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Carrera still a thriller.

Byline: Enda Mullen

EVOLUTION rather than revolution is a maxim that has seen Porsche remain at the very top of its game when it comes to the iconic 911.

Having driven a number of incarnations of one of the most recognisable sports cars the world over, the 911 just keeps getting better and better.

The latest generation is a car that fuses all that is good about Porsche's marvellous heritage with what is also a thoroughly modern performance car. It could be suggested one of the more hi-tech PDK variants I tested makes the whole 911 experience (traditionally something raw and hard-edged) a little too easy and straightforward. About the only real criticism I ever hear levelled at a Porsche sports car is that it's too soft, but to label a PDK model as such would be missing the point altogether.

'Doppelkupplungsgetriebe' is Porsche's own double clutch automatic transmission and not being a word which rolls off the tongue easily you can understand why it's called PDK for short.

Sure, there have always been automatic 911s available but many puritans would have viewed them as a cop-out, the sort of thing favoured by badge lovers rather than genuinely enthusiastic performance connoisseurs.

The problem with an automatic traditionally was that it dulled performance, something which kind of defeats the whole point of a Porsche. If you're going to have a car like that then you quite rightly want pace and power to be maximised.

The big selling point about PDK, and it really is one hell of a selling point, is that performance outstrips a similar manual - by a considerable distance.

The technology used was pioneered by Porsche 25 years ago for the racetrack and has been taken up by other manufacturers but until recently was not available on cars coming off the production line.

Seamless and swift gear changing ensures the 911 with PDK delivers blistering rather than lazy performance. And in suitably hi-tech fashion these days, if you opt for the Sport Chrono Package Plus it is boosted even further.

Performance can be increased incrementally by pressing Sport or Sport Plus buttons. Press Sport and the difference is noticeable with the car feeling stiffer as suspension settings are altered and the gear changing takes place even more quickly. The Sport Plus button gives it an even harder edge and notches acceleration up another level.

It might be a bit of a boys' toys gizmo rather than an everyday asset but another feature is the launch control facility, which propels the car dragster style from a standing start. The concept takes a little getting used to as you need to put your left foot on the brake while pushing the throttle to the floor. Engage the switch, release the brake and off you go - from 0-62mph in an impressive 4.5 seconds in the Carrera 2 Coupe and even faster in other models.

Great fun, though probably the sort of thing you are going to want to demonstrate to friends occasionally rather than use everyday to make a hasty getaway from a set of traffic lights.

One of the benefits of PDK is that it makes the 911 a very usable everyday car in whatever setting and you can also select gears via toggles on the steering wheel or using the gear lever.

The new car sees two new engines, a 3.6-litre and a 3.8-litre, which in line with current automotive trends manage to deliver improved performance and economy and lower emissions.

New direct fuel injection (DFI) technology makes a huge difference, with maximum output from the 3.6-litre unit in the new Carrera up by 20bhp to 345bhp.

The latest version retains those 911 driving hallmarks of fun, aggression and pace tempered by a sure-footedness that is reassuring when enjoying its capabilities to the full.

It offers both a thrilling and rewarding drive and after a few days in the driving seat you start to feel like you really don't want to go back to driving anything else.

About the only drawback is its firm ride, which might become a bugbear if you're using the car day in day out, but what else would one expect from a Porsche.

And all this, from what in effect is the entry level 911.

FAST FACTS Model: Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Coupe Price: pounds 64,745 Mechanical: 345bhp 3,614cc, 6cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 7-speed automatic gearbox Max speed: 178mph 0-62mph: 4.7 seconds Combined mpg: 29.4 Insurance group: 19 CO2 emissions: 225g/km BiK rating: 33% Warranty: 2yrs/unlimited mileage


SEE ME GO The Carrera's Sport Plus button gives you a 4.5 seconds 0-60mph dragster-style start.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 30, 2010
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