2009 Automobile All-Stars

Charlie Magee

The Evergreen Sports Car:  Porsche 911

In a world racked by change, it's gratifying to know that one sports car remains true to its school. From its birth in 1964 to the arrival of an improved edition last year, the Porsche 911 has been a rare island of tranquility amid seas of turmoil.

Except for revised lamps and new bumpers, the 2009 Porsche 911's exterior is unchanged. All the action is inside: Power ventilated seats. New infotainment gear. Larger brakes in the base model. Two completely redesigned engines and a PDK automatic transmission good enough to convert clutch-pedal-and-stick devotees to power shifting.

The fortified sixth-generation 911 is gutsier and quicker accelerating, yet it squeezes an additional mpg or three from every gallon of premium. Porsche wasn't the first to implement direct fuel injection and a dual-clutch transmission, but this brand consistently rewards the patience of its fans.

Breadth of character is another of the 911's endearing traits. Would you prefer rear- or all-wheel drive? Coupe, convertible, or glass-topped Targa? Normal aspiration or twin turbochargers? Lavishly outfitted for grand touring or bare knuckles for track days? Unless you need a pickup box or a DVD entertainment system for the munchkins, there's a 911 for every purpose.

Comments recorded during this year's All-Stars trip reveal the depth of our affections for Porsche's pride and joy. Rusty Blackwell was "blown away by the 911's heavenly steering, sublime dynamics, and stunning quality." Marc Noordeloos declared, "There is no doubt this is the best car in the group." Jason Cammisa exclaimed, "The 911 has a sense of theater at any speed and remains the world's best sports car." According to Joe Lorio, "The 911's charm is attributable to things that haven't changed, such as the bark of the flat-six engine behind you and the feel of the rear-biased chassis rounding a corner." When folks ask Amy Skogstrom what to buy, she doesn't hesitate: "I pretty much always say 'the Porsche 911.'"

What's not to like? We'd prefer shifting the new PDK automatic with paddles instead of Tiptronic-style spoke buttons.

-Don Sherman

Base price range: $76,550-$194,950
Engines: 3.6L flat-6, 345 hp, 288 lb-ft; 3.8L flat-6, 385 hp, 310 lb-ft; 3.6L flat-6, 415 hp, 300 lb-ft; 3.6L twin-turbo flat-6, 480 hp, 505 lb-ft; 3.6L twin-turbo flat-6, 530 hp, 530 lb-ft

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