Test Drive: Porsche 911 Carrera S with PDK - Story and photos by David Haueter
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The Porsche 911 has to be the single most recognizable car model in the world. Yes, Ferrari has huge brand awareness even in obscure countries, but there are probably more people that recognize the "911" model designation than those that recognize that an F430 or a 599 GTB are Ferrari's. This is all for good reason, of course. Porsche has used the 911 moniker since the car was first introduced over four decades ago and has stayed incredibly consistent with the overall design and layout of the car. It's clear when comparing a modern 911 to a 30-40 year old 911 that they're the same model and come from the same car company. Porsche has also made the 911 famous through racing, as it's the single most popular model that has been raced over the last few decades and they're on tracks everywhere, from Porsche Club of America racing through ALMS and everywhere in between. They win a lot too, which is one of the reasons they're raced so much.
The 911 comes in several different iterations, but one of our favorites is the 911 Carrera S. In comparison to the standard model's 345hp and 288 lb-ft of torque, the S model generates 385hp and 310 lb-ft of torque thanks primarily to a bump in displacement from 3.6 to 3.8 liters for the flat six. Our test car had the new PDK dual-clutch gearbox, which is a $4,080 option that we were anxious to try out. Other highlights from the lengthy options fitted on our test car included full leather ($3,655), power comfort seats with driver memory ($1,550), and Navigation ($2,110). Less expensive options included wheel caps with a colored Porsche crest ($185) and a heated steering wheel ($190). Our test cars sticker price came to $106,730. Some of the options that drove the price up were nice to have, but we prefer sticking to options that truly enhance performance rather than coddle the driver.
Inside, the 911 is instantly recognizable as a Porsche, though the ergonomics have gotten much better than they were on 911's of years past. The tach is front and center in the driver's view through the steering wheel and is flanked by the speedo, along with gauges for water temp and fuel, as well as oil temp and oil pressure. The cluster with the fuel and water temp gauges also has a display for the PDK transmission that shows what gear you're in, and if you're in automatic (D) or manual mode (M). The gear lever on the center console has the usual P-R-N-D options, with manual mode accessed by sliding the lever to the left when in D. Manual shifts can then be made by pushing the lever forward to upshift or pulling back to downshift.
Manual shifts can also be activated through the use of the toggle switches on the steering wheel which you push forward to upshift or backward to downshift. We found shifting with the wheel-mounted controls to be easiest by having your hands in the proper 3-o'clock and 9'clock positions while applying pressure forward or backward with your hands to shift. It worked better than we thought, but we would vastly prefer an arrangement with one paddle for upshifting and one for downshifting. We're surprised that Porsche went with the setup they did when similar systems (like the buttons used on various BMW models that perform both upshifts and downshifts) have been disdained by the motoring press. We've already seen some aftermarket vendors that offer paddles for PDK-equipped models, and we would be quick to buy a set, particularly if track days were on the agenda.

One of the ergonomic advantages of the PDK transmission is that it makes driving easier for tall drivers. I'm 6'5" and fit into the 911 OK when it comes to headroom, but there isn't enough space between the right side of the steering wheel and the center console for heel-toe downshifting. This isn't an issue with PDK of course, as the computer will do the throttle blips for you - no lift and twist of the leg required. Continuing with some thoughts on the interior, it's nice to have cupholders that fold away to hide within the dash, but they're flimsy when in use and must be manually closed to their narrowest opening before folding away. Also, the window switches require an awkward twist of the wrist to operate, but we're not sure where else Porsche would put them. On the plus side, the seats are very supportive, we liked the Alcantara headliner, and luggage space in the front trunk area is good enough for stowing a few soft bags. We also appreciated the extra storage space that's hidden in the doors under the armrests.
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