Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK first drive

  • We test driver's choice in 911 range
  • Carrera S PDK gets 3.8-litre engine
  • Our car was £98k including options

The Porsche 911 is one of the best all-round sports cars money can buy. The fastest version currently available is the Carrera S coupe, and we’ve been testing it to find out what this seriously impressive machine is really capable of.

We’ve also put several of Porsche’s optional extras through a thorough testing to see if they’re worth the premium on top of the car’s £83,103 list price. Our model would set you back £98,271 with all the bits installed, so that’s rather a large chunk more change to shell out.

Although there are several attributes in the 911’s repertoire worth shouting about, one of the most outstanding is the engine. The 3.8-litre, six-cylinder, petrol-powered unit sits above the rear wheels. In this case it’s married to a seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox called PDK, and the results are simply awesome.

Thanks to peak power of 400bhp at 7,400rpm and maximum torque of 440Nm at 5,600rpm, this 911 will hit 62mph in 4.3 seconds and carry on to a top speed of 187mph.

If that’s not quite quick enough for you, don’t fret – our model came with the optional Sports Chrono Package Plus. This means that alongside active engine mounts (more on that later), you also get a ‘launch control’ feature. This system will hold the car’s revs at exactly the right level for the perfect getaway, meaning 62mph is possible in just 4.1 seconds.

The noise this car makes when being driven rapidly is prodigious. There’s a lovely growl at lower rpm which winds itself up as the needle approaches the red line, culminating in a racecar-esque scream which makes grown men giggle like schoolgirls. This is of course accentuated by the optional sports exhaust on our car, which costs £1,772 and gives the driver the option of pushing a button to make the car even louder still.

Flicking through the gears using the paddles behind the sports steering wheel is an immensely enjoyable task. Where some gearboxes of this type are slow, counter-intuitive or rough, the PDK does exactly what you ask it to do every single time.

In production since 1963, the 911 has gained a reputation over the years for fairly ‘snappy’ handling characteristics. It’s true to say that earlier models were a little troublesome in the wet or right on the ragged edge, but recent incarnations have seen that trait pretty much ironed out.

What you’re left with is a rear-wheel drive sports car with an almost imperious balance and astonishing levels of grip. No matter how quickly you’re driving it, there’s a feeling that nothing will fluster this chassis. Even if you’re mad enough to switch off the electronic traction and stability control systems, the rear end only becomes lively if properly provoked.

Yet another optional bit of kit fitted to our car was the Active Suspension Management system. This means a 15mm lower ride height along with the option to adjust the suspension’s characteristics from inside the car. It means you can have a more comfortable cruiser or a focused track weapon at the flick of a switch.

All that go needs suitably impressive stopping power, and for this our test car had the ultimate in braking performance - ceramic composite brakes. The only thing is, they come at quite a premium… a £5,787 premium, to be precise.

The steering feel and feedback through the optional sports steering wheel (yours for £283) is excellent. Although it’s now electronically assisted rather than the hydraulic system in previous versions of the 911, there’s a feeling you’re connected with the car and you always know what’s happening with the front wheels. Many car companies could learn a lot from the way Porsche sets up its steering systems. The weighting is beautifully judged, with lightness at lower speeds making way for extra weight when the pace is upped a little.

One thing we’d bear in mind when walking into the Porsche dealership is a careful look at the optional extras list. It’s likely you’ll want some, but it’s very easy to end up buying a far more expensive car than you expected. For instance, our car came with 20-inch alloy wheels. Although they look nice, they don’t add anything to the driving experience whatsoever. In fact, they make the ride a little bumpy thanks to the lower-profile tyres. For £728, we believe your cash would be better spent elsewhere.

In fact, we’d say the same about the red seatbelts (£275) and the automatic dimming mirrors (£372).

Overall, if you’re looking for a driver’s car and don’t shirk at the thought of spending close to six figures, there’s not much out there to rival the excellent 911 Carrera S.

Read our full Porsche 911 review by clicking here.

Also consider:

Audi R8 coupe

A sports car for every day, the R8 is very easy to drive and has loads of grip thanks to its Quattro four-wheel drive system.

Aston Martin Vantage

It may be a little long-in-the-tooth now, but the Vantage is still one of the prettiest and best-sounding cars out there.

Jaguar XKR-S coupe

Hilarious V8-powered tin-top Jag has a wonderful chassis, but probably more power than it knows what to do with.