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posted on February 12th, 2019

A 911 trim & style guide

The Porsche 911 may be the world’s best-known sports car, and there’s nothing else on the road like it — except, perhaps, for the 911. You see, Porsche has made a lot of 911s over its 50-year production run, and while they’ve always been great, they all look about the same. It seems Porsche doesn’t want to mess with a good thing when it comes to both the car’s appearance and hallmark rear-mounted flat six engine.

Porsche offers a vast range of 911 variants with all sorts of extra numbers and letters that owners can pay to stick onto the back of their car, which can be confusing for the layperson. If the model is called the 911, what’s a Carrera 4S? And adding to the confusion is the fact that the 911’s styling hardly changes from generation to generation.

Even car geeks can sometimes have trouble differentiating, so use this guide to understand the differences between the many Porsche 911 models.

Carrera

The base 911 is known as the Carrera, with the model’s signature rear-engined, rear-wheel drive formula. The Carrera S adds a wider stance and more power. The quad exhaust pipes that most S models have are a key differentiator from the standard Carrera, which has dual exhausts. There’s also the Carrera T, a special lightweight “extra-base” version that champions driving experience over luxuries for purists.

Angelo’s 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera (Wellesley, MA)
Steven’s 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera S (San Clemente, CA)

GTS

A Carrera GTS variant was introduced for the 997 generation, which adds even more power along with sportier traction and stability management systems for a sharper drive. Look for aerodynamic bumpers and blacked-out badges to tell a GTS from lower trims.

Kevin’s 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS (San Jose, CA)

4

If you see a 911 that has a light bar connecting the taillight lenses, it’s a “4” model, meaning all four wheels drive the car. Carrera, S, and GTS models can be had with this all-wheel drive option.

Kent’s 2014 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet (Millbrae, CA)

Targa

The 911 is available in three body styles: coupe, convertible (cabriolet), or Targa. Coupes have hard roofs, and convertibles have cloth tops. Targas are sort of in between — they have a removable roof panel over the seats and a fixed rear windshield. No one is certain why Porsche makes a Targa to split between the other roof options, but it sure is cool.

Steve’s 2015 Porsche 911 Targa 4S (Jersey City, NJ)

Turbo

The big bad 911 Turbo boosts the flat six with two turbos for massive power output that brings the 911’s performance firmly into supercar territory (never mind that almost the entire modern 911 range is turbocharged — the capital “T” Turbo is special). The Turbo can be identified by big air intakes in front of the rear wheels and spoiler on the engine cover. Porsche also makes a Turbo S, which increases power and adds carbon ceramic brakes — look for yellow brake calipers.

Adam’s 2015 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet (Lomita, CA)
Brian’s 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S (Brunswick, OH)

GT3

The GT3 is the track-focused 911. In an era of forced induction, the GT3 retains a high-revving naturally aspirated motor (no turbocharging). GT3s wear ground-scraping bumpers and a sizable rear wing, which help it stay planted on a racetrack. For staunch 911 purists, the GT3 Touring eschews the lightning-fast dual clutch transmission for a good ol’ six speed manual. This is a rare and special car, meant to celebrate the classic elements of what makes the 911 great.

Jeff’s 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 (San Jose, CA)

GT3 RS

If the GT3 simply isn’t enough, the GT3 RS will satisfy all your racecar desires. This road-going track day monster gets more power than the GT3, a roll cage, and massively noticeable styling. Look for the giant rear wing, vents, and scoops, which work to increase aerodynamics even further.

Sean’s 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS (Los Angeles, CA)

GT2 RS

Finally, at the top of the 911 range is the mighty GT2 RS. This extreme machine is about speed at all costs, and looks the part. It has similar exterior features to the GT3 RS, like the huge wing and aero vents, but has unique front and rear bumpers that further optimize airflow. With a turbocharged 700 horsepower engine out back, it needs a lot of air to keep things cool.

Image: Porsche

With so many variants of what’s essentially the same car, the 911 range is complex and confusing. However, Porsche’s ability to diversify the platform and make a 911 for every interest is a key element of the car’s popularity. From droptop boulevard cruisers to racetrack crushing supercars, each 911 is an icon that remains unique amongst competitors. Just don’t expect the range to become any simpler: hybrid and all-electric versions are rumored for the future…

 

Alex has been a car fanatic for as long as he can remember. At 6'10," he might be the tallest auto writer in the world, and whether it's engine timing, exotic car design, or race strategy, there is no automotive topic beyond Alex's interest.