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The Porsche 911 Carrera models offer a choice of 7-speed manual gearbox or 7-speed PDK (short for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe), a dual-clutch automatic. While the manual gearbox is clearly going to be near and dear to the hearts of those of us who feel there must be three pedals on the floor of a true sports car, we wouldn't be surprised to see the PDK start to raise doubts among those even slightly less committed.
The double-clutch PDK is just a wee bit faster than a well-shifted manual. Some say it's just as much fun to operate when using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which pair especially well with the optional sport wheel. The PDK also gets slightly better gas mileage than its manual counterpart.
The 911 has always been quick, even in base form. And with the Carrera S now rivaling the acceleration of the old GT3, it'll sink you even deeper into the sport driver's seat when you use Launch Control. Available only with the PDK, Launch Control is designed to minimize wheel spin and maximize torque for the fastest off-the-line acceleration. Press the button, hold down the brake, press the throttle to the floor, wait until it tells you to go, and release the brake. When we did this, we noticed the way our peripheral vision seemed to vanish as our eyes focused on the barrier at the end of a temporary track Porsche set up for testing at California's Santa Maria Airport. We hit 112 mph before slamming on the oversized brakes, which quickly brought us to a halt well before the looming barrier. Then we zigged and zagged through a serpentine course that included decreasing radius corners and a tight slalom stretch, an autocross-type circuit.
Straight-line performance is impressive, but what's really wonderful is how the Carrera S effortlessly maneuvers through demanding corners. The new 911 posted a 7:40 lap time around the challenging Nurburgring Nordscliefe, an old, classic circuit now used as a benchmark by luxury performance carmakers. That's a whopping 16 seconds faster than the outgoing, sixth-generation Porsche 911.
At the same time, we were impressed with how quiet and smooth the Porsche 911 is on regular roads.
Some drivers feel the electric-assisted steering offers less feel and is numb compared with the old hydraulic system, but we think that may be overstating the case. Yes, it's smoother and less likely to transmit the raw sensation of hitting every twig and pebble on the road. But unlike all too many of the new electric power steering systems that makers are fast migrating to, the electro-hydraulic system on the 2013 Porsche 911 continues to keep you in touch more than enough to let you know precisely what the car is doing. One does have to get used to what the car is telling you, however, especially due to the much more limited amount of body roll allowed by the Dynamic Chassis Control system. But, again, there's still enough that it only took a few minutes, and a couple hard turns, to feel confident, comfortable and in touch with what the new 911 was doing. That's also what's impressive about this car: how quickly the driver becomes comfortable and confident at speed.