2009 Porsche 911 Carrera: The Real RocknRolla
Sublime is the mind of those that support greatness. For those that oppose, well we wish them all the best. With that, the Pontiac Solstice Coupe is no RocknRolla! And I’m sure Guy Ritchie would admirably agree to the subjective analysis.
I still cringe at the thought of hearing rapper turned actor 50 Cent boldly state during a Pontiac press conference at the 2008 NY Auto Show that the “lady cute” Solstice Coupe is faster than a Porsche. Maybe he was insightfully referring to Sally from Pixar’s Cars, but even she would have had the American chasing her turquoise tail. And if the New Yorker, then Pontiac spokesperson, had even an inkling of automotive performance acumen then he would have known that the 2009 911 is the real RocknRolla and should never be mentioned in the same sentence with a Pontiac. Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche would be turning in their graves right now!
A Little History: Forty five years ago, Porsche made a grand entrance at the Frankfurt International Auto Show with the unveiling of the 901. A misnomer with Peugeot eventually led to the 911 moniker. One year later, the storied 2+2 rear engine sports car went into production. Without haste, the 911 Targa was introduced in 1966 as a safe cabriolet. It opened up new opportunities and markets for Porsche. Look around you and notice that Porsche cars are synonymous with speed, power, agility and respect on and off the track.
Modern Day: Now in its sixth generation, the 2009 911 Carrera is updated tremendously with new hardware and software and a few new styling cues. So Automotive Rhythms headed to Utah for a query session with the German sprinter at Miller Motorsports Park. The 4.5-mile, 24-turn track is one of the most challenging to learn, but gratifying to experience when you have technology on your side. Technology such as the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) dual-clutch seven-speed transmission, Direct Fuel Injection and a set of updated horizontally opposed six cylinder “Boxer” engines. The 911 also has a new air intake system, new exhaust, new Bi-Xenon headlights, new alloy wheels and available cornering lights.
PDK Defined: Porsche first used PDK in 1983 in a 956. The original technology was specifically for their racecars. In fact, many of Porsche's consumer vehicle technologies are inherited from their racing experiences. PDK, which replaces Tiptronic S, is a combination of two gear boxes with each having its own clutch. When the transmission is set in any particular gear, the gear on deck awaits patiently for selection allowing immediate and faster shifts. PDK can be driven as an automatic and as a manual. Pros include quick starts which automatics provide and manual benefits including low power loss, reduced weight and efficiency. Porsche says PDK also decreases fuel consumption. One reason is due to the seventh overdrive gear which leads to low engine speed which leads to low gas consumption. The clean and simple sports steering wheel which comes with PDK has two gearshift levers which are seamlessly integrated into the three-spoke design. The 911's standard gearbox is a six-speed manual.
New Engines: Both the base 3.6-liter and 3.8-liter (found in the S model) have the same displacement as the fifth generation 911 engines but are in fact totally new powerplants. The “3.6” develops 345 horsepower and 288 pound-feet of torque and sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The “3.8” produces 385 horsepower with 310 pound-feet of torque and dashes to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.5 seconds. The Carrera tops out at 180 mph while the Carrera S continues up until 188 mph. However, with PDK the S hits 60 in 4.3 seconds and in 4.1 seconds if PDK is united with Sport Chrono Package Plus which communicates the drivetrain and chassis for further enhancements. This combination also offers Launch Control, seen on Porsche racecars and a new racetrack gearshift technology which further reads transmission mapping for top acceleration. Astonishingly, the 3.8-liter uses almost 13% less fuel than its predecessor. This is a direct result of the Porsche VarioCam Plus and Direct Fuel Injection (DFI) recipe. Their DFI system is engineered so the entire air/fuel mixture takes place exclusively in the combustion chamber and whereas fuel is delivered into each chamber by way of an electromagnetic injection system. DFI offers each 911 greater performance, more torque, lower emissions and fuel savings. The S is recognizable from the rear by four circular exhaust pipes while the base model uses two wide oval tips.
Track Session: Porsche made sure we would experience the new 911 from a motorsports perspective so they brought in a cadre of drivers including legend Hurley Haywood and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long who became the first American to win the ALMS GT2 Driver Championship since 1999. Porsche partnered me with Long in an attempt to master both America's largest road course and the vehicle in a half day. With 24 turns that run counter-clockwise and a front stretch that allows vehicles to reach speeds up to 200 mph, you can be sure we got our money's worth.
Long made sure I understood how to maneuver multiple turns, when to brake, when to accelerate, and when to release the throttle. For example, most of the turns required only light steering inputs. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) did the rest of the work for me. PASM (Standard on S model) stiffens each wheel's dampers individually and adjusts forces accordingly based on road conditions and driver style. It features normal and Sport mode and lowers the suspension by 10 mm. The 911's short and rigid body maneuvered the course like mice in mazes. Michelin's new Pilot Sport PS2 with wet and dry Asymmetric tread also benefits the 911. We reached 130 mph then amazingly witnessed how rapidly the vehicle halted before preparation of the next immediate turn. Each of the four 13” ventilated rotors are cross-drilled and coupled with the same monobloc four piston calipers found on the 911 Turbo. At one point I did get too comfortable and took a turn with too much speed and had to counter steer to hold the proper line. I was assisted with Porsche Stability Management (PSM) which has higher thresholds for lateral acceleration and drift angles. It uses ABD (Automatic brake differential), ASR (anti-slip regulation), ABS, electronic brake prefill and brake assist to maintain or restore vehicle stabilization. To keep track of my progress, I utilized the 911's intuitive clock-like lap timer which sits atop the dash. You can store data and later send to your computer for analysis.
Prices: At dealers now, expect to pay $75,600 for the base 911 (Cabriolet $86,200) and $86,200 for the “S” model (Cabriolet $96,800). Yet, to get your Carrera up to code then don't be surprised by typical Porsche a la carte menu options. PDK goes for $4,080; $8,150 for ceramic brakes; $1,550 for power comfort seats; $695 for Bluetooth; $1,440 for Bose audio; $960 for Sport Chrono Package Plus; $710 for metallic paint, and the list goes on and on. The 2009 Porsche 911 rocks and rolls like no other 911 before it. This is truly an amazing automobile.
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