This was my first experience with Porsche's new PDK dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. I think it's a winner. The car is incredibly docile in around-town driving when you have PDK in automatic mode, with very smooth and subtle upshifts: you're in sixth gear by 35 mph, at a low, low 1400 rpm. This, of course, also helps fuel economy, and it adds to the 911's longstanding ability to serve as a very livable daily driver. Let's face it: most 911 owners will spend most of their time commuting in urban/suburban traffic, unless their car is simply a weekend toy.
What's great about PDK is that, whenever you decide you want to break out of calm (meaning, you're in sixth or seventh gear) driving mode, all you do is hit the gas. Boom! Instantly, you're in second gear, the revs have shot up above 4000, all of the car's senses are on high alert, and you're enjoying seamless acceleration. And that's just in automatic mode. Shove the gearshifter to the left, and you're in manual mode. Here, you pull back to downshift, and you push forward to upshift. This works very well, and I much prefer it to the useless steering wheel buttons, which I can never remember how to use. (I admit, an owner will probably become accustomed to them, but they are still far inferior to paddles.) For even more sportiness, you can push the little Sport mode button or the Sport Plus mode button; these firm up suspension and steering responses and the latter quickens revs and throttle action.
Initially, I was disappointed by the 911's off-the-line throttle responses, but then I realized that the accelerator pedal provides throttle that is very much directly related to the amount of pressure you apply to it. It's a stiff pedal, unlike those in most cars. You learn to modulate it, and you are rewarded. It's when you really stomp on it that you get the wonderful PDK downshifting I mention above.
The PDK is not all that's new about the 911 for 2009, of course: the flat-six engine is all-new, as well. This 3.8-liter iteration puts out 385 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, representing the first time that a non-turbo 911 engine has provided more than 100 hp per liter of displacement. [For more on the 2009 911, click here for West Coast Editor Jason Cammisa first-drive review.]
As much as I love this car, I do have to mention that I drove it back-to-back with our Four Seasons Nissan GT-R, which costs about $22,000 less than this fully loaded 911 C4S and has a whopping 100 additional hp and 124 additional lb-ft of torque. By comparison with the GT-R, the 911 C4S felt a little, dare I say it, slow.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor