Climbing into a Porsche 911 is always good for one's spirits. The story with this car is the PDK (Porsche's dual-clutch automatic) transmission, and I have a few thoughts on that: First, Porsche got the hardest part right, which is to say they tuned the initial clutch engagement for a smooth step-off. If you think that'd be easy, try driving a Lamboghini with e-Gear or a Nissan GT-R sometime. Second, the shifts seem really, really quick to me. I don't know how many milliseconds they quote, but it feels as fast as a Ferrari sequential-manual box.
However, the shift buttons on the steering wheel are super-lame. Here's how you do a paddle-shift: You mount big-ass levers on either side of the steering column, with left for down and right for up. That's it. That's how Ferrari and Lamborghini do it (not to mention Mitsubishi) and it works. But it's like Porsche can't admit that the Italians got it right, so they have this weird button system that's less intuitive and offers the tactility of a PlayStation controller. Come on, Porsche. Just admit that Ferrari knows what they're doing on this one.
My other beef is just with a non-manual 911 in general. One of the pleasures of a 911 is listening to that grumbling exhaust note, and a clutch gives you more freedom to play around. Not just blipping the throttle, but even when you're parking, you can rev it up a little bit as you let the clutch out, blip it some, make it sound like a high-strung beast that doesn't want to go quietly in to that good parking spot. With the computer in control, you just park. That's it. Part of the glee of 911 ownership, neutered.
One other thought concerns the seats. I am not Andre the Giant, and at about six feet, 180 pounds, I am too wide for the seats. The 911 seats look like they were molded around Mary Kate Olsen's shoulder bones. What gives? Germans are a hearty, schnitzel-eating people. They are deluding their beefy, beer-swilling Hun selves by building seats sized for tapeworm-infested woodland fairies.
Ezra Dyer, Contributing Writer
How does Porsche do it? I don't drive 911s often, but every time I do, I'm blown away by these cars' heavenly steering, sublime dynamics, stunning quality, and fit-me-like-a-glove driving position. Driving one is not an experience, it's an occasion. 911s are that special.
After only a few miles with the telepathic PDK, it becomes apparent that Porsche used its wealth of engineering expertise to create a dual-clutch gearbox worthy of its legendary flagship. Why, then, did Porsche insist on retaining the strange +/- shift buttons on both sides of the steering wheel, rather than the much-more-common left-hand downshift paddle/right-hand up-shift paddle? After a few backward shift commands, I left the gearbox in "sport plus" mode and ignored the well-wrought +/- buttons."
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The PDK transmission is even better than I remember from my initial drive. Launch control is so easy to use and so fabulous. I love the kick down switch functionality (both downshifts and upshifts automatically in M mode) but I don't love the buttons on the wheel so much. There's less steering feel, as Marc pointed out, than other 911s, and I hope it's due to the AWD system and not the revised suspension geometry. The engine cranks quite a while before starting, and the headlights are aimed high enough to blind a 747. But the 911 has a sense of theater at any speed, and remains the world's best sports car bar none.
Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
When someone asks me what car I'd buy if cost were no object, I pretty much always say the 911. And it looks like I'll continue to say that for quite the next several years.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The 911 remains a car apart, something unique in the automotive firmament. This latest version adds the new 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is a sophisticated gearbox, one that requires a bit more familiarization than most in order to get the most out of it.
But the charm of the 911 is due to the things that are unchanged, like the incredible bark of the flat-six engine behind you, or the feel of the rear-biased chassis as it rounds a corner. The C4S version is hypnotically fast, but the price ($109,000, as tested) could give you a nosebleed.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor