Sheep thrills in my brilliant Carrera
Porsche’s 911 may look familiar, but it hides some breakthrough technology, writes NEIL DOWLING
ACREST on a Tasmanian backroad, a new Porsche 911 with PDK transmission travelling at the legal limit, and an escaped sheep . . .
The sheep, hidden from view by the crest, looks up from the centre of the road just as the Porsche driver gets a clear view of the animal from over the road’s brow. Both freak out.
The indecisive sheep goes one way, then the other, to the horror of the driver, who’s now trying to crush the brake pedal into the firewall.
The only one unfussed by all this is the Porsche.
In a millisecond it changes down from sixth to second gear and, urged on by the crushing weight of the driver’s right foot, enables anti-skid brakes, brake assist, electronic stability control and traction control.
The subsequent — and alarmingly rapid— deceleration of the Porsche is matched by the sudden acceleration of the sheep which, thanks to the prompt action of the driver, is unscathed.
Here in action are some of the tools provided by quality carmakers to avert disaster and save lives.
One of the accident-evasion systems is unique to the latest Porsche 911. The PDK (an acronym for German words that translate as dualclutch transmission), is a similar system to that in the VW/Audi DSG and has the ability to intuitively and rapidly react to driver demands. Porsche has been working on dualclutch transmissions since the late 1970s, though it was intended for its racing campaigns and was of little interest to street cars.
In the early to mid-1980s, PDKequipped Porsche racers won on the track and the technology was then enhanced, civilised and harmonised with the 911 chassis and engine.
This year, it makes the showroom.
The seven-cog (six in Sport mode) PDK replaces the faithful and incredibly trouble-free tiptronic gearbox and is now offered as an option on the 911 range at a $6600 premium to the delightful six-speed manual.
PDK’s electronic monitoring means it’s immediately compatible with a host of other electronic gizmos so can be made to interact with suspension, brakes, stability aids and — most importantly — the engine. So good, it can save a sheep’s life.
All the eye-blink gearchanges used to avoid minced lamb have more appealing use on the Symmons Plain race track near Launceston.
Here, the driver can attack a corner in sixth gear, stab the accelerator and the PDK snaps into second in time for a power-out corner.
The new transmission can be left in D for Drive or punctuated by flicks of the gearlever or steeringwheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Or, save the $6600 and experience one of the finest gearchanges of any rear-engined car.
10- model 998-series of the perennial 911 — it’s now 45 years old — starts at $210,300 for the manual.
The big news is the PDK box, obviously, but in reality there are bigger messages all over the latest car. The engine, for example, is of a new generation that filters into the Boxster and GT2/GT3 models from next year. It shares no components with its predecessor and has 40 per cent fewer parts.
Porsche test driver Walter Rohrl recently cracked a 7min 56sec lap of the Nurburgring. It’s not the production-car lap record (7min 29sec for the Nissan GT-R) but it’s quick for a showroom-fresh 3.8-litre Carrera S with PDK and optional Porsche adjustable suspension.
The 3.6-litre 254kW Carrera with PDK leaps to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds and averages 9.8 litres/100km. It has a modest 230g/km of CO2 emissions. The 3.8-litre 283kW Carrera S accelerates in 4.5 seconds, drinks 10.2 litres/100km and has 240g/km.
The Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S Cabriolet are at either end of the AWD scale, costing $226,500 and $274,600 respectively as manuals and an extra $6600 for the PDK option.
Porsche Cars Australia boss Michael Winkler is holding three months’ orders for the new 911, 80 per cent of them for the PDK version.
‘‘The Carrera 4 models will do a lot better in sales than the old model because there’s a real, tangible benefit now with the new drive system,’’ he says.
He expects to sell 350 Carreras a year, 65 of those being the AWD ‘‘4’’ derivatives.
Same difference: the Porsche 911 Carrera 4, PDK transmission making it more than a match for woolly minded locals.
Top gear: PDK replaces the reliable tiptronic gearbox and is being offered as a $6600 option on the six-speed manual Carrera.