look of the interior improved. Prior to the engine improvements introduced for 2007, the base 2.7-liter six-cylinder produced 228 hp, and the 3.2-liter six in the S made 258 horses.
The original Boxster debuted for the 1997 model year. At the time, it was considered to be a key release for the brand. Porsche had been struggling financially through the early and mid '90s, and the Boxster's affordability, classic styling and simplicity made it a huge hit with consumers.
The first-generation Porsche Boxster came with a power-operated soft top and a 201-hp, 2.5-liter flat-6 engine. In 2000, the big news was the addition of a second, even more focused S model. The Boxster S featured 250 hp, larger wheels and brakes and a more stiffly tuned suspension. For 2001, the tweaks mostly involved interior refinements in layout and materials quality. But underneath, the sophisticated Porsche Stability Management system was made available for both models. For 2004, Porsche increased the power output of both engines slightly.
Though reasonable for a luxury-sports roadster, the Porsche Boxster has been consistently among the most expensive cars in its class. Of course, this matters less to a serious sports car shopper, as midengine cars are rare at any price point -- from an enthusiast's perspective, it's all about the Boxster's ability to perform precisely when driven hard. And that it does. But either way -- whether more recent or more than a few years old -- a Boxster unladen with lots of expensive optional upgrades makes for a serious used sports car value.
Porsche Cayenne Porsche raised the public's collective eyebrow when it decided to enter the sport-utility vehicle business in 2003 with its bulbous Cayenne. However, in spite of its rather ungainly styling, this midsize luxury SUV has proven itself worthy of the vaunted Porsche name.
With a lineup that stretches from the low $40Ks to six-digit territory and engines that range from a V6 to a 500-horsepower twin-turbo V8, the Porsche Cayenne isn't your typical midsize SUV. Nor is it the most practical or family-friendly. Indeed, the Cayenne's relatively small cargo area, high load floor and lack of a third-row seat option limit its real-world functionality.
But in terms of spirited driving, there are few better. Thanks to its stellar dual-range all-wheel-drive system, razor-sharp steering and superb brakes, the Porsche Cayenne demonstrates surprising dexterity both on-road and off. Several engines are offered, and we recommend springing for one of the V8 models, as they are the only ones truly up to the task of getting the heavy Cayenne moving with the alacrity befitting a Porsche. The GTS model in particular is the true athlete of the bunch.
To many Porsche purists, even the concept of a Porsche luxury SUV, especially one that was co-developed with Volkswagen, is pure blasphemy. But in truth, the Cayenne makes tremendous sense: Not only does the high-priced, high-profit-margin Cayenne give a healthy boost to Porsche's bottom line, it also gives customers desiring the lifestyle benefits and image projection of a sport-utility vehicle an option that delivers a healthy dose of performance as well. The undeniable cachet of the Porsche name doesn't hurt, either.
Current Porsche Cayenne
The Porsche Cayenne was introduced in 2003 and received a midlife freshening for '08 that updated styling and increased power to all engines. The Cayenne comes in one size with just two rows of seats, for a maximum head count of five passengers. Though its styling attempts to translate the design vocabulary that works so well on Porsche's small, lightweight sports cars, there's no hiding the truck's formidable mass.
The Cayenne is available in four styles, each with its own engine. The base Cayenne is the most economical but also the weakest, with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 290 hp. Its standard equipment list offers little more than the luxury SUV staples, but interestingly, it's the only Cayenne available with a manual transmission. All others feature a standard six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted manual shift controls known as Tiptronic.
Brisker acceleration is available in the Cayenne S, which has a 385-hp V8 as well as more standard features. Next up is the sport-tuned Cayenne GTS, featuring a 405-hp version of the S model's V8 along with a six-speed manual transmission, 21-inch wheels, an active air suspension and a lower ride height. From there you can step up to the quick and lavishly equipped Cayenne Turbo, which provides a 500-hp turbocharged V8, albeit at twice the price of the base Cayenne.
A sophisticated, proactive all-wheel-drive system is standard on all Porsche Cayennes and provides both high- and low-range gearing. Off-pavement capability is greatly enhanced by the optional off-road package, which adds a locking rear differential, hydraulically disconnecting stabilizer bars and skid plates.
