December 21, 2014

Guy Stuff

Hang on tight: The Porsche 911 Carrera S boasts 385 horsepower in its 3.8-liter engine.Zero to 60 in 4.5 

Englishman Derek Bell, world-renowned racing driver and five-time checkered flag owner at Le Mans, grips the wheel of the ’09 Porsche 911 Carrera S at 9 and 3. He concentrates on the roadway, and we exit the parking lot onto U.S. 41. Bell accelerates and touches his right thumb to the paddle shifter on the steering wheel. The motorcar shifts butter-smooth into second gear.

A young female driver cuts in front of us, coming so close I feel as if we trade paint. Bell coolly maneuvers the $109,465 Aqua Blue Cabriolet around the beauty queen and says, "She didn’t use her indicator … I get all my frights from driving in traffic."

Under the rear bonnet sits a 3.8-liter, flat six engine producing 385 horsepower. This Porsche goes 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds with a top speed of 186 mph. The new Direct Fuel Injection precisely controls the air and petrol inside the combustion chamber, optimizing horsepower and lowering emissions.

The new PDK transmission (Porsche Doppelkupplung) is a robust technology utilizing two separate clutches––first used in race cars in the 1980s. According to Porsche, "as one clutch engages a gear, the other preselects the next gear. Each shift through the seven-speed gearbox takes mere hundredths of a second." PDK works in automatic or manual mode. True to Porsche’s five-decade racing heritage, the ignition is left of the steering column. This enabled early drivers to sprint to the car, jump inside and start the engine whilst simultaneously shifting into first gear.

The five analog gauges indicate the icy-slick sports car is alive as I settle into the leather seat and perform my checklist of driver adjustments. The convertible top disappears with a touch of a button.

From a stop, I accelerate to 75 mph faster than a creditor chasing Bernie Madoff. The 911 takes a hard left curve, staying rail straight on the low profile Michelin Pilot performance tires. I agree with Bell that "it’s an amazingly stable car."

Later, I leisurely motor through midday Naples traffic and admire the premier achievements of Porsche engineers. My seatmate, a local gearhead, spots a replica of a Shelby Cobra. We pull even at the next light.

I make eye contact with the driver and say, "Nice car." He shoots me a silent Steve McQueen game face.

I tightly grip the wheel at 9 and 3, and then recall Bell’s statement about racing a Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, "Believe me, there is no difficulty in concentrating at 240 mph. The problem is relaxing when you break."

The black-on-white gauges indicate the Porsche wants to win. I smile and relax.