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Long-Term Update: 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera C4S

Painless joy...

Greg N. Brown
Mar 2, 2004 SHARE

A question raised while negotiating 25 miles of stop-and-go commuter traffic: If the 911 is considered to be an uncompromised "driver's" car, owned by people serious about the sports car experience, then why is it so easy to drive? And why is its day-to-day interaction with us been so uncomplicated, so similar in its simple nature to the lowliest hatchback?

Shouldn't such cars have to earn their provenance by being difficult, twitchy and temperamental? To be considered a "real" sports car, shouldn't it balk out of the starting gate on cold mornings and gnash its steel teeth at the thought of stalled traffic on a hot day? Shouldn't it cause little aches and pains from untidy ergonomics? And forget about being easy on the wallet. Real driver's cars can't possibly be had for well under a hundred grand, they're service nightmares, and the only way they'd get 20 mpg would be on the world's longest downhill.

Shouldn't such cars have styling that can pop the buttons off the blouses of buxom bystanders? Mustn't they screech for attention with every tire-smoking launch?

Every owner of a 911 knows that all those things need not be part of the equation, and they certainly aren't part of the return from driving the world's best all-around sports car.

Our long-term C4S is putting on the mileage like it was running Le Mans. Already it has 9,524 miles on the clock, most accrued by this admittedly greedy editor. I even used it for vacation, stuffing an unlikely amount of stuff into it for a 2-week lark in the Sierra Nevada mountains (plus two doggies; the luggage shelf provided by folding down the two rear seatbacks made an ideal viewpoint for my two West Highland Whites.)

Spending so much time in the car has turned me from user to quasi-owner. I notice things now which went unnoticed in the first blush of meeting the all-wheel-drive coupe. Most of them are good. The central command module is very easy to use, the graphics very readable. (I'm still not sure about the Nav system, as we're still waiting for the DVDs required for it to work.) The sound system is excellent. Developed by Bose, it's the first stereo in a 911 than can deal with the ambient noise, even when the car is on pace. Porsche charges $800 for the Bose High End Sound Package, but it's well worth the pop. I also like the having a choice between the dash-mounted single CD slot and trunk-located six-disc changer.

A couple of minor annoyances have sullied an otherwise brilliant first few months. A loud squeak/rattle developed somewhere in the sunroof mechanism, which we'll have attended to at the first service interval at 15,000 miles--unless it drives me so crazy I'll make a special trip to the dealer. I'll also have the service department look at the lower-left steering column stalk, the one that operates the trip computer readouts. It sticks out just enough that it's been whacked enough times to damage it. Sometimes a quick reach for the turn-signal stalk just above it will result in it being pushed in an undesirable direction. We also had a bum fuse operating the cigarette lighter, which I discovered after fruitlessly waiting for my cellphone to recharge in the car.

As far as the cost of ownership goes, we're averaging about 18 mpg, not a bad figure when the way the car is usually driven is considered. Average speed over the 106 hours it took to cover 3,402 miles was 33 mph, much of it on the freeway between West Los Angeles and our offices in Orange County, a distance of about 42 miles one way.

But what is most welcome about the car's cost to run is the lack of driver investment required to get from point A to point B as efficiently as the traffic allows. Then, when L.A.'s congestion is left behind, I can re-engage with the 911's fluid dynamics and enjoy it as a uncompromised driver's car. From comfortable commuter to open-road rocket, the 911 takes it all in stride.

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By Greg N. Brown
57 Articles

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