The PDK is the best double-clutch transmission in the business. Someone has finally eclipsed Volkswagen's DSG in terms of off-the-line clutch takeup, shift smoothness, and versatility. The PDK does a commendable job of mimicking a torque converter automatic's gentle creeping off the line and yet engages smoothly and positively on aggressive launches-with minimal clutch slip. And cars equipped with the Sports Chrono Plus package have a launch-control program that dumps the clutch automatically from 6500 rpm, ensuring that even your grandmother can perform the perfect hole shot.
The PDK can be used either in automatic or manual mode. In either case, the driver can request a gear change using paddles on the steering wheel (push forward for upshift or pull back for downshift) or the center console shifter. In either mode, shifts are so smooth they're barely perceptible. On cars equipped with the Sports Chrono Plus package, the PDK offers two additional modes, Sport and Sport Plus. The Sport mode firms up shifts (and raises shift points in automatic mode), and the handoff from one clutch to the other is much more quick, but is also much less smooth. Shifts are never jarring, however, and occur lightning fast in response to a manual request. In Sport Plus mode, which locks out seventh gear, shifts are similar to the Sport mode at moderate revs and throttle openings, but much harder at full load. They're not as quite as brutal as the BMW M3's M-DCT in its most aggressive mode, which helps keep the 911's tail planted should the driver need to change gears in a corner.
In all manual modes, the PDK will hold revs until the redline and won't downshift unnecessarily (unless the engine speed is too low). However, this logic is overridden by a discreet Kick-Down switch at the bottom of the accelerator pedal travel. Activate the switch, and the PDK will not only downshift immediately to the lowest possible gear, it will upshift at redline as long as you hold it down. This is an important safety feature, as it allows for instantaneous maximum acceleration whenever the driver needs it.
Not only is PDK quicker than the old Tiptronic torque-converter automatic, it's quicker even than the new car equipped with the six-speed manual transmission: 0.2 second quicker to 62 mph for non-Sports Chrono cars and 0.4 second faster with the Sports Chrono option.
If you're reading this thinking that the new 911's performance sounds great, but gasoline is suddenly too expensive to enjoy it, take solace in the fact that the new engine is almost eight percent more efficient than the old one, and the PDK itself provides a thirteen percent fuel economy benefit over the old Tiptronic. That means that while the 911's 0-to-60-mph times have dropped by twenty percent, its fuel economy has increased almost twenty percent as well.
That's having your cake, taking a big bite of it, and smearing the leftovers on the windshield of a Toyota Prius you're flying past. Highway cruising is especially efficient, as the PDK is geared to deliver top speed in sixth gear and to use seventh as a long overdrive. A big drop in gear ratio between sixth and seventh gives the 911 long interstate legs: At 80 mph, the PDK-equipped 911's engine is turning only 2250 rpm - compared with 3150 in the Tiptronic's top gear. Revised brakes feature rotors that now measure fifteen inches (380 mm) all around, and Porsche revised the dampers, springs, and anti-roll bars for all of the new 911s.
Porsche increased the prices: the base 2009 911 Carrera coupe now retails for $75,600; the Carrera S for $86,200. PDK is a $4080 option, and convertible models add $7000 to the Carrera's price and $10,600 to the Carrera S's sticker. Those are substantial price increases over the 2008 models, but what looks like a mild face-lift hides a host of improvements that makes the 2009 Porsche 911 the best 911 ever. And Porsche has a habit of doing that - it's the continual incremental improvements to its rear-engined 911 that has made it one of the best sports cars in the world.