Inside, the driver sits high above traffic in comfortable bucket seats and faces a three-spoke steering wheel and a center-mounted tachometer that pays homage to Porsche's sports cars. The ignition is even mounted on the left side of the dash. Materials quality is superb throughout the cabin; even the pricey Turbo model looks and feels appropriately elegant.
In general, our editors have enjoyed the Cayenne's driving characteristics while issuing mild criticisms for fussy ergonomics, weak acceleration with the V6, tight rear-seat legroom and limited cargo space. Additionally, in spite of its impressive list of off-road hardware, the Cayenne is not as capable a rock-crawler as many of its competitors. Most of the blame goes to its street-biased, low-profile tires.
Previous Porsche Cayenne Models
The Porsche Cayenne received a significant midlife freshening for 2008. Prior to this, shoppers interested in a used Porsche Cayenne will find that only minor changes were made, but additional models gradually debuted.
The V6 base model arrived in 2004, while its standard transmission became a six-speed manual for 2005. That year also saw the addition of a few options, such as a panoramic sunroof and a special Turbo Power Kit that boosted output to 500 hp and upgraded the brakes. For 2006, the range-topping Cayenne Turbo S debuted, producing a monstrous 520 hp that was said to bring the Cayenne to 60 mph as quickly as the contemporary 911. The Cayenne GTS arrived for '08.
The Cayenne was not produced for model year 2007.

Porsche Cayman
Ever since Porsche introduced the midengine Boxster as a return to the "affordable" Porsche, enthusiasts have been clamoring for a hardtop version. The argument was that a version with a proper roof would be more rigid, less expensive, lighter and a better performer at the track than a convertible. Pleas were finally answered with the 2006 debut of the Porsche Cayman. Based on the second-generation Boxster, the Cayman coupe (whose name is said to reference an alligator indigenous to Central and South America) shares much of its mechanical midengine underpinnings with its drop-top sibling. However, it does wear unique and very attractive sheet metal.
The Porsche Cayman combines its drop-dead gorgeous looks with brakes that beg to be pushed hot into a corner, a chassis that gladly guides the driver around the apex and a choice of two engines that will enthusiastically sing as they slingshot you down the straightaway. Some of our editors who have driven the Cayman extensively report that its well-balanced chassis could actually handle considerably more power, and it's suspected that Porsche limited the Cayman's capabilities as not to overlap with its seminal 911.
If there's a complaint, it's that the Cayman is priced considerably more than its competitors, especially when a host of desirable options are selected. But when it comes to providing a combination of all-around performance, sublime driver interaction, day-to-day comfort and desirable prestige, we can't think of a better car in this segment than the Cayman.
Current Porsche Cayman
The midengine Porsche Cayman is offered in two models, the base Cayman and the Cayman S. The base Cayman is powered by a 2.7-liter six-cylinder boxer engine that produces 245 horsepower and 201 pound-feet of torque, backed by a five-speed manual transmission. Step up to the Cayman S and the engine expands to 3.4 liters and power grows to 295 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. In addition, the number of cogs in the transmission increases to six. Optional on both models of the Cayman is a five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.
When it comes to the suspension, the Porsche Cayman takes advantage of its stiffer-than-a-convertible structure by offering a level of handling and nimbleness that is a step above the capabilities of the Boxster. Safety aids include antilock brakes, traction control and stability control, all tuned to intervene only when absolutely necessary so as not to detract from the sporting nature of the Cayman. Optional is Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) which, via a variety of sensors, electronically and automatically adjusts the suspension to optimize either comfort or handling, depending on the setting and the driver's level of aggression. Larger wheels and tires round out the suspension options and help to improve braking. Braking performance is further enhanced on the Cayman S by optional carbon-ceramic brakes.
The interior accommodations take their cue from the Boxster and offer the typical Porsche combination of sport and luxury, with leather and metallic accents decorating the cabin. The leather-appointed seats possess the ability to both hold the driver in place during spirited maneuvers and to coddle driver and passenger during more serene outings. High-end audio and navigation are available on both Cayman models, though the base stereo offerings are disappointing for a car in this price range. Cargo room is generous for such a small and sporting vehicle, as the midengine layout allows for both fore and aft cargo areas that together equal the trunk space of a midsize family sedan.
Past Porsche Cayman Models
The Porsche Cayman made its debut in the 2006 model year. For the first year, only the Cayman S model was available. The base Cayman model launched for 2007.

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