2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S: To PDK or Not To PDK?

April 24th, 2012

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, profile

When someone invites you to drive a 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, you do it. That’s just a simple rule of life.

Whatever might be on the schedule for the day should be cleared and an appropriate amount of time reserved for one of the most iconic cars ever built.

So, after a call to the dentist (cavities can wait a week), I headed toward Northern Idaho on a clear and sunny 80-degree day to fulfill my obligation to the 911. But there was just one problem.

I’m a firm believer that if a car doesn’t have a manual transmission, it’s not a fun car. And this 911 wasn’t a manual.

That’s one of the reasons I got invited out to try this Porsche, to see if its 7-speed PDK transmission could win me over from my staunch devotion to three-pedal driving.

The PDK is Porsche’s dual-clutch system, allowing for fully automatic or manual driving. In manual mode, gears get shifted with wheel-mounted paddles or on the gear shifter itself. Obviously, there is no clutch pedal. Is the system any good? Well, heck yes it’s good, if the measure of “good” is how quickly and seamlessly the car flies through gears.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, rear quarter

I’m not going to get into a full review of the car or how the 911′s PDK works, but will mention that its 400-hp, 3.8-liter 6-cylinder engine makes for a blisteringly fast ride and provides a soundtrack no stereo could possibly match. Combined with the PDK and the beauty of launch control, the car will hit 60 in a hair over 4 seconds. Coming down an off-ramp at 75 mph and decelerating creates a beautiful sound as the PDK downshifts at optimal intervals. Entering the two-lane mountain twisties, though, is where I knew I’d find the true test.

And you know what? I still missed my traditional manual. Yes, the PDK will zip through 7 gears faster than I could get from first to second.┬áThe PDK works hard, and it works fast, which actually gives the driver a bit more time to relax and enjoy the scenery. Had I been in a manual-transmission car, I might not have seen the herd of rams congregated on a grassy meadow beside the mountain road. That was nice. For me, though, part of the thrill of driving a car like the 911 is being a part of the gear-shifting process. Disengaging the clutch and physically dropping the stick into gear before re-engaging is satisfying on a level the PDK couldn’t touch. Even switching to manual and using the paddles left me wanting more. Of course, launch control with the PDK is an experience worth having.

For drivers who want their car to do all the thinking and use technology to achieve every ounce of speed possible, the PDK makes sense. It’s for people who want to feel like they are on a ride. But, if you want to feel like you are in control of the ride and enjoy the physical pleasures of rowing your own gears, save the PDK’s $4K cost and leave that option unchecked. Or scour the CarGurus used listings for older models.

On my way home, back in my personal car (a 5-speed, of course), I posed a question to myself. The new 911 Carrera S is about as perfect as cars get. At a cost of about $115,000, would I buy one of I had the cash? With a 7-speed manual, maybe. What about you?

-tgriffith

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  1. Randy
    | #1

    I have an embarrassing admission to make. For someone with so much training and track testing time, I never could master heel-toe downshifting. I think it had a lot to do with my Bozo-size feet and tree-like ankles, which just didn’t look like those little ballerina feet the race drivers have. So, for me (and most people who can’t heel-toe properly) the dual clutch transmissions make for better downshifting performance because the clutch system coordinates your throttle and braking action. With dual clutch, I can drive as fast as a heel-toe shifter, and also don’t have the anxiety of worrying about missing a shift. Great invention. The only down side is the extra weight of automatic boxes and torque converter slip.

  2. Randy
    | #2

    Oh yea, except I don’t think dual clutchers have torque converters.

  3. Jim Redd
    | #3

    Wow, great read! If had the heal-toe technique mastered, this would be the car to use it on. Otherwise, if you’re spending the money, might as well let the car do what it was meant to do!

  4. Elise H
    | #4

    If the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S had a manual transmission it would absolutely give more of an intimate experience to controlling such an amazing machine. That’s what I personally love about driving a stick; the feeling of power. Very well written Mr. Griffith and congratulations on the opportunity to drive such a beautiful car.

  1. | #1
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