2009 Porsche 911

Midcycle face-lifts rarely excite us here at Automobile Magazine, but in the case of the iconic Porsche 911, we're finding it difficult to suppress our enthusiasm. But there's no reason to be shy ...

Two-wheel-drive versions of the 2009 Carrera will be the first 911s to get a new dual-clutch automatic, more power, and LED running lights, all of which will help strengthen the car's position in the face of stiff competition from the likes of the Audi R8, Nissan GT-R, Chevrolet Corvette, and others.

Porsche calls its optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox "PDK," short for Porsche-Doppelkupplung. Although other carmakers have offered dual-clutch transmissions for quite some time, Porsche makes sure to point out its leadership in this concept: "Porsche developed this gearshift principle for racing no less than 25 years ago," states the press release. "It features two parallel clutches to eliminate any interruption in power delivery and eliminates even the slightest break between gears."

Whoever invented this type of fancy automatic gearbox, we feel that there's nothing quite like rowing your own gears in a stick-shift Porsche 911. Still, this PDK gearbox is certainly an enticing feature that we're eager to sample, particularly given its promises of ultraquick shifts and superior performance. According to Porsche, the PDK-equipped Carrera S coupe is 0.2 second quicker in the sprint from 0 to 60 mph, which takes a scant 4.3 seconds. Furthermore, a Carrera S with optional launch control (part of the Sport Chrono Plus package) can accelerate an additional 0.2 second quicker, reaching the mark in a hair-mussing 4.1 seconds. Garden-variety 2009 Carrera models will reach 60 mph only 0.2 second behind their S-badged counterparts. The Tiptronic automatic option, by the way, goes bye-bye, but we won't miss it a bit, since comparable PDK-equipped cars improve upon Tiptronic 0-to-60-mph times by a whopping 0.7 second.

The transmission isn't the only thing boosting the updated 911's performance. Direct fuel injection, a first in the 911 range, helps bump horsepower to 345 hp for the base 3.6-liter flat six (20 hp more than before) and 385 hp for the S's 3.8-liter boxer (a 30-hp increase). As you'll longingly tell your cellmates after you've been locked up in jail, the new Carrera S, Porsche says, will now top out at 188 mph, six hard-earned mph faster than before.

In a sign of the times, Porsche's Euro-market press release describes the car's fuel economy before it discusses the engines' outputs. To that end, direct injection helped lessen the car's carbon footprint by up to 13 percent, and it's rated at a combined 24 mpg in the European test cycle.

Subtle changes also grace the skin of the '09 911, including larger front-bumper intakes and bigger sideview mirrors, while LED driving lights (à la Audi R8), bixenon headlights, and LED taillights are now standard. Swiveling headlamps join the options list, but they'll surely be pricey, in standard Porsche fashion.

The updated 911 goes on sale in September 2008 in North America. U.S. pricing starts at $75,600 (up from $73,500) for the Carrera coupe, $86,200 (up from $83,800) for both the Carrera convertible and the Carrera S coupe, and $96,800 (up from $94,100) for the Carrera S cabriolet.

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