2009 Porsche Carrera PDK Review

Jay Shoemaker
by Jay Shoemaker
2009 porsche carrera pdk review

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.

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2 of 38 comments
  • PeteMoran PeteMoran on Dec 27, 2010

    What rtr said, and he/she said it best; You fault PDK for shiftng like an automatic when in AUTOMATIC mode. What else would you expect? When configured as an automatic it shifts smoothy and seamlessly. Outstanding performance for an auto box. If you want to hold gears, why not move the shift lever to the left and shift it yourself, like a manual? What's always missing from reviews like this is the relative comparison. What is the manufacturer trying to achieve? The manufacturer's intent is to replace the previous generation of tiptronic box. It is not intended (yet) as a manual replacement for those that insist they "like" it or "must" have it (those people, especially in the USA, are liars). Drive a PDK vs Tiptronic back'to'back and you'll see there is no comparison. The fact the PDK makes choosing a manual even less justifiable just annoys those manual "aficionados" (cough) further.

  • Arach Arach on Jun 29, 2016

    I know this is "old", but I'm now looking at these in the used market. I have always hated auto boxes, and drove stick only. I have a Ferrari 360 and I'm happy with the F1... would have no problem driving one of those all the time (and its never ONCE been in auto mode even in traffic). If the PDK is left out of auto mode, how's the responsiveness. Is it worth considering? I test drove an A3 for my wife only because it was a "DSG" and I thought it would shift like an F1, but it was awful. I noticed this doesn't have paddles but buttons, so I figure its going to be awful, but I'm running out of Manual Transmission large cars. (Current car is a 2010 stick shift cadillac CTS and its a little small).

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.