2012 Porsche 911 Introduction

The Porsche 911 is all-new for 2012, a new-generation version completely redesigned from the ground up. Now starting its seventh generation, the new 911 maintains all the familiar styling cues fans expect, but the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S we drove was delightfully, almost subversively different from the outgoing version.

It's easy to recognize the classic Porsche profile, with the long, sloping snout, the flyline roof and tapered rear, but the 2012 911 is longer, lower, and wider than before. It's also lighter. This is a case of Darwinian evolution at work, after all, and odds are, if the new Carrera comes up in your rearview mirror you better slip to the side. You're just prey.

As is the norm with Porsche, the maker plans to steadily roll out a variety of variants of the 911, from the base Carrera to the Cabriolets up to an eventual GT3.

For 2012, the Porsche 911 is available in two versions, Carrera and Carrera S.

The Carrera features a 3.4-liter flat-six engine punching out 350 horsepower, a 5 hp increase for the 2012 model. Its 0 to 60 times have dropped 0.2 seconds, to 4.4 seconds, according to Porsche. The Carrera S goes with a larger, 3.8-liter flat-six making 400 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, with launch times to 60 mph of 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 189 mph.

2012 Carrera and Carrera S coupes are on sale now, and will be followed by 2012 Carrera Cabriolet and Carrera S Cabriolet models. Sales of the Cabriolet are expected to begin in late April or early May 2012.

The Carrera cabriolet gets a new soft top that can be raised or lowered in just 13 seconds and at speeds of up to 31 mph.

Our first drive opportunity landed us in the driver's seat of the 911 Carrera S, the model we expect most Porsche 911 buyers to choose. The Carrera S features a slightly larger engine, at 3.8 liters, making a sizable 400 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. More amazing is the fact that it can come within a tenth of a second, at 4.1 seconds, of matching the 0 to 60 times of the old 911 GT3.

Of course, if straight-line acceleration were all one wanted there are plenty of muscle cars and rice rockets that can deliver neck-snapping acceleration, and at a fraction of the 911's stiff price tag. But Porsche is all about the overall driving experience, and perhaps nothing personifies that better than the 911 Carrera S.

The new 911 feels familiar, but it just does things that much better. Much of this is thanks to the integration of new technologies such as the electro-hydraulic power steering system and the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control active roll stabilization system. Porsche claims the PDCC technology enhances cornering performance by keeping the tires in their optimal position at all times while minimizing body roll. There's also the fact that despite the longer, wider body, Porsche engineers have managed to shave about 100 pounds off the weight of the 2012 911 Carrera S, which tilts the scales at 3,113 pounds when equipped with the PDK gearbox.

Speaking of transmissions, the new 911 introduces an industry first 7-speed manual. Yet the PDK double-clutch is so quick and smooth we might be tempted to speak heresy and suggest the PDK is actually the preferable choice.

While the lower weight clearly enhances the overall performance of the new 911 it's also a factor in fuel economy, and here's where the Carrera S delivers another pleasant surprise, the 2012 remake boosting mileage by as much as 16 percent. The outgoing base Carrera, for example, delivered an EPA-estimated 18 mpg City/29 Highway, the Carrera S 19/26 mpg. The more powerful 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S bumps that up to 20/27 mpg. The new one is both faster and more fuel efficient.

Also enhancing mileage: the new 911 gets Auto Stop/Start, technology that briefly shuts off the engine rather than idling, say, at a stoplight. The powertrain instantly fires back up when the driver's foot lifts off the brake.

Despite the added power and even more aggressive handling, the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S is a markedly more refined machine. The interior has the lavish appointments you'd expect in a high-line sedan, with such niceties as the new 18-way power driver's seat. That'll keep you firmly in place during the hardest cornering, but it's also comfortable enough to be an everyday driver. Perhaps. Just recognize you'll be facing temptation every time you hit the Start button.

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