You know there is a shift afoot in the car business when a portion of Porsche’s advertising budget for the 2009 911 Carrera is devoted to its fuel economy. This, from the company that sells ballistic 911 Turbos and a variety of thirsty V8-powered Cayenne SUVs.
In truth, Porsche’s sports cars have always been fairly sanctimonious fuel-sippers considering their outstanding performance potential.
For 2009, Porsche has applied some of its engineering acumen to enable its sports cars do what they do best — go fast, turn hard, and make wonderful sounds — while using even less fuel.
The dry-sump 3.6 L horizontally-opposed six in the base 2009 911 Carrera ($94,800) has a new crankcase, new cylinders and cylinder heads, and now features direct injection. It is slightly more compact than the previous 3.6L engine and sits a little lower in the subframe, improving the car’s centre of gravity. Power jumps from 325 to 345 horsepower, and torque increases by 15 lb.-ft. to 288. According to Porsche, fuel economy improves by up to 13 per cent.
The other big news from Porsche is the availability of a new seven-speed twin-clutch transmission that replaces the aging five-speed Tiptronic S autobox. Dubbed “Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe” (PDK for short, thank you), this high-tech cog-swapper uses the same technology first seen in the VW/Audi six-speed DSG transmission. It is essentially two transmissions in one casing: A clutch and cogs for even gears and another for odd and reverse. Mucho computer mojo anticipates and preselects the next gear, providing fast and smooth gear changes without the tradition torque converter losses. These transmissions really are the way of the future, and Porsche’s PDK is an impressive new player.
Much of the outstanding 10.5L/100 km fuel economy I achieved over my test week (granted, I was driving normally with very little “fun” time) can be attributed to the PDK. In full auto mode, with a light touch on the throttle, this thing will short-shift like your granny on the way to bingo — the tach needle won’t swing above 2000 rpm.
Does this sound like typical 911 behaviour? Has Porsche gone all soft on us? Hardly.
Exercise the right Nike, and all the intrinsic elements of the 911 experience leap to the forefront. You want character? This ass-engined icon has buckets of the stuff. The flat six sings it’s magical song (albiet a little more quietly in the ’09s) and delivers its power in a linear rush. The steering comes alive in your hands, and the car grips and turns as only a rear-wheel-drive 911 can. Every motoring enthusiast deserves to experience this at least once in a lifetime
Some auto scribes have taken issue with Porsche’s new-for-2009 steering wheel mounted shift mechanism. While just about every automaker from Ferrari to Mitsubishi use good ol’ paddle shifters, Porsche has evolved the Tiptronic thumb toggles into a pair of ergonomic push-me pull-you thingies that straddle the top of each steering wheel spoke. Using either hand, pressing ahead with the thumb calls for an upshift while pulling back with the index and middle finger brings a downshift.
Yes, at first it’s a bit weird, but after a few days in the saddle the system feels perfectly natural. In auto mode, the shifters function but the tranny reverts to self-shifting after eight seconds.
Manual mode is accessed by tapping the floor-mounted shifter to the left gate, and here it won’t shift until you tell it – even if you’re bumping up against the rev limiter.
As good as the PDK is, I would probably save the $5560 and stick with the six-speed manual transmission only because it is such a joy to operate. Something for everybody with the 2009 911 Carrera. Incredibly, this car just keeps getting better.
2009 Porsche 911 Carrera
Type: Sports coupe
Price: from $94,800
Engine: 3.6L direct-injection flat-six
• Improved Fuel efficiency
• New seven-speed twin-clutch transmission