2009 Porsche 911

First of all, you should know that the changes to the 2009 Porsche 911 aren't just skin deep. In addition to the obvious changes (revised front and rear fascias and lighting), Porsche is debuting a brand-new family of engines, a first-ever dual-clutch transmission, updated brakes and suspension, and a new touch-screen infotainment system.

The face-lift consists of new wheels (eighteen-inch wheels are now standard for the base 911 Carrera, while the Carrera S gets nineteens), side mirrors, and fascias. The revised front bumper houses six-LED daytime running lights, and the headlights (now standard HID, or high-intensity discharge) swivel in corners. Each of the new, pointier taillights illuminates brightly thanks to the help of 60 LEDs and one standard filament bulb (for the reverse light). New, larger side-view mirrors conform to forthcoming regulations.

Inside the 2009 Porsche is the third generation of Porsche Communication Management, which combines audio and navigation functions. The enlarged screen now is touch-sensitive, and a revised menu structure vastly reduces the complexity of use. The system also features an auxiliary input jack, a USB input jack, and an iPod jack. The iPod integration works better than most, allowing quick searches through the familiar Artist, Album, or Track parameters.

Also available for the first time are seat coolers, which blow cool air through perforations in the leather seat covers. The system works almost immediately and cools far better than any other system we've tried - but it also makes more noise than any other. And in addition to the requisite heated seats (the 911 seems very concerned with the temperature of your butt), a heated steering wheel is also available.

But enough about the toys - the most important changes to the 911 are in the driveline. Base 911s receive, as before, a 3.6-liter flat-six. The all-new boxer is part of a new family of engines that is lighter and smaller than the old engines, with a lower center of gravity and featuring a host of changes to improve power and efficiency, chiefly direct injection. The 3.6-liter produces 20 hp more than last year's 3.6, for a total of 345 hp and 287 lb-ft of torque.

Carrera S models come with a 3.8-liter flat-six, also from the new engine family. It produces 30 more horsepower than last year's 3.8: 385 in total, with 310 lb-ft of torque. The 3.8-liter now surpasses the magic 100hp/liter mark, making it one of the highest specific-output normally aspirated engines on sale today.

Both engines now rev to 7500 (instead of their predecessors' 7300-rpm redline), and they weigh 12 pounds less. The compression ratio has been raised to 12.5:1.

Both engines are available with either a six-speed manual transmission or the all-new, seven-speed PDK. PDK stands for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, or Porsche Double Clutch Transmission. Developed jointly with the German supplier ZF, the transmission replaces the ancient five-speed Tiptronic transmission, and boy does it ever. Combined with the additional power from the new engines, PDK-equipped cars will accelerate to 62 mph a full second faster than last year's Tiptronic-equipped models. And when you're talking about a drop from 5.3 seconds to 4.3 seconds (Carrera S with Sports Chrono Plus package), that's a huge difference.

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