Full 2009 Porsche 911 Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Porsche 911 gets some significant updates, including refreshed front and rear fascia, new direct-injection engines, bigger brakes and a new touchscreen interface in the center stack. New options include an automated manual gearbox that replaces the Tiptronic automatic transmission, ventilated seats, Bluetooth, satellite radio and an audio connection package that includes a dedicated iPod adapter, auxiliary jack and USB port.
Few modern sports cars are worthy to be deemed icons. With its classic design and prestigious motorsports pedigree, the rear-engine Porsche 911 is one of the most enduring and historically important high-performance cars on the market today. A host of new features take the 2009 Porsche 911 to the next level, including more powerful and efficient engines, a revised entertainment system and an optional, state-of-the-art automated manual transmission. Combined with a refreshed exterior, the new 911 improves on an already superb combination of sharp looks, ferocious performance and daily drivability.
The 2009 Porsche 911 gets a power and fuel economy boost over its predecessor thanks to direct-injection, flat-6 engines. The 3.6-liter base Carrera gets 345 horsepower, up from 325, and the 3.8-liter Carrera S gets a 30 hp boost for a total of 385 hp. In addition, combined fuel economy has improved by about 10 percent. The new seven-speed automated manual transmission, known as PDK (an acronym for Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe), utilizes the same type of "dual-clutch" design that Volkswagen uses for its highly regarded DSG transmissions. While driving, PDK will pre-select the next gear, so when it comes time to shift, the next gear can instantly take over -- virtually eliminating the lag in shift time. Like other transmissions of this type, PDK can be placed in a fully automatic mode or shifted manually via steering-wheel-mounted buttons. Porsche says the software controlling the PDK also knows whether to plan for an upshift or downshift based on certain parameters, such as hard acceleration and braking. The 911 Turbo's powertrain remains unchanged for 2009.
In previous years, we bemoaned the 911's lack of in-cabin entertainment and communications features. No longer. All 911 models sold for 2009 (Carrera, Cabriolet, Targa, Turbo) also get a revised Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system, which includes a bigger touchscreen display, an easier-to-use interface and options such as Bluetooth and iPod, USB and auxiliary connectivity. Also added to the options list is a new hard-drive-based navigation system and satellite radio with real-time traffic. All of this, plus new ventilated seats and a manual transmission hill holder solidify the 2009 Porsche 911's place as a realistic daily driver option.
That's not to say there isn't some stiff competition out there. New supercars such as the Nissan GT-R and Audi R8 tend to get more attention, both in the media and on the road. But the GT-R lacks the build quality of the 911, and its plethora of electronically controlled systems make for a much more "video game" driving feel. The R8's sumptuous cabin rivals that of the Porsche, but it's less practical and its R tronic transmission lacks the speed or the smoothness of the PDK. And neither, of course, can match the 911's rich history and pedigree. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage might be a suitable alternative, but although it offers an elegant and timeless design, it doesn't have the 911's chops when it comes to performance. Bottom line? The 911 is simply the best all-around high-performance sports car you can buy for 2009.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Porsche 911 comes in multiple trims and body styles: Carrera and Carrera S are available in coupe or convertible (Cabriolet) body styles, while Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S add all-wheel drive to those same body styles. The Targa 4 and Targa 4S are essentially all-wheel-drive coupes with a large power-sliding glass roof. Finally, there's a Turbo model that's available in coupe or convertible body styles.
All 911 Carrera and Targa trims come standard with 18-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, full power accessories, a sunroof (bigger in the Targa), cruise control, leather seating, power reclining front seats (with manual fore-aft and height adjustment), split-folding rear seats, automatic climate control, the touchscreen display and a nine-speaker audio system with a CD/DVD/MP3 player. In addition, all Cabriolets feature a power soft top with a heated glass rear window and wind deflector.
The S trims add a more powerful engine, 19-inch wheels, a sport suspension with active damping on coupes (optional on convertibles), bigger brakes, a sport steering wheel and unique exterior and interior trim.
