Car reviews - Porsche - 911 - Carrera S cabriolet
Brilliant dual clutch automatic, engine is even meatier than before, relatively comfortable, agile handling, hefty brakes
Room for improvement
Sky-high price, excessive cost of dual clutch automatic, expensive options that should be standard, fiddly steering-wheel paddles
22 Dec 2008
ECONOMIC small cars are all the rage now that the economy has gone pear-shaped, but we can still dream of what could be if we managed to strike it rich.
Ferraris and Lamborghinis are usually right at the top of dream-car lists of people wondering what they will buy in the event of a massive windfall.
I wouldn’t say no to either, but the car I would probably splurge my money on (if I woke up a multi-millionaire) would be a Porsche 911.
Why? Because it is a stunning supercar that you can drive everyday.
Ferraris and Lambos are great fun, but they good weekend cars whereas the 911 is comfortable enough that you could drive it every day and not tire of it.
The addition of the new PDK automatic has made the 911 even easier to live with.
Until now, buying an automatic Porsche was verging on sacrilege.
That was because the old Tiptronic automatic, which was just like a regular auto, was fairly slow to change.
It might not have mattered so much in another car, but a Porsche is such a good driver’s car that is so precise in all other areas that sluggish gear changes really spoiled the experience.
The new PDK dual-clutch gearbox is a cracker.
Leave it in drive and it is just like any other high-end gearbox with quick and smooth changes that you hardly notice.
Switch it over to manual mode and you can shift gears yourself, faster than any human rival could with a regular manual gearbox.
It truly is a fantastic gearbox, and so it should given that it costs an extra $7000 on top of the already eye-watering 911 prices.
If you want to unlock the launch control feature of this excellent gearbox, you have to pay an extra $2980, which is a bit much given how much coin the customer has already parted with.
This pack also includes a mode that enables race-style shifts, making the changes feel faster and harder. This is fun for a while, but it is jerky and can test the patience of your co-driver.
Unfortunately, the paddle shift buttons that control the dual-clutch automatic are not intuitive.
The button on the left changes up and the right changes up, which takes a while to get your head around. The buttons are not really in the right place either.
I gave up and switched back to using the regular gearshift. This wasn’t perfect as pressing it forward changed up and changing back changed down, which is also counter intuitive.
Still, it is easier to get used to than the paddles.
The launch control feature is impressive, although it is not something you are likely to do often if you actually owned the car.
In fact, unless you want to race your car, it is hard to see the value of this feature.
After all, you would have to be a complete goose to not be able to accelerate fast in this vehicle.
The GoAuto test car was a Carrera S, so it is even more potent than the standard car with 283kW and 420Nm of herbs and spices.
While it is fantastic fun when pushed it is also really enjoyable cruising around.
The exhaust note of the S is louder than that of the standard Carrera and is even more noticeable.
The nice thing is that you don’t need to belt it to enjoy the motor’s music.
Just easing on the throttle creates a wonderful meaty growl that fills your ears whether you have the roof up or down.
Press harder and wind the engine up past 3500rpm and on past 6000rpm and you will hear a fantastic roar that gives a new meaning to menace.
It sounds so good that you will find yourself dropping the roof and looking for tunnels so you can hear the brilliant sound at its best.
The engine’s performance is as you might expect – exceptional.
It has enough meat down low which allows you to enjoy the muscle without having to rev it out, but also responds if you do decide to wind out the engine.
There is far more power here than you could ever use anywhere on public roads in Australia, but you can just imagine how much fun you could have with it on the track.
Just as is the case with all 911s, this one also totally involves you in the driving experience.
It is like you are hard-wired to the steering rack and can direct the movement of the car with minimal input.
The car also gives you a lot of feedback through the wheel and it feels like you know exactly what the springs and dampers are doing.
Porsche engineers have done a great job of coming up with a suspension setting that is reasonably comfortable but still sporty enough for spirited driving.
Unlike some other German sportscars, you can take this car on a long drive in the country, on less than perfect roads, and not have your teeth rattled out.
The car has also been designed well enough that you can drive a fair way with the roof off without being buffeted until your hair falls out.
A drive along the Great Ocean Rd revealed it is also possible to cruise with the roof down on a fairly chilly night thanks again to the design of the car as well as a potent heating system and heated seats.
The drive not only emphasised the comfort and ability of the 911, as well a great engine note that was amplified by the cliff rock faces, but also outlined its amazing braking ability when an animal decided to step on to the road.
I thought there was no chance of pulling up in time, but the massive anchors gripped and stopped the 911 with about a metre and a half to spare.
There are two extra seats in the back of the 911, but they are best only used by little ones when the roof is in place given there is stuff-all headroom.
When you lift the lid, taller rear passengers will at least be able to fit in but it is unlikely they will be very comfortable as there is very little legroom.
This is not really a big deal.
The Carrera cabrio is relatively practical for a sportscar, but it is still a sportscar so we shouldn’t expect too much.
With any sportscar you also expect to get hit hard when it comes to options and the Porsche is no different.
A standard Carrera S cabrio manual costs $270,300, but the one we drove had about $20,000 worth of options including the dual clutch automatic gearbox and Sports Chrono package. Ouch.
What stand out are the things you expect to be standard.
Metallic paint is an extra $2000, the three-spoke multi-function steering wheel is $1490, an aluminium trim package is $6990 and you even have to pay $519 to have the Porsche logo embossed on the seats.
A few options and a Porsche can go from expensive to incredibly expensive in an instant.
That said, if you had the money it would still be worth it.
The 911 has always been an excellent car, but these upgrades not only improve the performance, but fix the chink in its armour with a great new dual-clutch automatic.
You will pay through the nose for it, but if you don’t want a manual, the dual clutch automatic will be worth every dollar.
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