Porsche 911 Carrera S: A true dream machine

By Lary Coppola
The very first car to bear the Porsche name debuted in June, 1948. Yet despite its stunning array of 21st century technologies, the 2009, 911 Carrera S clearly traces its engineering and aesthetic roots back to that original Porsche. It evolved from the highly coveted, original 356, to the first 911 Coupe, which previewed at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show. The current 911, forty years and six generations of engineering improvements later, still showcases a horizontally opposed, rear-mounted six-cylinder engine under a distinctive and instantly recognizable body.

The 911 Carrera S Coupe is the most sophisticated, potent and environmentally friendly 911 Carrera Porsche has ever offered. Driving the 2009 Carrera S as part of my usual routine was pure joy, and at the end, I longed for it to stay in my garage.

Walkaround: In spite of dramatic changes in Carrera Coupe drivetrains between this year and last, and an efficiently lean drag coefficient of only 0.29, exterior changes are elegantly subtle. Knowing how passionate Porsche owners are about the classic 911 profile, radical redesigns simply for the sake of change only serve to undermine value. That’s why Porsche designers and engineers permit only minor aesthetic refinements from year-to-year.

Viewed head on, the most notable changes are the new, horizontal covers for the Bi-Xenon™ headlights and the L.E.D. daytime running lights, which extend over the functional air vents boasting larger cooling openings. The side view reveals new, larger exterior mirrors with aerodynamic twin-arm mounts, as well as new lightweight, standard 19-inch alloy wheels.

In the rear, all the lighting except for backup lights, are now LEDs for improved brilliance, longer life and instantaneous response. Finally, the 911 Carrera S Coupe displays dual round polished exhaust outlets, and a speed activated rear spoiler.

Interior: Refinements to the luxurious cabin include a revamped center console highlighted by the new Porsche Communication Management system (PCM). Our test vehicle was extremely well appointed, offering power windows, self-dimming power mirrors, power door locks with remote keyless entry and interior surveillance, tilt and telescoping, three-spoke leather covered wheel, cruise control, power sunroof, the full leather interior package and the optional seat ventilating fans. They work in conjunction with heated seats, circulating air through the seatback and cushion upholstery to expedite cooling, heating, and/or drying the driver and passenger. In short, it was fitted with just about everything you expect in a high-performance luxury sports car stickering at $106,730.

This latest version of the PCM boasts a 6.5-inch, easy-to-clean touchscreen, which also features a simpler keyboard. It handles climate controls, audio, and the optional navigation system that boasts a 40 GB hard drive and works via optional voice commands. It also includes an internal GSM mobile phone module with Bluetooth handsfree operation. Standard is an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with optional XM satellite radio, and the ability to connect to external music sources such as iPods or USB drives. Our test Carrera S was also fitted with the available Bose high-end sound package.

For safety, there’s six airbags: dual frontal-impact airbags; as well as two seat-mounted, thoraxprotecting, side-impact airbags; and two head-protecting, side-impact curtain, doormounted airbags.

Under The Hood: Both the standard 911 Carrera Coupe and 911 Carrera S Coupe received new engines for 2009. Both boast direct fuel injection, new two-piece crankcases and revised intake and exhaust systems along with Porsche VarioCam Plus intake-valve timing and lift system.

The 3.8-liter powerplant in our test 911 Carrera S boasted 385 horses delivering 310 Lb. Ft. of torque. While a six-speed manual is standard, our test vehicle had the new 7-speed, PDK double-clutch automatic with paddleshifters, which replaced the previous Tiptronic S automatic.

Behind The Wheel: The 3.8-liter engine is simply awesome, doing the 0-60 drill in only 4.3 seconds with the PDK. Despite the substantial increases in horsepower and torque over the predecessor model, the 911 Carrera S avoids the stigma of a gas-guzzler penalty, and in fact is certified as a category two (LEV-II) vehicle. Without going into a lot of technical detail, Porsche was the first automaker to successfully use the PDK double-clutch transmission technology, which was developed for the Porsche 962 Group C racecar. The seven-speed PDK shifts up and down seamlessly, or as with the Tiptronic S, the driver can opt to shift manually, via the paddleshifters or the console-mounted lever.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to put the 911 Carrera S through some serious paces under a wide variety of driving conditions, on several different terrains, including freeways and twisting 2-lane blacktops. It’s responsiveness to any and all driving surfaces and weather conditions, has to be experienced to be appreciated. The McPherson Strut front, and rear multi-link LSA suspension is tight and ultra-responsive, thanks to Porsche’s computerized Active Suspension Management and stability management systems. The vented 13-inch rotors, sporting 4-piston caliber ABS brakes are superb, and the variable ratio power rack and pinion steering has a nice feel that isn’t too heavy. This car handles better than you expect, and I imagine is actually quite forgiving for the less experienced driver. However, experienced performance drivers, will not only appreciate it, but want to push it.

Whines: None. Absolutely none.

Bottom Line: Quite simply, it’s the quintessential ultra high-performance luxury German sports car. The 911 Carrera S lives up to its legendary heritage, being everything you expect a Porsche to be — and more.