2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S

David Gluckman

A different kind of sound system.

But who needs a fancy audio system when there's such a nice sound coming from the rear of the car? The two new flat-six engines introduced recently in the rear-wheel-drive Carreras also find their way to the business ends of the 4 and 4S models. Their displacements - 3.6 liters for the 4, 3.8 liters for the 4S - are about all that stays the same from the last cars. Power and fuel economy are both increased thanks to the addition of direct fuel injection. The Carrera 4 engine now makes 20 hp more for a total of 345 hp, while the 4S puts down 385 hp, or 30 hp more than its predecessor. The thirstiest of the lot, the Carrera 4S cabriolet, still manages a combined 21 mpg. And the new powerplants sound as good as ever.

The newfound power can still be fed through a six-speed manual that has been strengthened for the engines' higher outputs. The big transmission news, however, is Porsche's Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (double-clutch gearbox) that replaces the old Tiptronic S automatic. PDK has two more forward ratios - seven versus the Tiptronic's five - and cuts 0-to-62-mph times by 0.8 second compared with Tiptronic-equipped Carrera 4 and 4S predecessors. It's available as a $4080 option.

In normal mode, shifts are heard and not felt. The transmission takes into account a variety of factors to ensure that the correct gear is selected - and the appropriate subsequent gear is pre-selected by the other clutch - at all times. Drivers can also change gears manually either by using the steering wheel-mounted paddles or the console shift lever. (Some feel that the push forward for upshift, pull backward for downshift layout is backward and counterintuitive. Porsche chose to keep things consistent with the Tiptronic's layout for historical reasons, and its engineers believe owners will easily learn the system.) Regardless of how you shift it, PDK is one of the best dual-clutch gearboxes we've experienced.

Cars equipped with the Sport Chrono Package Plus allow drivers to choose three different shift aggressiveness levels - Normal, Sport, and Sportplus. Pressing the Sportplus button is the first step toward initiating the launch control sequence on PDK cars; standing on the brake and stabbing the throttle to the floor tells the engine to rev to 6500 rpm, and releasing the brake sends the message to the transmission and new all-wheel-drive system to let the right things slip and grip, allowing the quickest possible launch. When Launch Control is employed, 0.2 second is knocked off of 0-to-62-mph times across the board, with the Carrera 4S coupe leading the way with a time of 4.3 seconds.

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