This latest 911 is completely new, incorporating the most sweeping changes in the model's long run. It is, without a doubt - at least in our eyes - the best 911 ever to come down the line.
The classic 911 badge now comes with two different drive systems, and in either coupe or cabriolet body styles.
The Porsche 911 Carrerra features conventional rear-wheel drive; the 911 Carrerra 4 is driven by all four wheels for optimum power delivery and traction. In any guise, however, the 1995 version of the Porsche 911 is one of those singular automobiles that boasts the newest technology yet retains distinctive, gratifying ties to the generations of cars that preceded it.
For our test we drove a Carrerra coupe, with no options attached, that came in at a price of $60,625 - a pretty good deal, as we'll discuss later.
The most noticeable changes include a slightly sloping front fender, ellipsoid headlights integrated into that fender, flush-fitting rear-quarter and back windows, and a restyled rear end with a larger, speed-dependent extendible rear spoiler.
Aiding these visual aerodynamic improvements is underbody sheathing for cleaner airflow, plus a pair of air outlets ahead of the front wheels that act as invisible spoilers to keep the front end from lifting at high speeds.
And high speeds are indeed the domain of the 911, courtesy of that marvel of an air-cooled engine tucked under the rear deck. Its 3.6 liters of displacement deliver 270 hp (up from last year's 247 hp), but the engine's displacement is just as critical to this car's character as it is to its output figures. The six cylinders are opposed and lie flat, which allows the engine to sit low in the chassis for a superior center of gravity. Also, the engine's location over the rear axle means plenty of grip at the rear wheels.
Two other notes on the engine: New hydraulic valve lifters eliminate the need for periodic valve adjustments, and the recommended oil-change interval has been increased to 15,000 miles.
Transmission choices include either a standard 6-speed manual transmission or Porsche's slick Tiptronics dual-mode automatic gearbox. The latter possesses five distinct shift-program maps that adapt to all styles of driving.
The drivetrain's prowess is enhanced by Porsche's traction management system, called Automatic Brake Differential, which is optional on Carrerra models and standard on Carrerra 4s. This system senses wheel spin and automatically assigns more of the engine's power to those wheels with the most adhesion. This results in an increase in the car's ability to cover slippery surfaces without upsetting the chassis' exquisite balance.
Standard running gear includes 16-in. wheels in front mounted with 205/55ZR performance radials, and 16-in. wheels in back with 245/45ZR radials.
Drivers with more serious needs can opt for the 17-in. alloy wheels that are standard on the Carrerra 4.
Despite these changes, the general feeling you get when climbing in the Porsche 911 is akin to meeting an old friend. Large, backlit analog dials, long a 911 staple, face the driver, with the tachometer taking its rightful place center stage.
A new automatic climate-control system makes temperature adjustment a snap, and many of the secondary controls and accessory switches have been relocated for user-friendly operation.
Safety is a critical issue for Porsche, as evidenced by the fact that it was the first manufacturer to equip all of its cars with anti-lock brakes. Front and rear passengers are held firmly in place by 3-point seat belts, and a sturdy cage structure surrounds the compartment, helping meet 1997 federal side-impact regulations.
Although the cockpit appears to be all business, there are enough amenities to qualify the 911 as a luxury car, including power windows, cruise control, central locking and alarm system, and a 6-speaker AM/FM/ cassette stereo.
In addition, the rear seats in the 911 coupe fold down to augment the front luggage well, which is larger than before and holds a surprising amount of gear.
The powerful engine is smooth all the way to redline, the skilled chassis makes a better driver of anyone who climbs behind the wheel, and the driver inputs - steering, shifting and braking - are as direct and responsive as any mechanical connections can be.
Remarkable for a car that can hold a full "GO" on the skid-pad is its level of comfort during the daily grind. The suspension feels pure sports-car through tight corners and sweeping on-ramps, yet it handles rough surfaces without the hopping that plagues many so-called sport suspensions.
No less terrific is the power-assist rack-and-pinion steering. It translates the driver's hand movements into precise directives to the front wheels without a hint of ambiguity. There's still a little of the traditional kickback through the steering wheel when the front tires encounter bumps, but it is accepted more as part of the communication process than as an annoyance.
Know this going in: The 911 not a quiet car, but the noises are wonderful. There's no other sound in the world like the air-cooled flat 6-cylinder winding up; the sensation from the driver's seat of being pushed easily through the barriers of wind and time can only be described as exhilarating.
On the practical side, the powerplant is capable of impressive fuel economy. With its large fuel tank and effective 6-speed transmission, the Porsche 911 boasts range as well as speed, with EPA fuel economy numbers of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
The driver of the 911 doesn't merely sit in the car; instead, the 911 wraps its pilot in an aura of complete control.
For its compact exterior dimensions, the cockpit is surprisingly roomy. For its blinding speed, the 911 is a pleasing place to spend a dreary commute. And for its race-bred handling, the car soaks up the road's rough spots with almost disdainful ease.
Those who study window stickers will find that the new 911 pricing is shocking - in the best way possible.
The '95 Carrerra coupe and cabriolet beat comparably equipped 1994 models by about $5000, which makes the entry fee to one of the world's quality driving environments a relative bargain - $60,625 for the coupe and $68,200 for the ragtop.
And those buyers looking for all-wheel drive will also be pleasantly surprised, the Carrerra 4 coupe costs $65,900, with its soft-top counterpart retailing for $74,200.