Porsche sales have been in the tank thanks to high prices, a luxury tax that made buyers dig even deeper into their designer jeans and the fact the 911 hasn't been all that appealing despite the price.
The motto of 911 owners over the years has been "No pain, no gain," and the pain of cramped quarters and a brutally rough ride is just what they endured for the privilege of being in a car few others could afford.For 1995, Porsche made some changes - actually the automaker's first remake of the 911 since it bowed 30 years ago. But, since people were staying away in droves - you can be bounced around only so much before you get shaken to your senses - it had nothing to lose.
The sheet metal has been redone for 1995. The 911 Carrera coupe we tested still has the familiar silhouette that makes it distinguishable a mile away, but it has been tweaked, twitched, nipped and tucked just enough here and there to sport more of a '90s look.
The 911 is now civilized so its occupants need not be brutalized during the rites of passage.
-The 3.6-liter air-cooled engine now delivers 270 horsepower, up from 247 h.p. and enough power to take only 5.4 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standing start. The 3.6 is teamed with a smooth shifting 6-speed manual transmission.
-The suspension has been refined to cushion bumps, not magnify them.
-Brakes have been enlarged to improve stopping distance and accuracy.
-Seats have been redesigned to provide comfort for those who don't go by the nickname "Slim."
-The ventilation system was redesigned so you can breathe fresh air, not stuff that's been recirculated a half-dozen times.
-Insulation has been added to reduce outside noise distractions.
-Torsional stiffness has been increased by 20 percent to reduce squeaks and rattles while aiding ride and handling.
-And the standard driver- and passenger-side air bags have been redesigned to reduce size and weight without sacrificing function.
Basically what the changes mean is that the 911 is more pleasant in terms of interior room and comfort and less harsh in terms of travel over the roadway. Road feel in a Porsche used to mean you felt every ounce of asphalt, every blemish and imperfection in the road. A mile in a Porsche felt like a mile in a Corvette.
But before Porschephiles run and hide in disgust that the 911 has become a marshmallow, relax - it's easier to enjoy a tamed beast than a wild one.
What makes the 911 Carrera coupe even more enjoyable is that the price has been reduced by $5,090 for '95, to $59,900 (the convertible was priced at $68,200, down $5,990). New and improved and $5,000 less.
That traditionally has been a formula for success in this industry, and the 911 is no exception. Porsche sales are up 80 percent from last year thanks to the March arrival of the '95 911.
"BMW taught us that there is a limit to what people will pay for a car," Frederick Schwab, president of Porsche Cars of North America, told us, adding that Porsche expects the price cut to help it double sales within five years.
Our test vehicle added special Porsche floor mats at $125 (for $125 you might expect to carpet a room, not a car), limited slip differential with automatic braking differential that's akin to traction control for $1,195, and a rear window wiper at $340 (for $340 you might expect a man to come in and wash it every week).
Those are some hefty options, but there's no extra charge for leather interior, AM/FM radio with cassette, electric sliding sunroof, anti-lock brakes, 16-inch wheels, extendible rear spoiler that raises at 48 mph to help keep the car on the road, air conditioning, power seats, speed control, power mirrors and windows and heated sideview mirrors.
Porsche sold more than 30,000 cars annually in the United States until 1986. But Porsche split with its partner, Audi, and in doing so lost the 25,000 cars Audi built for Porsche annually.
Porsche sold only about 3,700 cars here last year but expects sales to rise to 5,000 units in 1994 led by the new 911 and to 10,000 units by the end of the decade thanks to a new, entry-level model called Boxster coming in 1997.