The Turbo adds to the Carrera 4S a turbocharged engine, 19-inch forged alloy wheels, wider tires, upgraded brakes, headlight washers, fully powered front seats, driver memory functions, a full leather interior, auto-dimming mirrors and a 13-speaker Bose surround-sound system.
Porsche offers a dizzying array of expensive options including different wheel designs, custom interior color schemes, different seats, different types of leather and a choice of several wood, aluminum and carbon-fiber accents. Many of the standard features on the upper trim levels are optional on the base Carreras. Other notable options include race-bred ceramic disc brake rotors, heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, a hard-drive-based navigation system, voice activation control for the navigation and PCM, parking sensors, satellite radio and a universal audio interface that provides iPod, USB and auxiliary jacks. A Sport Chrono package allows the driver to record lap times and other car data, and, when combined with PDK, provides a button for activating launch control.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera is equipped with a 3.6-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that produces 345 hp and 288 pound-feet of torque. The Carrera S has a 3.8-liter version of the flat-6 rated for 385 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The 911 Carrera and Carrera S are available in either rear-wheel- or all-wheel-drive ("4") versions, while the Targa 4 and 4S are all-wheel drive only. All Carrera and Targa trims come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The seven-speed dual-clutch PDK is optional.
In performance testing, both a Carrera 4S coupe with manual and a Carrera S Cabriolet with PDK went from zero to 60 mph in an impressively quick 4.2 seconds. A regular Carrera should be just a few tenths behind.
The 911 Turbo is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter flat-6 good for 480 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a traditional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift buttons is optional. In performance testing, a Turbo with the automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.
Fuel economy for the 2009 Porsche 911 is remarkably fair for a high-performance car. All manual rear-wheel-drive versions of the 911 achieve 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. The Carrera S coupe with PDK gets an even more efficient 19/27/22 mpg, and the cabriolet with the same engine and transmission achieves 19/26/22. Wider-bodied, all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 coupes and convertibles get slightly lower numbers. The 911 Turbo returns 15/23/18 mpg with the auto.
Six airbags (including side curtain), antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control are included on all 2009 Porsche 911 models.
Interior Design and Special Features
The driver is the center of the universe in the 2009 Porsche 911, and the amenities inside seem to affirm this. Supportive bucket seats with side bolsters hold both driver and passenger in place while cornering, without making either feel pinned in. Large footwells, as well as a tilt/telescoping steering wheel can accommodate drivers of nearly all sizes. The center stack contains the updated PCM and its 6.5-inch touchscreen display. In addition, the number of buttons on the console has been considerably pared down, which gives the interior a clean, uncluttered look. With the optional universal audio interface, front-seat occupants can control their iPods directly from the touchscreen; the PCM mimics the iPod's interface nearly identically. Also, unlike many other automakers, Porsche allows the navigation system to be controlled while the car is in use. Build quality is exceptional in the 911. Even those surfaces not swathed in soft hide are constructed of a material that's actually pretty consistent with the organically sourced stuff. Other material highlights include a standard Alcantara headliner and deep carpet that extends up onto the doors, eliminating the possibility of scuffing any sort of lower door plastic.
To call the 2009 Porsche 911 "sporty" would be an understatement. Even without the adjustable suspension, the 911 delivers a firm but pleasant ride that's suitable for a drive to the office. When put to the test, the 911 accelerates effortlessly. In Sport or Sport Plus mode, the suspension tightens up and hunkers down, providing even more tautness through twisty corners. Big, powerful brakes bite down hard and stop with ease. But even though this car can be a monster, one never feels out of control. Even with all that weight and grip in the rear, Porsche's stability control is able to keep the wheels on the ground without being obtrusive. The new PDK transmission is a welcome happy medium for those who desire the traffic-friendly nature of not having a clutch, yet still want the rapid shift performance of a traditional manual. However, we're not fans of the awkward shift buttons -- they should be paddles, just like every other manufacturer employs.