Change is always controversial where the legendary Porsche 911 is concerned, and the redesigned 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S sports some significant tweaks. Longer and more rakish, with a revamped cabin and an unprecedented electric-assist steering system, the new 911 charts a riskier course than its evolutionary predecessor.
If you ask us, though, the 2012 Carrera S is easily Porsche's most appealing 911 yet. It's now a legitimate substitute for opulent luxury performance cars like the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and Maserati GranTurismo, yet the 911 still retains the lithe, visceral character that has kept loyal enthusiasts coming back for decades.
In other words, Porsche's new 911 has something for just about everyone. Here are five reasons why we don't want to give this 2012 Carrera S back.
#1: More Luxurious Inside
The 911 has generally featured high-quality interior materials over the years, but the cabin design was always rather austere. That's no longer the case, as those no-nonsense trimmings have given way to a modern cockpit-like layout that draws inspiration from the executive-class Panamera. The center console is particularly dramatic, rising from between the seats to give driver and passenger alike a sense of personal space. The 911's interior used to be something that drivers had to put up with, but now it's a point in the Porsche's favor.
#2: Improved Ride and Handling
Cars usually ride more smoothly with longer wheelbases, and the new 911 is no exception-with the extra 3.9 inches between its axles for 2012, we'd have no problem driving this Porsche every day. But thanks to some trick suspension work, including an optional active anti-roll bar that's a must-have for enthusiasts, the 911 is also more athletic than ever. Maximum road-holding for the Carrera S is in the neighborhood of 1.0 g, which is a fancy way of saying that this 911 sticks to the pavement like gum to your shoes. The electrically assisted steering turns out to be fantastically sharp and responsive. In related news, the 3,075-pound 2012 Carrera S is about 100 pounds lighter than the car it replaces, a remarkable achievement in this day and age.
#3: Awesome Flat-6 Power
Amid all these modifications, one non-negotiable 911 ingredient was the rear-mounted flat-6 engine. While the base 2012 911 gets a downsized 3.4-liter version that's still plenty capable, the Carrera S is the one to have if absolute power is a priority. Displacing 3.8 liters, the Carrera S's motor cranks out a lofty 400 horsepower at 7,400 rpm, and it'll happily keep on pulling to its 7,800-rpm redline. But equally important to Porschephiles is that familiar flat-6 flutter, so Porsche made sure to preserve the 911's distinctive engine sound, which is deliciously amplified by the optional sports exhaust.
#4: Two Top-Notch Transmissions
Every Carrera S has seven forward speeds; the only question is whether you want two pedals or three. That's right, the conventional manual transmission is a seven-speed unit, making it the first of its kind in the world. Regardless of the gear count, Porsche knows how to make a great stick shift, so this new seven-speed is a pleasure to operate. But buyers are increasingly demanding automatics, so Porsche obliges them with "PDK," which is arguably the slickest dual-clutch automated manual transmission in the business. PDK serves up mostly seamless shifts in automatic mode and rapid-fire reactions in manual mode, as well as notably quicker acceleration than the stick.
#5: Timeless Styling
How do you update styling that everyone wants to stay the same? That's the perpetual challenge for the 911's exterior designers, and we think they've done a bang-up job this time around. Probably the single most radical departure from 911s past is the swept-back windshield, but the 2012 Carrera S also has serious presence in person, making us think "Panamera coupe" from some angles. Nonetheless, the new car is instantly identifiable as a 911, from its iconic round headlights to its voluptuous rear end with crisp, understated taillights.
As usual, the naysayers preached that Porsche would ruin its masterpiece, but we're here to tell you that the new 911 is genuinely better in almost every way. Don't tell Porsche, but we think we'll keep this one.