2011 Porsche 911 Carrera

The first time I drove a Porsche 911 was back in 2002. The car was everything I had hoped it would be – fast, nimble and exhilarating, but above all else a true thrill to my driving senses. It easily became a vehicle I longed to own.

The 911 was redesigned for 2009 with a long list of additions and revised equipment. This test vehicle was the C2 rear-wheel-drive model with the new PDK, clutch-less transmission.

The newly crafted sheet metal boasts subtle changes when compared to the previous 911. The rear taillights have a slightly different geometry and the front clip has been revised, but, let’s be honest here. It’s a 911 and so any radical change could result in widespread civil unrest. It could be argued that Porsche’s hands are tied – any tinkering with the 911 has to be understated if it is to keep the Porsche faithful happy.

2011 Porsche 911 Carrera C2

The bright yellow exterior was one of the colours you either love, or hate. To me it screamed, “Look, I’m going fast!” Hardly the message you want to convey to the local police, but great when sitting at a stoplight.

The base engine is a flat boxer 3.6L with an increased output of 345 horsepower – thanks to the use of direct injection and several high-end technologies. The addition of Porsche’s new seven-speed twin-clutch transmission (PDK to the anointed) was billed as a major innovation, or that was the thinking.

I like to pick and choose my own gears with a proper manual gearbox so I felt the PDK detracted from the thrill of driving.  However, as twin-clutch transmissions go, the Porsche unit is very good – the system was adapted from the company’s racing program. It also eased the chore of driving in stop-and-go traffic.

The 911 in any form is a powerhouse. Even at its most anemic (if that’s what 345 hp is) it is capable of running to 100 km/h in less than 5 seconds.

Inside, the biggest news for me was the audio and communications centre – Porsche had caught up with the times. Along with the usual two-band radio came XM satellite radio, a 6-disc CD changer, Bluetooth connectivity, an iPod connector, and a telephone interface that allows you to insert your SIM card right into the dash. This coming from Porsche was a surprise, and for two reasons. First, it not only had the needed amenities, the sound from its speakers proved to be among the best I have listened to in any vehicle. Second, I have always thought Porsche’s engineers looked at an in-car audio system with a certain level of disdain. After all, it adds speed-detracting grams to the weight of the car.

If you are looking for better seats to nestle down into, don’t waste your time. The 911’s are as good as they get. I have a wonky back so any amount of time I spend in these black leather wrapped beauties was time to be cherished. They are as attractive as they are functional – they provide the needed support and so there’s little chance of sliding out of them in a corner regardless of how hard one pushes

Obviously, the 911 is a fast car and it carves corners with a rare precision. Beyond that, I was fortunate enough to drive the car in the midst of winter and on snow-covered roads. This is what it’s all about – the great Canadian ownership experience. I was expecting a garage queen, the 911 turned out to be remarkably adept at handling the conditions.

Yes, it was wearing Pirelli winter tires. Even so I was very skeptical about venturing out on the roads with low profile, ultra wide P265/40ZR18 tires on the rear axle. The experience was mind-blowing.

The ability to pull away from a stoplight in eight centimetres of snow and find traction around corners speaks volumes. Not only the vehicle’s inherent balance, but also the ability the onboard traction control systems bring to the dance. As for the rest of it, well, it too was ready to face a harsh Canadian winter – the rear window defroster, windshield wipers and heating system all functioned perfectly.

It seemed almost sacrilegious that this potent and iconic car could fill in as a grocery getter in the middle of winter. Another revelation proved to be the rear seat. Previously, it was often referred to as a parcel shelf. In this case, the rear accommodated my two children (aged 10 and 7) without too much complaining. Adults still need not apply.

The 911 also proved to be painless at the pump. The 7.3 L/100 km highway and 11.2 L/100 km city ratings are what’s expected of a mid-sized family sedan. For the 911, which enjoys supercar status and has a top speed of 287 km/h, it was as shocking as it was a pleasant surprise. A case for practical family transport was beginning to take shape.
Sadly, reviewing the base price of the C2 911 brought any hopes of ownership crashing to the ground. Some will argue that in the realm of luxury sports cars, the 911 remains a veritable bargain at $90,100 when equipped the manual gearbox, but it remains well beyond my budget. Adding gadgets and toys will make the mortal buyer buckle in anguish. Our tester tipped the scales just north of $100,000. Consider also that Porsche recently revised much of their pricing, making this one of the most affordable times to own one.

In an effort to live the dream, I went to the Porsche Canada website to build my own “base” C2 911. With a sizable chunk of the option boxes remaining unchecked, I finally stopped when my dream car reached $150,000. Astonishing as the figure was devoid of an upgraded engine, or the all-wheel-drive option.

For the faithful, the latest 911 will rekindle their belief in the famed brand, and for the well-heeled seeking status on the road, it will provide some sort of return on investment. For the rest of us, well, we will have to continue to dream.