From £67,202
New Porsche 911 Carrera S is superb - but is it better with a manual or PDK gearbox?

Our Verdict

Porsche 911
The 991 generation of Porsche 911 was launched in 2012

The Porsche 911 is a sublime all-purpose sports car

18 November 2011

What is it?

This is the new Porsche 911 Carrera S, tested here with the world’s first manual seven-speed gearbox. The manual is based on the PDK alternative, but has slightly altered ratios in third and seventh to benefit fuel consumption and maintain pulling power in top gear even at relatively low speeds.

Helping you to select the right gear from a crowded gate, a sequential shift lock makes it impossible to select seventh from anything other than fifth or sixth.

Beyond that, this 991 is very much the same as the PDK equivalent – faster than the outgoing car and with a greater top speed, but so much altered that there are several key questions that need answering. Chief among those is whether its new dimensions (56mm longer, 6mm lower, 100mm greater wheelbase, 50mm wider track) and electro-mechanical steering (adopted to save fuel) have messed up the winning formula of previous 911s.

What’s it like?

It’s a grown up version of what’s gone before – and perhaps not quite as fun if you’re an absolute hardcore enthusiast, but otherwise improved in almost every area, and in some of those by quite a significant margin.

Inside, it’s mostly business as normal. The cabin is classy, comfortable and understated. The extra cabin space is welcome, and makes putting a child in the back a more serious possibility than before.

The 3.8-litre engine puts out 394bhp at 7400rpm, up 14bhp, and 324lb ft of torque, up 13lb ft. Coupled to the car loosing 40kg despite its greater size and added equipment, the new flat six delivers a lively performance across a wide rev band.

On the move, refinement has taken a major step forward. Tyre roar and wind noise off the door mirrors are no longer an issue, and engine noise is damped out unless you open up the sports exhaust system or really wind up the revs.

The tall seventh gear makes cruising relaxing, too, a feeling aided by the relatively supple suspension, which absorbs road joints and potholes well, even in the Sports Plus setting. The added wheelbase and wider track undoubtedly help in making the car more stable, too.

The steering lives up to its billing of being “more precise than every other electro-mechanical system on the market” and then some. It imbues the car with a grown-up sense of poise and accuracy, while robbing it of a fraction of that movement and liveliness that was part and parcel of driving a 911 in the past. It takes the 911 in a new direction – but certainly not a bad one. The vast majority of drivers won't even give it a second thought after a while.

The seven-speed manual is more of a technical than practical success. Perhaps the clue is in the fact that Porsche has seen fit to display the gear you are in at the centre of the instrument console; with seven gears to choose from you can both find yourself struggling to be confident with shifts and losing track of what gear you are in. Whisper it, but on a fast twisting road the slick shifting PDK is actually more fun, as its easier to snatch a gear on the corner exit or change down at the last moment, as well as delivering better fuel economy and emissions whatever the conditions.

Should I buy one?

Undoubtedly, yes – although we’d err towards the PDK gearbox, and recommend at least testing both units before committing.

Beyond that, the new 911 is more comfortable, more refined, more stable and supple, faster and frugal than ever before, and the potential downside of the new steering system will go unnoticed by all but the connoisseurs.

Porsche 911 Carrera S manual

Price: tbc; Top speed: 189mph; 0-62mph: 4.5sec; Economy: mpg; Co2: 224g/km; Kerbweight: 1395kg; Engine type, cc: Water-cooled flat-six, 3800cc, direct injection; Power: 394bhp at 7400rpm; Torque: 324lb ft at 5600rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd manual.

Join the debate


19 November 2011

"Power: 394bhp at 7400rpm; Torque: 234lb ft at 5600rpm"

That's a figure transposition. 234 lb ft would make it very weedy. Actually torque is 440 nm, so 324 lb ft.

19 November 2011

[quote Submariner Redux]

"Power: 394bhp at 7400rpm; Torque: 234lb ft at 5600rpm"

That's a figure transposition. 234 lb ft would make it very weedy. Actually torque is 440 nm, so 324 lb ft.


Maybe it is that weedy. Why else would it need seven ratios?

19 November 2011

Thanks Redux, didn't sound right.

Good advice I think to compare manual v PDK before buying. I've driven a couple of 997s - both tiptronic - and still feel the experience lacked that tactile quality of being in control of a machine, where I the driver can enjoy adapting to the car and balancing all the control functions. If you spend alot of time on track days and place alot of value on lap times etc then perhaps the PDK will help your enjoyment. For me though I suspect a manual would be more rewarding to own.

I'm not planning on buying a Ferrari any time soon (funds are the largest factor) but would really want a 550 as the last of the true manual cars for the same reason.

19 November 2011

Depends of course on personal taste, and how you intend to use it, but the best choice may also depend on how long you want to keep it. If you want one to keep for a decade of more, the manual will have better residual value. The rule of thumb on cars like this, from the early '90s on, is that the auto versions are more popular amongst the people who spec the cars new, and the manual versions are the ones which end up being more sought after on the used market when lots of time has gone by.

I think this reflects the fact that most of the new ones are bought as daily drivers but by the time they are eight or nine years old a much higher proportion are weekend playthings. Also once the cars are out of extended warranty I think people are shy of the costs of transmission overhauls on the various types of automatic.

This pattern has been observed on the 964, 993, 996 and is starting to make itself felt on the older 997s. It is also increasingly true of the 928, of which very few manuals were made.

19 November 2011

A Porsche is a Porsche, it's an enduring icon, yes, i said icon, any car that's been made for over 50 years (i think) is an icon, granted there have been cars that just shouldn't be called icons, i'm sure we all can name our own canidates,bur never the less, the Porsche 911 is definately an icon,a clever solution for a 7- speed manual?.....undoubtably.

Peter Cavellini.

19 November 2011

I realise that the main issue within this forum is the difference between the PDK and the Manual however on a slightly different note, the new centre console and dash look excellent to me! The last was probably an ergonomic heaven but this looks far and away better. Back to the issue of the gearbox though, it sounds like a real technical tour-de-force with shift lock, 7 ratios etc. however a manual is about improving the driving experience because you are in control of the machine and yet when the PDK is being quoted as better in the majority of aspects it simply isn't fulfilling that criteria...

19 November 2011

Sorry, this is one step (well, gear!) too far for me.

Just hope they don't carry this through to the future 911GT models and Boxster / Cayman.



It's all about the twisties........

19 November 2011

[quote TegTypeR]Sorry, this is one step (well, gear!) too far for me.[/quote]


Six is spot on in manual, in an auto I have no problem with 7 8 or 9 gears whatever.

19 November 2011

[quote TegTypeR]

Sorry, this is one step (well, gear!) too far for me.

Just hope they don't carry this through to the future 911GT models and Boxster / Cayman.


Yes, there is no need of 7 gears, I recently drove a manual Boxter with just 5 gears and it was good to drive anyway...

19 November 2011

So Ferrari was right then. The manual gearbox is now officially dead. RIP.


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run