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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers car review: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

Porsche's 911 body style has endured for decades, needing only incremental changes. Now comes the sixth generation of the rear-engine sports car, which gets a hard tweak rather than a redesign. The more fundamental changes are under the sheet metal, where Porsche says 90 percent of the components are either new or redesigned.

Appearance: Although the distinctive 911 profile remains, the car is longer by 2.2 inches and its overhangs shortened. Overall, it looks sleeker and more athletic. The oval bi-xenon headlights are larger, and the fenders flare higher. In the rear, there are sleeker LED taillights, which look more futuristic. Our Carrera S tester had the GT Silver Metallic paint, a $3,140 option that as long as you are all in is worth it. Overall, the car has more of a Panamera sedan-in-miniature look. For Peter, it's the first 911 he has coveted for its looks alone.

Performance: This 911 is lighter (by 100 pounds) and faster (in track testing). Our car had Porsche's dual-clutch 7-speed transmission with manual and automatic modes. It's one of the most smooth-shifting automatics on the planet and one of a few that doesn't make us long for a stick shift. There's no loss of power on the gear changes, which are quick and precise. The wider track makes the car feel more planted, which only adds to its already outstanding grip. Our tester's 3.8-liter horizontally opposed 6-cylinder put out 400 horses, which seems to be the sweet spot in the Porsche power range. (Of course, there are almost endless 911 variations, so in addition to price, you can dial in just how much performance you desire.) We also had the sport exhaust system ($2,950), another of those all-in options that's worth it for the engine growl. Throw in an alphabet soup of driver aids — suspension, stability control, chassis, torque "vectoring" — and you can pretty much customize your ride experience. There's also park assist (which, trust us, you'll need for such a low-riding car), lots of stopping power and auto start/stop to help with fuel economy.

Interior: Sexy. Our tester was outfitted in red leather (at $4,840, another all-in option) and the adaptive sport seats are a bit on the firm side but incredibly well-bolstered. There are rear seats in this 2+2, but unless you're a garden gnome, you won't be comfortable. (It's much better to fold them down for use as a cargo shelf, but don't expect much space in that configuration, either.) The cabin also seems to sport the influence of the Panamera, especially in its banked center console.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Steering wheel: The SportDesign wheel is thick and leather-wrapped.

Red alert: Like Lyra, I was taken with the interior and am swearing off basic black.

Options: They are numerous. If you have the means, they have the toys, gadgets and features.

Lyra Solochek

Sizzling hot: The premium red leather interior was stunning.

Taillights: The slender LED taillights were vivid and futuristic.

Antiroll: Dynamic Chassis Control adjusts the car to get the best camber angle on turns. Sweet.

The bottom line: The first 911 (Porsche code name: 991) in this new generation makes us wonder how much better an icon can get. For now, all we'll say is wow.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

Price: $96,400 Carrera S base, $131,400 as tested

Powertrain: 3.8-liter horizontally opposed
6-cylinder, 7-speed PDK automatic transmission, rear engine

Horsepower: 400 at 7,400 rpm

Torque: 325 pound-feet

Curb weight: 3,120 pounds

in inches:
Wheelbase, 96.46
Length, 176.81
Width, 71.18

Seats: 2+2

Fuel economy:
20 miles per gallon city, 27 mpg highway

Safety features: Porsche Side Impact Protection, including front, thorax, head, knee airbags, high-strength steel and Boron steel safety structure


The Daily Drivers car review: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S 05/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:29pm]
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