By Mary Lowry
So, we’ve had a look at the Fit She’s, Honda’s new pink subcompact designed for women. And now, here’s my idea of a car for women: the new seventh-generation 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera.
This car for women doesn’t assume that every woman has kids and counts cupholders when she car-shops, or that no woman loves exhilarating handling and performance as much as the next guy.
Yes, the new 911 Carrera starts at $83,050 – way more than most women can afford. But that’s also way more than most men can afford, and it doesn’t stop Porsche from building it.
For female and male buyers alike, there’s a good return on the nearly hundred-grand investment in the 911 Carrera, because it’ll make you feel like a million bucks. It’s worth its weight in Botox or hair plugs.
Only about 10 percent of the previous-generation 911’s components are carried over on the seventh-generation model. The rest is either significantly redesigned or altogether all-new.
There’s no confusing the 2012 911 with anything other than a Porsche, but its dimensions are longer and lower, and it has a wider track in the front, enhanced by widely-arched fenders. The wheelbase has been stretched by almost 4 inches, but overall body length is only 2.2 inches longer because the front and rear overhangs have been shortened.
Of special importance, the new body uses aluminum for the doors, hood and engine lid, which means the 2012 911 tips the scales at about 100 pounds less than the outgoing model. The result is a faster 911 that also gets better fuel economy.
For 2012, the 911 is offered in Carrera and Carrera S versions. The Carrera’s 3.4-liter, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine generates 350 horsepower and 288 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can choose from a seven-speed manual transmission or a Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) double-clutch gearbox. When equipped with the PDK and an optional racetrack-oriented Sport Chrono Package, Carrera blasts from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. With the seven-speed manual, you’re looking at 4.6 seconds.
The Carrera S gets an updated 3.8-liter engine producing 400 horsepower, a 15-hp boost over the previous version’s 385. It’s capable of making the 0-to-60 run in a blistering 3.9 seconds.
With the new 911, Porsche introduces Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) for cars with
manual transmissions, and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) for cars with PDK
gearboxes, previously available only on the 911 Turbo models. PTV is a mechanical differential lock; PTV Plus is an electronically controlled, fully variable differential lock. Don’t worry if you have no idea what that means, because if you don’t, chances are you’re not going to need it anyway. It’s technology that kicks in when the car is being driven, as Porsche describes it, “in a highly dynamic way.” You can imagine what kind of driving that is. It’s for track time, if you don’t want jail time.
My tester was a Carrera with a manual transmission. Manuals have always been the traditional choice of driving enthusiasts, but today’s performance automatics are making the choice less certain, especially in light of the inconvenience of a manual in stop-and-go traffic, and all of today’s infotainment and connectivity features that demand attention from the driver’s right hand. As much as I enjoyed shifting that seven-speed during the test week, on the one day when I was in stop-and-go mode all the way from Monroe to Bellevue, I’d have traded for the PDK in a second. The manual’s clutch pedal requires more than the average amount of effort, and not only did it get tiring after a while, but if I owned the car, over time my left leg would look like Popeye’s and my right leg like Olive Oyl’s.
EPA fuel economy ratings for the tester are 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Porsche has now added the Auto Stop/Start system to manual-transmission models, and it’s standard equipment. To save fuel, the system turns off the engine if the transmission is in neutral and the clutch is released, such as when stopped at a traffic light. The engine restarts as soon as the clutch pedal is depressed and a gear selected. Its operation isn’t seamless, but when an engine has Carrera’s kind of power, you enjoy feeling its presence.
The 911’s new interior keeps the emphasis on Porsche’s wonderful no-frills, no-sparkles trademark design. Even with a big nod to current technology such as navigation, electronic parking assist and a full suite of audio features, Porsche kept it handsome and simple, not just in appearance but also in function. What a pleasure it was to get into the tester for the first time, at a Sea-Tac area parking lot, late at night and after a long cross-country flight, and be able to operate everything right off the bat, rather than sitting there in the dark, doing a slow burn over a complex, chaotic, nonintuitive mess.
And, right after that pleasurable experience, which happened to take place on Halloween night, I had an even better one. I drove to the exit of the parking lot and the woman at the payment booth looked down at my 350-horsepower, $97,430 Racing Yellow 911 Carrera and said, “That’s a cute little car.” I heard a chilling, mournful sound coming from the back seat. It was the ghost of Ferdinand Porsche.
2012 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA
Base price, including destination charge: $83,050
Price as driven: $97,430
Mary Lowry is a free-lance automotive writer who has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. The cars are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.