2009 Porsche 911
2009 Porsche 911. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site

www.porsche.com

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2009 Porsche 911

Salt Lake City, Utah – It’s a 55-kilometre drive from the Porsche dealer in Salt Lake City, Utah, to the 7.25-km racetrack at Miller Motorsports Park.

If you live in the area and have the inclination (and the wherewithal), you could order and pick up a 2009 Porsche 911 from Dave Strong’s Porsche on State Street South, cruise through downtown traffic to the I-80 and Highway 36, and arrive at the track in less than an hour.

There you could spend the entire day thrashing the bejeezus out of your new car, standing on the gas, punishing the brakes, and defying the laws of physics as you pilot your 911 at breathtaking speeds through the 23 corners at this, the longest racetrack in the U.S.

Then you could enjoy a relaxed drive home, maybe picking up some car shampoo and polish on the way, followed by a pleasant evening buffing your p-car in the driveway.

2009 Porsche 911
2009 Porsche 911. Photo: Marc Urbano for Porsche Cars North America. Click image to enlarge

“That’s the thing about the 911,” said Porsche factory race driver Dave Murry at the recent 2009 Porsche 911 press introduction in Salt Lake City, “It’s pretty much a race car right off the showroom floor.”

Yes, but it’s also a civilized, comfortable, state-of-the-art vehicle that you can use as an exquisite (some would say “ultimate”) daily driver.

That, in a nutshell, is the Porsche formula for success.

For 2009, the 911 receives some significant changes, while retaining the character and signature profile of every 911 since the model’s introduction in 1963.

Exterior changes include the fitment of bi-xenon headlamps, a new front apron with larger air intakes, LED tail lamps, larger exterior mirrors, new wheels (18-inch for the Carrera; 19-inch for the Carrera S) and the availability of four new colours. Dynamic Cornering Lights (they rotate up to 15-degrees as you turn) are also offered.

2009 Porsche 911
2009 Porsche 911. Click image to enlarge

Interior updates consist of available ventilated seats, and an update of the Porsche Communication System (PCM) that makes available Bluetooth connectivity, USB/iPod port and auxiliary jack, and XM satellite radio with available NavTraffic through a touch-screen interface. Navigation, communication and entertainment technologies can also be managed with Voice Control.

The vented, cross-drilled brake rotors are larger (330 mm), utilize the four-piston calipers from the 911 Turbo, and are equipped with the “pre-filling” feature that anticipates an emergency stop, formerly found on AWD models.

Standard on the Carrera S (optional on the Carrera) is Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which lowers the car by 10 millimetres and continuously adjusts the damping force in each shock absorber, based on road surface and driving dynamics. It is selectable for Normal and Sport modes, with Sport providing a noticeably firmer ride.

But the big changes are reserved for the powertrain, which features all-new engines (new crankcase, cylinders and cylinder head), direct fuel injection (DFI), and an optional double clutch transmission that replaces the automatic Tiptronic S.

2009 Porsche 911
2009 Porsche 911. Click image to enlarge

Displacing 3.6 litres, the latest 911 Carrera flat-six engine makes 345 horsepower and 288 foot-pounds of torque (up from 325 hp and 273 lb.-ft.). In the Carrera S, the 3.8-litre version of this engine makes 385 hp and 310 lb.-ft. torque (up from 355 hp and 295 lb.-ft.), and has a top speed of 302 km/h.

Although power is increased, fuel consumption is, commendably, decreased by up to 13 per cent; and the compact size of the new engine permits locating it lower in the car, resulting in a lower centre of gravity and better vehicle stability and handling.

The standard transmission for both 911 models is a six-speed manual, but also available is the new double clutch, seven-speed manual/automatic “PDK” transmission, officially called Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (ask for it by name…).

