The 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera is new in an inside-out way. • It's no surprise. The iconic sports car still looks essentially the same as the first U.S. model in 1965.
Then, as now, the 911 featured a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine mounted behind the rear wheels. It has three cylinders lying on each side of the crankshaft, feet to feet, instead of leaning to the side or standing up as in V-designed or in-line engines. Originally air-cooled, it now has liquid cooling.
By remaining conservative in styling over the years, Porsche protects its lineage as well as owner loyalty. There's little imperative to buy a new 911 every few years. It also keeps used-car values high.
But for 2009, there are a lot of reasons to hanker for a 911 Carrera. Two all-new engines and a new seven-speed automated manual transmission, are part of the lure.
But the 911 also gets 21st century enhancements. For the first time, it is available with Bluetooth cell phone connectivity, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, DVD-based audio system, and connections for an iPod or MP3 player as well as USB memory sticks. A navigation system with a 40-gigabyte hard drive also is an option. That's frosting, of course, but important in this high-tech era.
More compelling are the changes in the performance areas in which Porsche has always been in the vanguard: engines, transmissions and brakes.
The biggest change is the new seven-speed automated twin-clutch transmission, which will force Porsche aficionados to learn new terminology. It's called the PDK, for Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetreibe.
As a concept, it's not new. Porsche used a version on a race car as far back as 1983. Similar transmissions have been offered recently by Audi, Volkswagen and Nissan on the GT-R super car.
The PDK essentially is two transmissions with two clutches and two drive shafts. On the 911, one side contains reverse, first, third, fifth and seventh gears; the other side has second, fourth and sixth.
There's no clutch. You shift manually with the console-mounted shifter or paddles on the steering wheel. Using sensors and computer wizardry, the transmission pre-selects the next gear you want, up or down, and the shift happens instantly and smoothly as the clutches open and close.
The PDK shifts faster than you can. Porsche lists the zero-to-60 acceleration time on the 911 at 4.9 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox and 4.7 seconds with the PDK. On the more powerful Carrera S, the manual time is 4.7 seconds, compared with 4.5 for the PDK.
If you don't feel like shifting, simply choose the automatic mode and it shifts as smoothly as any automatic.
Two all-new engines deliver the power, both with direct fuel/air injection into the cylinders. On the 911, the 3.6-liter engine is rated at 345 horsepower, up from 325 in the previous model. The 911 S, at 3.8 liters, has 385 horsepower, up from 355.
The new, light engines deliver improved fuel economy, escaping the government's gas guzzler penalty. The 911 Carrera is rated at 19/27 mpg on the city/highway cycle with the PDK, and the Carrera S comes in at 19/26. Ratings with the manual gearbox are slightly lower: 18/25 for both engines.
Both models get bigger brakes, with vented rotors on all four wheels that are nearly 13 inches in diameter.
Outside cues to the 2009 911 are LED taillights, stoplights and running lights. Other than that, and slight differences in the tailpipes, anyone would be hard-pressed to distinguish the new models.
The new Carrera exhibits the balanced performance, handling and braking that have attracted enthusiasts through six generations of the 911 — except that now everything works incrementally better.
2009 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe
Engine: 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder, 345 horsepower.
Transmission: Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetreibe seven-speed twin-clutch manual with automatic mode.
Overall length: 14 feet 7 inches.
EPA cargo volume: 12 cubic feet (front and rear).
Weight: 3,120 pounds.
EPA city/highway fuel consumption: 19/27 miles per gallon.
Base price, including destination charge: $76,550.
Base dealer cost (est.): $67,100.
Price as tested: $90,945.