2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

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

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