Monday, 9 May 2011

Porsche 911 - Celebrates 60 years with two new 911 Carrera Coupes

When I was starting out as an auto writer, the annual introduction of new Porsche 911 models always confused me. To my untrained eye, the new models often looked just like the previous year’s models they replaced. While my eye for automotive detail has grown sharper over the years, the challenges for differentiating one model year 911 from the next still remain.

True to form, to celebrate the German company’s 60th anniversary of building fast cars, the two new 2009 Carrera models that are now heading to dealer showrooms look ever so close to the 2008s. But not to worry: Porsche aficionados will soon discover that these quintessential 911s have been especially engineered to mark this magnificent manufacturing milestone and are the most sophisticated, potent and environmentally friendly 911 Carrera models that the company has ever produced.

Despite their abundance of 21st century technologies, the 2009 911 Carrera Coupe and Carrera S Coupe clearly trace their engineering and aesthetic roots to the seminal Porsche. That original car evolved for over 15 years beginning in 1948 as the highly coveted 356. Then at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show, the groundbreaking 911 Coupe debuted as a 1964 model. As a testament to the genius of its design, after more than 40 years of development and six generations of engineering improvements, the 911 Carreras still showcase a horizontally opposed, rear-mounted six-cylinder engine carried in a distinctive and instantly recognizable body.

Though the new 911 Carrera and Carrera S Coupes boast several important refinements over the 2008 cars, the cars carry the same internal 997 designation as their immediate predecessors. Chief among those refinements are new, more powerful and fuel-efficient engines and the availability of Porsche's seven-speed double-clutch transmission, the PDK, in place of the optional Tiptronic S. Other critical changes include larger, more potent brakes, a revised Porsche Communication Management system with Bluetooth connectivity and available voice commands, a fresh exterior with BI-XENON™ headlights, and light-emitting-diode rear lighting.

Both the 911 Carrera Coupe and 911 Carrera S Coupe receive new engines that feature direct fuel injection, new two-piece crankcases and revised intake and exhaust systems along with Porsche VarioCam Plus intake-valve timing and lift system. Thanks to a 6.2 percent increase in horsepower, the 3.6-liter engine goes from 325 to 345 hp. When the car is equipped with the new PDK double-clutch transmission in place of last year's Tiptronic S, the 911 Carrera Coupe accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, more than a full half second quicker than its predecessor.

The 3.8-liter engine in the more potent 911 Carrera S Coupe exhibits equally awesome results sprinting to 60 mph in only 4.5 seconds when equipped with a manual gearbox, and making that run in a mere 4.3 seconds with the PDK. This blazing acceleration comes by way of the new 3.8-liter 385 hp engine. Despite the substantial increases over the predecessor models, neither the 2009 3.6-liter 911 Carrera Coupe nor the 3.8-liter 911 Carrera S Coupe carries the stigma of a gas-guzzler penalty. Better yet, both qualify as low emissions vehicles!

And even the most seasoned gear-head might find it surprising to learn that while the new 911 is equipped with two clutches, there’s no clutch pedal. While it is way too complicated to explain the mechanics of how all that works here, Porsche engineers said that in order to take full advantage of the newly designed engines, they decided to offer drivers a transmission that delivers quicker acceleration than is possible with the standard manual gearbox, while maximizing fuel efficiency. The new PDK (from the German Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe), or Porsche double-clutch transmission, replaces the Tiptronic S as the optional gearbox in both the 911 Carrera Coupe and 911 Carrera S Coupe. The seven-speed PDK allows the driver to shift up and down automatically, or he or she may opt to shift via steering wheel mounted paddles or the console-mounted lever, as with the Tiptronic S. If you’re a bit confused by all this techno talk, all you really have to know is this: the PDK is one of the world’s most sophisticated racing transmissions that enable this Porsche to go really fast, really quick!

When it comes to stopping, Porsche engineers firmly believe that a car's deceleration ability must always out-perform its ability to accelerate. That said, the both new 911 models receive added braking capability and are now equipped with the same sophisticated brake system previously used only on Porsche's very powerful all-wheel-drive models.

As significant as are the changes in the Carrera Coupes' drivetrains this year from last, the exterior differences are, as always, most subtle. Porsche's designers allowed only minor refinements to the appearance of the model range for 2009. When viewed head on, the most notable differences are the new, horizontal covers for the BI-XENON™ headlights and the L.E.D. daytime running lights, which extend over the air inlets. Also noteworthy are air vents, which boast larger cooling openings. The keen-eyed observer will also note the absence of a center radiator on cars equipped with the PDK. The side view reveals new, larger exterior mirrors with aerodynamic twin-arm mounts, as well as new lightweight alloy wheels. Each car's wheels are of a distinct design. In the rear, all the lighting elements are now light-emitting diodes, for improved luminosity, longer life and instantaneous response. Finally, in the back, the 911 Carrera Coupe sports two single oval exhaust pipes while the 911 Carrera S Coupe shows dual round polished exhaust outlets.

Interior refinements include a revamped center console highlighted by a new Porsche Communication Management system (PCM) and the availability of ventilated front seats. The optional navigation module now has a 40 GB hard drive and may be operated with optional voice commands. Other available features include an internal GSM mobile phone module with Bluetooth handsfree operation, as well the ability to connect with external music sources such as iPods or USB memory sticks. As before, the cabin offers its occupants the protection of six airbags: dual frontal-impact airbags; as well as two seat-mounted, thoraxprotecting, side-impact airbags; and two head-protecting, side-impact curtain, door-mounted airbags.

Bottom line: Both 2009 Carreras satisfy the need for speed with world-class performance. Indeed, when it comes time to serve this master of seductive Autobahn speeds by furiously flogging the shift paddles to push this willing and obedient model to its upper limits, design lines become blurred in an unrestrained and seemingly never ending power exchange of double pumping clutch action that only Porsche’s 60th anniversary 911s can deliver.

By John Peige

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