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C4 A Reliable All-Season Daily Driver In Vermont?

Old 08-17-2005, 06:19 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 2
Default C4 A Reliable All-Season Daily Driver In Vermont?

I've been looking at used 911 C4 coupes as a year-round daily driver here in Vermont. I've spoken with my local dealer about the reliability of the 911 C4s (1999 and newer) in winter and they thought it would be okay, but were not exactly reassuring. Here are my questions:

1. I'm used to driving an AWD Subaru and I live on the side of a mountain on a privately maintained dirt road. The Subaru has been great, especially in winter. Is there any reason why the AWD 911 would drive poorly with a good winter tire and 17" rim? Will it start on the first try when its -20?

2. Can I put a roof rack on it (Thule or Yakima)? One of the salesmen here drives an '88 with cross bars, but I haven't been able to find a package for the 911 on Thule's or Yakima's website. It needs to carry a mountain bike and kayak in summer, and a roof pod in winter. I've seen some racks on the new VW Beetles that I thought might fit the compound curve in the 911 roof.

My other concerns are about mechanical reliability of the 911s. I know there are the following issues: repeated RMS failures, cracked coolant tanks, key jams in the ignition switch, MAS Air sensor tends to go out around 30k, immobilizer control units, airbag warning light/sensor harness issues, low radiator hose issue, rear glass seal issue, sunroof cover rattle issues, and of course blown engines. All this makes me uneasy, but I believe I have a headstart understanding the potential problems.

Because the summer driving season is so short here in Vermont and I love driving in winter, I want an all-season performance car. Originally, I was going to buy a Lotus Elise as my summer sport car and keep my Subaru. However, I decided I really want just one car that I can enjoy year-round and still throw my sports gear on top of. Spending some time in Europe, I've seen my share of 911s with ski racks ripping it up snowy mountain roads. Bingo!

I've also been looking at the BMW 330xi (boring), several Audi models (reliability issues), and the Subaru STI (top contender but ugly as sin). I'm waiting to see what the 2006 STI looks like in person before making a decision. However, I would much rather do the research and buy a used, P-certified 911 and keep it for 10+ years (I drive about 10,000 miles a year and am good about regular scheduled maintenance).

What do you guys think?
Old 08-18-2005, 09:55 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 936
Default RE: C4 A Reliable All-Season Daily Driver In Vermont?

First, Porsches are very durable vehicles, amazingly so if maintained well. They will start and run just about anywhere that anything else will start and run. Yes, you hear of problems, but come on -- you've lived with a Suburu, and they are famous for just sort of gradually disintegrating over time with nickle-and-dime problems that steadily get worse).

Second, I'd be more concerned about the dirt road than the snow and ice. IF you put snow tires and narrower rims (I'd go with much narrower rims) on it during winter, it could handle several inches of snow (hell, a two-wheel drive one would do well). But ruts/bumps, loose soil AND snow -- at least in the amounts you might have in Vermont -- its not designed for that, and its 4-wheel drive isn't an off-road/bad weather all wheel drive.

The BMW is and will be boring, and Audis are very good in winter (I've had two, including an S4, which was only good once I put all-season tires on it). Suburus - I'm not a fan.

You might think it a strange alternative, but you might want to look at the Daimler-Chrysler Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum. The are essentially Mercedes e-class under the sheetmetal, but with a big American V-8 (lots of torque, reliable as anything, and bulletproof) and they offer a 4-wheel drive version of both. They drive and handle a lot better than I expected.
Old 08-18-2005, 11:00 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 2
Default RE: C4 A Reliable All-Season Daily Driver In Vermont?

Thanks Lee,

The dirt road is in good shape and clearance would never be a problem. The Porsche would have to endure 3 miles of dirt roads coming and going. The road is well traveled and packed down, steep in places, but without large potholes or ruts and its graded about 3x a year. However, given the steepness in sections, friends in front-wheel drives can't always visit, even if they have studded snow tires. The biggest killer on cars up here is road salt.

I was a real skeptic of Subarus, but there are so many on the roads here we call it the Vermont state car. My brother and mother drive them and half of our office lot is filled with them. I bought my high-mileage Impreza 5 years ago thinking I would keep it for one winter and trade up to something more fun. It now has 215,000 miles on it and has not cost me a dime in maintenance except oil changes and some new seals and CV boots. Doesn't burn any oil but after all those Vermont winters, its rusting around the wheel wells (it's a '93). A bit off track here, but I feel I should add my two cents about Subaru. The car's reliability is also why the STI is on the list. Plus the test drive was awesome!
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