Several manufacturers are now offering sequential-style transmissions, and the principle is that two clutches and driveshafts are used, with one activating the gear selected and the other pre-selecting the next gear. There is no clutch pedal to operate, only the centre-console mounted shift lever, or steering-wheel mounted controls which obviate the need to take your hands off the wheel when shifting.

2009 Porsche 911
2009 Porsche 911. Click image to enlarge

On the road, acceleration with the PDK transmission exceeds numbers achieved with a manual transmission — you simply can’t shift as fast as it can — and the optional Sport Chrono Package Plus shaves additional fractions of a second off acceleration and lap times by engaging more aggressive engine, shifting and stability controls with a button on the centre console. And if you buy a 911 with the PDK transmission, it arrives with launch control, which maximizes acceleration from a standing start.

While the term, “Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe” rudely crashes off the tongue of non-German speakers, the PDK transmission itself is a model of smoothness and refinement.

You can select full automatic operation by nudging the shift lever slightly to the right, or full manual operation by nudging it to the left (in the latter mode the transmission holds the selected gear until the driver changes it, even if engine speed hits the rev limiter). The most satisfactory mode I found on the track was to select automatic for acceleration, but to downshift manually with the steering wheel mounted controls when required. The transmission thus operates in manual mode for eight seconds, and then reverts to automatic. As Dave Murry explained, “This way you can pick your downshifts, but the transmission determines the optimal point to shift up – it’s the best of both worlds.”

2009 Porsche 911
2009 Porsche 911. Click image to enlarge

You’ll notice I’m not talking too much about the six-speed manual. Not that it’s an inferior manual transmission – on the contrary, shifts are quick and precise, clutch feel is great, and the car is a model of balance and poise as you move up and down through the gears. But the PDK transmission seems so much more modern and appropriate for the 2009 911. In Europe, Porsche is seeing 80 per cent of new 911s ordered with PDK, and 60-70 per cent is expected for North America, maybe more. Take your left foot and your preconceptions out of the picture and you’ll experience perhaps the best “manual” transmission you’ve ever tried; and when you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic, you can select the smooth automatic mode, pick your tunes on the iPod interface, and comfortably ride it out.

After a day of flinging various iterations of the 2009 911 around Miller Motorsports Park, we headed for the mountains for a circuitous scenic drive back to our Park City hotel. The cars, in fetching Porsche Racing Green with Sand Beige interiors, were every bit the luxury conveyance that a six-digit price-tag should buy. The beautifully contoured, heated and ventilated seats provided a perfect blend of support and comfort. Fit and finish throughout the interior was impeccable, and controls operated with crisp obedience.

However, there still is a paucity of stowage space in the cabin of the 911. Handy places for your keys, phone, wallet, CDs or flash drives are in short supply, and other than for small children, the rear seats are merely decorative. Front-seat headroom is good, even with the sunroof, but it’s not a slider and it produces significant wind noise when open. I’d prefer a screened glass roof option that would at least let the light in when you want it.

2009 Porsche 911
2009 Porsche 911. Click image to enlarge

And while I love top-down motoring, the Cabriolet, roof down, is not the prettiest of convertibles. Finally, the new 911’s exhaust note may be a bit muted for some owners. Even under hard acceleration, the growl is somewhat understated.

But the car looks sensational. Is there any enthusiast immune to the seductive shape of the 911 Carrera (especially the Coupe)? Is there any head that doesn’t turn as one drives by? It’s an object of fascination, for sure. Every surface invites close examination; every angle is photogenic. You wanna make a statement? Arrive in one of these.

Now, about the “wherewithal” mentioned at the beginning of this piece. Genuine luxury and performance come at a price, and coaxing a new 911 into your driveway will take some serious coin.

Base prices are as follows: 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe, $97,800, and for the Cabriolet or Carrera S Coupe, $107,600. The Carrera S Cabriolet is $120,400.

I’ll take a Carrera S Coupe with the PDK transmission and full leather interior. I just haven’t figured out how.

Manufacturer’s web site
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