In theory, a dual clutch gearbox offers drivers the best of both worlds: a corner-carving-compliant paddle shift system (complete with computer-controlled, rev-matching throttle blipping) and a waft-enabling automatic gearbox. As developed by the BorgWarner, the DSG version lifted a well-sorted VW Golf GTI into automotive Valhalla. Porsche fans arched their collective eyebrows, anticipating the day when Stuttgart would perform a similar transformation for the world’s only best everyday supercar: the 911. Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) is here, attached to the model’s 900th evolution. Is the system finally ready for hammer time?
For 2009, Porsche has increased the size of the 911′s air intakes, added LED lights and reshaped the side mirrors and rear lights. Sitting in the driver’s seat, the airy greenhouse and the perfectly comfortable seats continue to define the car: a machine that blurs the line between sports car and GT. Properly, judiciously equipped (wheels, tires, drivetrain, suspension) the 911 can satisfy either buyer, or both.
I recall my excitement back in 2002 when I bought one of the first 911’s with cup holders. Tempus fugit. Yes, the big news for the latest Porsche 911 is convenience. One could heat the seats in a 911 in recent years, but now you can heat the steering wheel and cool the seats– if you have the dough. Frustrated technophiles no longer need to invest big bucks at their local stereo store to Bluetooth their phone or Pod their i– at a price. Important options like Porsche stability management and bi-xenon lights are now standard– while almost everything else isn’t (self-dimming mirrors will still set you back almost $400). Leather here, leather there- spend some time on the Porsche configurator and you will be amazed how many VW shares you can bankroll much money you can blow with the click of a mouse.
Thanks to direct fuel injection, the “base” 911′s engine output rises to a healthy 345 horsepower. With 288 lb. ft. of torque underfoot, the Carrera powers to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The new-for-’09 exhaust system adds a not entirely pleasing throaty baritone at low RPMs– that morphs into a mind-bending banshee wail at higher elevations. The 911′s brake feel is more intuitive and less wooden in the 2009 version, although the Porker’s stopping distances are scarcely credible regardless of model year. The suspension settings feel a tad softer the it predecessor, which makes for a less jarring ride but adds some unexpected and unwanted understeer during hard cornering.
PDK stands for Porsche Delight Killer. Sad but true: the German automaker’s engineered most of the fun out of it. Like ye olde Tiptronic, the PDK really likes to upshift. I started out normally from rest at an intersection. Before I reached the other side, PDK had shifted twice. By the time I reached 30 mph, I was in seventh; I felt like I was driving a Trabant with an aromatic leather interior. PDK behaves like a student project designed to extract maximum mpg from what used to be a high performance sports car.
Back when I drove the new BMW M3, I wondered why I needed all those shift modes. Now that I’ve driven PDK, I longed for a few of those shift modes. Porsche gives you one, otherwise, its paddle for yourself. To make matters worse, PDK is not particularly PDQ. Upshifts are not noticeable but downshifts are lurchy and slow, even when performed manually. On top of all this, the ergonomics of the steering wheel controls are awful. Again, upshifting feels OK. But downshifting requires that you almost reach behind the wheel for the change. Not to put too fine a point on it, PDK ruined my 911 experience.
As with all its other basic shortcomings, Porsche offers a fix– for more geld. Check the box for the Porsche Active Suspension Management and the Sport Chrono Pack and Gruss Got you have another shift and suspension mode. Supposedly, the PDK then offers a sportier interface (I did not get to sample it). Am I the only one who finds it peculiar that you need to spend nearly $4k for a sport button in a 911?. This combination is also the key to launch control mode, which sounds deliciously self destructive and similar to how I used to drive my dad’s Chevy Caprice- stand on the brakes and the accelerator simultaneously and pray that your rear axle doesn’t hop off.
The Porsche 911 is one of my all time favorite rides, and the new 911 is improved in so many ways. However, again, the PDK pretty much wiped the smile off my face. It’s only a matter of time before Porsche fixes their gearboxes’ deficiencies. Meanwhile, if you want to drive a 911 like you stole it, and stop thieves from doing the same, the manual gearbox is still your best not to say only option.