I test drove a Porsche 911 (997 model), bare bones model. I’ve test driven plenty of Boxsters and Caymans, but the 911 is much more intense. In terms of handling, the Boxster/Cayman feels like its on rails and the car literally pivots around your spine like a compass. See my comparison here.
The 911 has the same feeling, except that it doesn’t let go of the road… unless you’re going scary speeds. For me, I reach my personal limit before I can get close to reaching the car’s. The car has so much heritage—all the gauges, the sound, the suspension. It’s a really refined vehicle, and I can’t imagine what the newer models are like.
One of my buddies has a 996 turbo, with a couple stages of enhancements (including a roll cage, lighter seats, upgraded exhaust, suspension, etc). The power in a turbo model is just face ripping savagery. Having a car like that on a public road is a blast, but frankly can’t be used to its fully potential. Something like that has to be used on a track to full open up. Anything else would be courageous… or suicidal. 🙂
On the other hand, a standard 911 is plenty for most folks like me. It’s more than a handful, and you can easily get into trouble if you’re not paying attention. While it’s not the most powerful, there are not many sports cars that have the same kind of handling and compliant ride. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of other cars. The exhaust note is quiet and docile compared to say, a M3 or Corvette. The interior is plain as well. No gadgets, no fancy styling, and very few buttons. Its pretty focused, and I like that.
Given the choice, I’d pick the 911 for now. Once Porsche decides to install their naturally aspirated 3.8L engine into the Cayman with bigger brakes/tires, then it’d be a different story. That would be a pretty sweet ride.
For now, the 911 lives up to its reputation.