Road Test: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

Prices for the Porsche 911 Carrera S start

Prices for the Porsche 911 Carrera S start at $97,350. (Credit: Bloomberg News)

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THE CAR AND ITS OWNER 1927 LaSalle roadster In the Garage

One hundred years from now, when auto historians go all Charles Darwin dissecting the evolution of Porsche's 911 sports car, they may notice a bit of a dogleg in the year 2012.

The car's progress since its inception in 1963 has been carefully modulated. Along the way, its blend of aptitude and approachability has earned it the unique distinction of having as much respect at the racetrack as it has with both patrons and proprietors of our nation's plastic surgery clinics.

Yet the 2012 model is the most liberal interpretation of the 911's ethos yet.

Available now as the basic Carrera and the more powerful Carrera S, it grows significantly in size and it puts a previously unappreciated importance on efficiency. What's more, its overall demeanor can lean precariously toward a grand touring car if the driver so desires.

A bigger, greener and more relaxed 911 may be considered heretical by fans of previous generations and will forever alter its course. But lurking beneath the surface of a demure everyday sports car is an evil-seeking reprobate bent on annihilating asphalt.

The changes this year start with the 911's growth. Its wheelbase is nearly four inches longer for more high-speed stability, the front track is wider for more front-end grip, and the rear axle has been moved aft relative to the engine to spread out a chunk of the car's rear mass.

The Carrera is also lighter and more fuel efficient. A start/stop function kills the engine when the vehicle comes to a rest, and a coasting function decouples the engine from the transmission when cruising on the freeway, in effect letting the car run in neutral. The most drastic green-minded change was that Porsche did away with its much-lauded but less efficient hydraulic power steering and replaced it with an electric unit.

The model I tested came with Porsche's sublime seven-speed, dual-clutch automated transmission. If you'd still rather conduct your own orchestra, Porsche does offer the world's first seven-speed manual transmission.

Connected to that transmission in the Carrera S is a 3.8-liter, direct-injected, six-cylinder engine making 400 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

This Porsche feels more stable and predictable than an older 911, with grip easier to find.

Seductively designed, efficiently engineered and eminently pliable. Dogleg or not, this is how you evolve.

 

 

PORSCHE 911 CARRERA S

 

 

Base price: $97,350 (including destination charge)

Price as tested: $126,750

Powertrain: 3.8-liter, DOHC, direct-injected, six-cylinder engine with variable valve timing; seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters

Horsepower: 400 at 7,400 rpm

Torque: 325 pound-feet at 5,600 rpm

0-60: 3.9 seconds

Curb weight: 3,120 pounds

Wheelbase: 96.46 inches

Length: 176.81 inches

EPA fuel economy: 20 mpg city/27 highway

 

Bottom line:Not your father's 911

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