- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

I traveled to pilot the 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera S over the 4.5-mile road course at the Miller Motorsports complex, which consists of 24 turns.

The park is located on generally level desert terrain with every turn looking similar, making it extremely difficult to learn and nearly impossible to master in only a few hours.

Porsche’s 911 lineup for 2009 includes the Carrera Coupe and Cabriolet, and an “S” version in both body configurations.

Power for the 911 Carrera Coupe and Cabriolet come from a 3.6-liter flat-opposed six-cylinder engine mounted in the rear that delivers 345 horsepower (an increase of 20 hp) and 288 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels.

Motive energy for the 911 Carrera S models is derived from a 3.8-liter water-cooled, horizontally-opposed DOHC, 24-valve flat-opposed 6-cylinder engine with VarioCam Plus variable valve timing and lift, mounted aft to drive the rear wheels.

The 3.8-liter 6 develops 385 horses (up 30 horses over its predecessor) and 310 lb.-ft. of torque at the same rev levels as the base car’s engine. Top speed capability for the Carrera S is now 188 mph. And for the first time in a Porsche sports car, the engines utilize direct fuel injection.

The really big news is the customer’s option to connect either engine to Porsche’s incredible Porsche doppelkupplungsgetriebe transmission (PDK). PDK offers a more user-friendly Porsche-developed double-clutch, 7-speed automatic transmission.

PDK is actually a combination of dual gearboxes — each with its own clutch. With the transmission placed in any specific gear, the engaged gear waits to sense the next change and immediately responds, making for more rapid transitions. PDK may be operated either as a manual or as an automatic, replacing the previously optional Tiptronic S automatic. The 7th gear acts as an overdrive, resulting in increased fuel economy of up to 13 percent.

A Carrera equipped with PDK is capable of moving from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, while the “S” version can reach the same speed in 4.3 seconds. In terms of visual aesthetics, this latest 911 Carrera series represents an evolutionary movement rather than a revolutionary one.

At the Miller Motorsports complex I was assigned to a Porsche race driver who rode shotgun. My instructor was David Donohue, son of late, legendary Trans-Am great Mark Donohue. The invited auto journalists were to cycle through all four new 911 Carrera models. I started in the quickest and most powerful model, the Carrera S Coupe, equipped with the PDK transmission and Sport Chrono Package Plus.

We were last in line and Dave told me to wait before taking the track, because he said that we would overtake the others quickly. I informed him that I tended to be on the conservative side and probably wouldn’t catch up. He smiled and told me to trust him. He hit the Sport mode button, and before the second lap was over, I was passing the other cars in what seemed effortless fashion.

Handling is superior with the variable-ratio steering, and the ride quality is surprisingly supple thanks to the electronically controlled suspension adaptability.

Pricing for the 2009 Carrera Coupe starts at $75,600. The Carrera S Coupe begins at $86,200.

It is a car for all seasons and all reasons. The 2+2 seating is somewhat of a joke, with virtually no legroom behind either the driver or passenger, but why would you want to take more than one person along for the ride anyway? PDK could well stand for Pretty Darn Kwik.

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