Porsche 911 Carrera S

By Jonathan Spira on 1 November 2009
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2009_911_C2S-1Why does the stereo keep turning itself on, I kept asking myself.  I would start the car, turn the radio off, enjoy the beautiful music of the motor… and the next time I turned the car back on, the blasted radio was on again.

Since the first 911 appeared in 1963, Porsche has been on a singular mission, namely that of making the world’s most iconic sports car.

Porsches are also different.  Long after it was fashionable, the 911 sported a rear-engine, air-cooled design.  Today the engine is still in the rear but it’s no longer air cooled.  And while other European manufacturers give discounts to customers who opt for factory delivery, Porsche charges extra for the privilege.

While enthusiasts may argue about which was the first Porsche (founder Ferdinand Porsche built the Volkswagen Beetle, a car commissioned by Adolf Hitler; the Porsche 356, regarded by cognoscenti as the first real Porsche, was built from modified VW parts), they agree that the quality, workmanship, and handling are second to none.

Despite its 46th birthday, the 911 shows no sign of giving up its exalted status although, in a nod to changing customer tastes, the company has added exotic electronics such as navigation and Bluetooth mobile phone and Apple iPod connectivity.

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the most significant innovations in the 2009 911 Carrera S is its Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK).  Before readers go running for their dictionaries, this stands for “Dual Clutch Transmission,” a technology that is both a manual gearshift and an automatic; for all intents and purposes, it’s two transmissions and two clutches in one.  The transmission preselects the next gear, which results in shifts taking hundredths of a second without any interruption to the flow of power.

The interior is all about the drive.  The seats keep the driver and passenger in place no matter how fast the corner is taken; the rear seats’ apparent purpose is to fold down to increase cargo capacity as the non-existent legroom makes it unlikely that anyone would attempt to sit there.

The seats themselves are an engineering marvel.  Porsche offers them with optional ventilation that the company says produces a slipstream effect that evaporates moisture and makes occupants more comfortable in hot and sticky weather.

Of course, what really matters is what happens when the rubber hits the road.  The Carrera S is really two cars: one a grand touring machine, lazily cruising winding roads all day, the other an Autobahn beast, capable of 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds (with optional Sport Chrono Package and the aptly named Launch Control).  Beware: a new owner will also find himself making all sorts of excuses to drive somewhere.

2009 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Base price/price-as-tested $86,200/$106,730
Drivetrain Rear engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 3.8-liter/385 hp/I-6
Transmission Porsche Doppelkupplung
Curb weight (lbs) 3219
Wheelbase (inches) 92.52
Length x width x height (inches) 175.63 x 71.18 x 51.18
0-60 mph (seconds) 4.1
EPA city/highway fuel economy (mpg) 17/25

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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