2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

I know this isn't the first thing I should be commenting on after my first-ever drive in a Porsche 911, but, wow, what a gorgeous interior. The no-nonsense, leather-swathed cabin says "expensive and fast" better than our Audi R8, with all of its carbon fiber trim, or our Nissan GT-R, with its multiple electronic display screens.

Otherwise, it's difficult to draw any comparison between the 911 and other performance cars. Everything about it, from the ignition on the left side of the steering column to the decidedly unconventional pitter-patter of the 3.8-liter flat six, tells you this is not like any other car. Oh, and the engine is behind you. My more experienced coworkers tell me Porsche has tamed the 911 a great deal from its tail-spinning days, but you can still tell this is not your typical vehicle the first time you turn into a corner and realize you've automatically compensated for understeer that, in this case, doesn't exist. The 4S holds the road tenaciously, which, frankly, scares the hell out of me because I'm not sure when all that grip will translate into a catastrophic loss of grip. I'm sure I'd overcome that fear after a day or so, though.

My only regret about my first 911 experience is that it did not include a clutch pedal. Yes, the PDK dual-clutch automatic is smooth, smart, and quicker than I could ever possibly be. But the awkward shift paddles (push either side for upshift; pull for downshift) require you to focus rather hard on the act of changing gears - not a good thing when you're going fast - or let the transmission think for itself. More to the point, if fast vehicles were simply a matter of going as quickly as possible, there'd be no reason to pick a 911 over a GT-R, a Chevrolet Corvette Z06, or for that matter, plane tickets. Since we celebrate the experience of driving, and driving a 911 is all about the experience, I hope my next 911 has three pedals.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

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