Thanks to an extremely generous family member, Cars Technica spent some quality time with Porsche’s latest flavor of 911 on a recent vacation. And since we just reviewed one of its oldest and deadliest rivals (the Corvette), we thought a mini-review of the rear-engined German icon was in order. We only had a day—rather than a week—behind the driver’s seat, so there are some aspects of the car that we didn’t test too closely. But the impression that emerged over the course of our time with the vehicle was this is a car with some clever tricks up its sleeve, enough to disguise the fact that its engine is in the wrong place. In particular, the 911’s dual clutch gearbox really is a technological marvel.
Porsche has been building rear-engined sports cars since the post-war period, and the first 911 (originally to be called the 901 until Peugeot pointed out they owned the rights to three-digit numbers with a zero in the middle) debuted in 1963. The car we drove was the latest iteration, known internally (and to Porschenerds) as the 991. It’s the most digital 911 yet. It boasts computers in charge of the suspension, that clever dual clutch gearbox (called PDK, or Porsche Doppelkupplung), and the new range of direct-injection gasoline engines. Because of those electronics governing the way the 991 stops, steers, and goes, it hews to the current trend of being able to switch between different flavors of car with the push of a button. As our test car—a 3.4 L Carrera Cabriolet—was equipped with the Sport Chrono option, we sampled three different flavors: normal, Sport, and Sport Plus.
For driving around crowded and narrow city streets, its most sedate mode is the way to go. Visibility is good, and with the seven-speed PDK gearbox in D it handles stop-go traffic like a champ. The PDK box also works well with the engine’s start-stop ability (where it shuts off if you’re stationary for more than a few seconds). Certainly, the car is much more seamless than manual ones we’ve driven with start-stop in the past, which seem designed to stall at every intersection. The 911 has some other fuel saving tricks too; when cruising on a motorway the gearbox can declutch from the engine and let the car coast. And although that clever direct-injection technology was impressive, French Alpes-Maritimes mountain roads were beckoning, so damn the fuel efficiency.