The bigger noise generator, however, is hidden beneath the little engine cover in back. The 2009 911 receives an all-new engine, not just a revision of the existing flat-six, whose basic architecture dates back ten years to the first water-cooled 911s. With a crankcase now made from two pieces instead of four, the new top-spec engine is not only dimensionally smaller (by 24 cubic centimeters), it's also stiffer, weighs a few pounds less, and has a lower center of gravity.
As before, two engines are available. Base Carrera models receive a 3.6-liter unit that produces 345 hp and 287 lb-ft of torque; increases of 20 hp and 14 lb-ft over last year's 3.6-liter. The Carrera S's 3.8-liter unit now crosses the magic 100-hp-per-liter mark, churning out 385 hp and 310 lb-ft, 30 hp and 15 lb-ft more than before.
The power bump comes courtesy of a higher compression ratio (12.5:1 for both engines), a reduction in friction (which also allows a higher, 7500-rpm redline), and direct fuel injection. A revised integral dry-sump system uses four scavenge pumps - one in each corner of the engine - and a new variable-volume oil pump. These changes also make the new 911 engines more fuel-efficient than their predecessors, despite the power increases. After all, what's the point of having all that muscle if you can't afford to use it?
Porsche revised the 911's dampers, springs, and antiroll bars to deal with the extra power. All steel-rotor 911s now have 330-mm (13.0-inch) brake rotors straddled by four-piston calipers all around. The carbon-ceramic brake option bumps the rotor size to 350 mm (13.8 inches) and increases the front piston count to six per wheel.
The driving experience is, as you'd expect, similar to last year's cars: the 911 communicates constantly with its driver. Its thin-rimmed steering wheel performs an interpretive dance in your hands, sharing with you its fascination with changing road surfaces, cambers, and grip levels. Hard braking is drama-free even at speeds beyond 180 mph, accompanied by reassuring, rock-hard pedal feel and zero fade. The 911's PASM active suspension (optional on the base Carrera) delivers a ride that is all-day comfortable without ever allowing body motions to get out of hand. The shifter is light, and the clutch engages over what feels like the entire travel of the pedal. Combined with the visceral flat-six, which now responds to throttle inputs even more immediately than before, shifting is so easy that you wonder why anyone would ever want an automatic.