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| First Drive | Silverstone, England | Porsche 911 Carrera 2 S PDK |
Kyle Fortune - 23 Jun 2008
Porsche first used a twin-clutch two-pedal system in its 956 racers in the 1980s, and it is finally putting the trick transmission into production with the revised Porsche 911. That's not the only difference though, as the series II 997 gains direct injection engines and a few subtle styling enhancements too.
In the Metal
In isolation it is pretty difficult to get excited about the styling changes Porsche has made to its latest 911. The most obvious is perhaps to the slightly kinked rear lamps, the upswept edge now joining the shutline of the bootlid; the front bumper gets larger air intakes, within which sit the 911's new daytime LED running lights; there are new wheel designs, and the mirrors are revised. The headlamps - all now featuring bi-xenon lighting - are infinitesimally altered, so much so you'd need to be a 911 obsessive to really notice. It's only when you see the new car alongside the previous model that the changes become more apparent, the overall effect one that sharpens up the familiar, attractive lines of the 911.
Inside it's much the same, though Porsche has finally realised that the central console (and optional satnav) needed updating. The designers have done a decent job too, it no longer feeling or looking out of place in something that costs north of £60,000.
What you get for your Money
Porsche isn't about styling; it's a firm obsessed with continual improvement and engineering. So the new 911 might not look very different, but that's deliberate. Where it really matters - under the skin - Porsche has been very busy. Firstly, the two engine choices now feature direct injection. This raises the power of the Carrera's 3.6-litre unit to 345bhp and the Carrera S's output to 385bhp - that's an increase of 20bhp and 30bhp respectively. Yet Porsche has achieved this without consuming more fuel - quite the contrary. The Carrera manages a highly credible 29.4mpg on the official combined cycle, and the Carrera S 27.4mpg. The Carrera emits only 225g/km of CO2, the S 242g/km. Remember, these are sub five-second 0-62mph capable cars. The Carrera benefits most from the updates regarding equipment enhancements, it gaining larger brakes and revised PSM settings. The new PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, double clutch) seven-speed, two-pedal transmission costs £2,338 on either car, it replacing the Tiptronic automatic of the outgoing 911.
In truth first impressions behind the wheel of the new 911 are of car little different to the old one. In the PDK-equipped car there's a slightly different gearlever and odd rocker-type switches on the steering wheel, but everything else feels familiar. The flat-six 3.8-litre unit doesn't sound quite as guttural as its non-direct injection relative, but that'd be easily sorted by opting for Porsche's sports exhaust. Many buyers will appreciate the greater civility in the cabin though, as they will the additional power, improved economy and emissions and the ease of use the PDK transmission brings.
It's all very efficient; indeed, the smooth operation of the PDK system does rob the 911 of some interaction. Certainly it's more appealing than the old Tiptronic automatic, but impressive as it is we still struggle to see why anyone would want a two-pedal 911 when the manual shift is so good and the three-pedal set-up so perfectly suited to heel-and-toe shifting. Progress, I guess. Porsche knows its customers, and a good number of them want two pedals and the ease of being able to leave the transmission to its own devices. For them the PDK is a fantastic choice.
It is smooth, quick and easy to use, though Porsche's weird rocker switches in the place of conventional paddles is highly questionable; Porsche claims it's what its customers want, but we seriously doubt it. The ride is vastly improved when the PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) is set to Sport (as opposed to its predecessor), the steering also feeling weightier, though no less communicative. Much like the old car - only faster and a bit more refined - Porsche has retained the core driving thrill of the 911 while adding more comfort.
Opt for the PDK over the manual and there's a small reduction in CO2 emissions. The standard Carrera 2 S emits 242g/km, where as the PDK-equipped model manages 240g/km. If you're a big mileage driver then the PDK gearbox should also allow you to achieve greater fuel economy, the seven-speed PDK managing 27.7mpg on the combined cycle compared to 27.4mpg for the standard manual. The seventh ratio in the new transmission is a long one geared for economy, the Carrera 2 S PDK actually achieving its 186mph top speed in sixth gear.
Choose the PDK transmission and you'll need an extra £2,338, while if you want a launch control function you'll need to spend an additional £729 for the Sport Chrono pack - it also reducing the 0-62mph time to 4.3 seconds.
Porsche has been typically cautious with the styling upgrades to its 911 range, but under the skin the changes have been rather dramatic. Much of the engine is new thanks to the addition of direct injection, while the PDK transmission is a compelling choice for fans wanting their 911s with a two-pedal set up for week day commuting, but a convincing, interactive system for weekend thrashes - we'd prefer conventional paddles over the strange rocker switches though. Greener, faster and more refined than ever, the Porsche 911 remains the undisputed benchmark in its class.
2008 Porsche 911 specifications: (Carrera 2 S with PDK)
Price: £70,360 (plus £2,338 for the PDK option).
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 186mph
Combined economy: 27.7mpg
Kerb weight: 1455kg
Full technical specifications