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The Globe and Mail

Do Porsche buyers care about "green" credentials?

The seventh-generation 911 has a top speed of 289 km/h and the Carrera S with PDK accelerates to 100 km/h in 4.3 seconds, 4.1 seconds with the launch control feature of the optional Sport Chrono package.


Never in your wildest dreams could you imagine a discussion about a Porsche 911 Carrera being dominated by the latest facts about its performance in the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

Do you care that all versions of the seventh-generation 2012 911 consume less than 10 litres/100 km, and that fuel consumption and exhaust emissions have both been reduced by up to 16 per cent? Not likely.

Do 911 buyers look for Porsche's "green" credentials? Do they want to know if the newest version of this iconic sports car has automatic start/stop, thermal management, electrical system recuperation, the world's first seven-speed manual transmission "and – in conjunction with the Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) – a unique 'sailing' function that allows coasting with the engine disengaged, to further reduce drive train friction."

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And the "new electro-mechanical power steering system offers Porsche's typical precision and feedback but also helps to increase efficiency" is hardly the stuff of Porschephile daydreams.

But this is the new 911, folks. For all of its hat-tipping to regulators and their push for environmentally friendly cars, this Porsche remains a car fast and nimble enough to tackle any track, yet is a livable everyday driver.

Porsche says the new 911 has clocked a seven-minute, 40-second lap of the Nurburgring. A 997 GT3 does about the same, as do Porsche's 911 Turbo models. Most important of all, this 911 is, we're told, 14 seconds quicker than the car it's replacing.

But, of course. For all its improved fuel efficiency and reduced weight, the 2012 911 is a delightfully capable car. It is also comfortable in the real world, roomy, easy to manage and with a +2 back seat useful for carrying small bags and small children.

In and around Santa Barbara, we had a chance to wring out the 911 Carrera S. No complaints. This 911 is what we all thought it would be: solid in a straight line, almost intuitive to drive in corners of any sort.

The Dynamic Chassis Control technology is a step forward. It limits body roll during turns, and as the press kit trumps, "allows truly independent movement of the car's wheels" in a straight line. Ride comfort? Naturally.

Steering? Porsche has pulled the plug on hydraulics and moved to a so-called "electromechanical" arrangement to save fuel. Shockingly, there is plenty of steering feel. Perhaps it's all about the sensors that measure inputs from the driver and the road. Those in turn dictate what sort of boost and steering feel you get. The steering is full of feedback and beautifully linear.

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The engine in the Carrera S is a 3.8-litre flat-six, with direct fuel injection, and it produces 400 hp (up 15) with fuel consumption reduced by 14 per cent to 8.7 litres/100 km and carbon dioxide emissions of 205 g/km. The base 911 Carrera for 2012 has a 3.4-litre boxer engine rated at 350 hp (up five hp from its predecessor). It gets 8.2 litres/100 km with the PDK transmission for a 16 per cent reduction. At 194 g/km CO2, it is also the first Porsche sports car with emissions below 200 g/km.

Ah, the PDK. The seven-gear, dual-clutch PDK transmission's shift speed is beautifully fast and smooth, though we still like the do-it-yourself seven-speed manual more. Yes, I did say Porsche is introducing a manual with seven gears. For the record, if you're worried about an unwanted 4-7 up-shift, 7th is only available from the 5th or 6th gear.

For those who like numbers, take note that torsional or twisting rigidity is up as much as 25 per cent and bending strength is up 13 per cent. The wheelbase has grown 100 mm, the car is lower by seven mm, and the front track is up 46 mm for the Carrera and 52 mm for Carrera S. The engineers say the new 911 is more stable and more responsive and roomier as a result of all these changes.

Just in case, the Porsche Active Suspension Management (or PASM, which remains a terribly unfortunate acronym) has been enhanced. You'll find sensors at each wheel now, and the ability to adjust dampers individually and in milliseconds.

Of course, the driver has the ability not just to dial in chassis settings, but a Sport button makes up-shifts quicker in PDK-equipped cars. Add in something called Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), which applies braking to the inside rear wheel during corning, and you've got quite the track-eater car.

Lastly, the cabin. It's very nice but hardly fancy. The usual Porsche readouts are in place, while the controls mimic what Porsche introduced with the Panamera hatchback a couple of years back. All the expected gizmos are there, from Bluetooth connectivity to a solid and reasonably easy-to-manage navigation system.

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The latest 911, at least at first glance, does not appear to be a dramatic step ahead. Yet it is, largely because Porsche has taken a chance and gone big. But then, that's the Porsche story in a nutshell, isn't it?

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