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Week at the wheel: Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK. Image by Porsche.

Week at the wheel: Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK
Porsche's twin-clutch PDK gearbox is really good, but isn't an automatic 911 just wrong?

 



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| Week at the Wheel | Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK |

Overall rating: 5 5 5 5 5

To answer the question we asked at first (whether there's something inherently wrong with an automatic Porsche 911) our time with a PDK-equipped car has brought us to the conclusion that yes, there probably is. Hugely impressive as it is - sharp of shift and almost impossible to catch out - it does strip this, a justifiably iconic drivers' car, of a great deal of involvement. We'd always take the manual.

However, but for a couple of blips (literally), automatics don't get much better, so if it's an easy life you're after with your 911, here it is.

Inside & Out: 5 5 5 5 5

It's true that you know what you're getting with the Porsche 911; it hasn't fundamentally changed in nearly 50 years. That's especially obvious with the current 997 generation car, which is the result of its round headlamps. For the haters that's anathema, but we reckon the 911 looks phenomenal. Deal with it.

Inside there's nothing much to complain about apart from, perhaps, the woeful pointlessness of the rear seats. They do make lovely bag shelves though, particularly if you're doing the Porsche ownership thing properly and you've bought a pair of his and hers Porsche Design satchels. Really, though, the 911 cabin is an ergonomic treat. The driving position has always been spot on - low and cosseting but spacious too - and the 2008 facelift has neatened up the satnav and infotainment unit markedly.

Ride & Handling: 5 5 5 5 5

Nothing turns a corner in the same way a Porsche 911 does, which is the result of the rear-engined, rear-wheel drive setup. It's quite disorienting at first, because the front end feels overly light; it takes some time to put full faith in the 911's turn-in and overcome the feeling there's a possible pendulum effect coming if you steer too sharply. It never does, obviously, because there's so much grip. So much that it feels mildly miraculous at times.

The amount of feel the 911's steering rack has is a rare thing. The most subtle movements on the wheel pitch the front exactly where you want it to go. That's coupled to a ride that's set up with communication in mind rather than posterior indulgence, but that still has enough leeway to feel supple over loose gravel and (most) potholes. This is the magic of the Porsche 911 Carrera S - that it can take you to work every day while being one of the most engaging cars to drive in any price bracket.

Engine & Transmission: 5 5 5 5 5

This really is a five-star drivetrain. For a start, the twin-clutch PDK transmission shifts gear far quicker than your sluggard brain box and fat left leg ever could. Combine that with an engine that's guttural and responsive at low revs, becoming fizzy and positively manic at the top, and you've got a car that's as easy to drive as it is mentally fast.

It hits 62mph in 4.3 seconds in Sport mode (if you've bought the optional Sport Chrono package, which our test car was equipped with) or 4.5 seconds normally. There are quicker cars - the cheaper Nissan GT-R is in another league, for example - but nothing with the same sort of character and appeal. Unless the credit crunch has forced you to step down from a 911 Turbo, you'll not reckon it lacks punch.

We can't help but feel, though, that this is a car much better served by the excellent Porsche manual gearbox. PDK is undoubtedly better than the slightly sluggish Tiptronic auto that preceded it, but it's still sometimes a little jerky during low speed down-changes.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 3 3 3 3 3

Well, you can't have everything, right? The Carrera S is expensive, starting at around 73,000 - yet with most of the things you'll want in or on it reserved for the options list. Our test car came in at over 92,000. Some of the options, like a 270 set of body coloured seatbelts and the 392 matching instrument dials, are superfluous. However, nice things like satnav, bigger alloys, a sports exhaust, the Sport Chrono pack and a lower sport chassis make this a very expensive car. PDK is well over two grand as well.

Economy is, however, relatively impressive. The 2008 facelift brought a new engine for the Carrera S: a 3.8-litre six-cylinder unit with 385bhp. Despite being more powerful that its predecessor, direct injection makes it far more economical, returning 27.7mpg combined and 240g/km. You won't touch that figure in real world driving, but anything over 20mpg is progress in a car this rapid.


Mark Nichol - 12 Sep 2010









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2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S. Image by Porsche.
 

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S. Image by Porsche.
 






 

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