Whether it spins to 60 mph in less than 5.0 seconds or a little more than 3.0 seconds, every Porsche 911 breathes exhilarating performance. What you find in any version, after any amount of driving time, is that there's no practical way to approach the 911's grip limits on the street.
The essential 3.6-liter flat six is the foundation; with 345 horsepower and a muscular engine note hammering away behind you, it'll push the coupe to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and won't let up until it hits 180 mph. That's with the obedient, somewhat stiff-shifting six-speed manual. It's stout, and it needs to be for all this power.
For our money, Porsche's new dual-clutch, seven-speed "PDK" gearbox is the better choice. It uses a pair of transmissions to pre-select gears for upshifts and downshifts, and it's faster than any driver with even the world's easiest manual shifter. "Auto" mode is enhanced with Sport, Sport Plus, and Manual modes-giving you as much choice in gears as you need. It shaves 0.2 second off the acceleration times of most any 911, but drops top speed to 178 mph. With the PDK transmission, the 911 achieves a mildly astonishing 19/27 mpg-a family-sedan fuel economy number.
Other body styles and technical options boost or cut the 911's acceleration times. A Sport Chrono package remaps the fuel delivery and shift points in the PDK-equipped car, and drops acceleration times another 0.2 second, to 4.3 seconds. If you choose the Cabriolet body style, it's 0.2 second slower in general than the coupe; the glass-roofed Targa version adds 0.3 second to the stock coupe. Add optional all-wheel drive, and you'll append another 0.1 second to the 60-mph run. Still, the slowest 911 Targa 4 will pass 60 mph in 5.0 seconds.
The 911 offers a few alternatives for even more performance. First up is the "S" model, powered by a bigger 3.8-liter flat six with 40 more horsepower. Its 0-60 mph times falls to 4.5 seconds; the PDK, all-wheel-drive, Cabriolet, and Sport Chrono options adjust speed accordingly. With a manual transmission, the 911S Coupe will top out at 188 mph. Our review doesn't cover two racing editions of the 911, the GT3 and the GT3 RS. Both have distinct powertrains and drive systems adapted for racing, down to a lithium-ion battery for track starts.
The elephant in the room is the new 2010 911 Turbo. The engine's new and dedicated to this model, and it shares direct injection and 3.8 liters of displacement with the 911 S. Only here, a pair of turbochargers dials up 500 hp and 480 pound-feet of torque-with 516 lb-ft on tap for "overboost" scenarios when the car's electronics decide some torque will smooth out a gearchange. The Turbo rushes to 60 mph in 3.2 short, blissful seconds via the PDK gearbox-a manual shifter adds a couple of tenths, but gets the better top speed-and presses upward to a 194-mph top speed.
In any 911, the ride can be tough and not at all pliant-the price paid of all relatively compact sports cars with huge tires. The reward comes in steering sensitivity and ultimate grip. No matter which model you're piloting, the brilliantly responsive 911 keeps the neural, connected feel it's always had-even in cars fitted with active suspension dampers (oil-pressurized, computer-controlled shocks-they're standard on S and Turbo versions, and available on 911). The 911 just steers better than any sports car, period. Sport Chrono mode doesn't mess with its inherent goodness-it dials up the drivetrain's intensity and clamps down on those shocks while they concentrate on staying flat and resisting body roll.
Massive 18-, 19-, or 20-inch wheels give the 911 astounding grip, and some versions apply braking during tight corners to enhance their turn-in even more. The brakes, especially the bigger rotors on the Turbo and the optional carbon-ceramic discs, are like opening a parachute, and come with their own electronic assistants to make sure you get all the stopping power requested.
Inside Line: "the ultimate everyday supercar"
Motor Trend: "quite happy just nonchalantly to breeze along, silky and strong"
ConsumerGuide: "strong thrust for any situation"
Motor Trend: "Enormously flexible but hugely muscular"
Motor Authority: PDK "makes this superbeast more usable to drive more often, and that's the point of any car, exotic or not"
Autoblog: PDK "perfectly suited to the Turbo"
Popular Mechanics: PDK is "telepathic in operation"
ConsumerGuide: manual is "slick" and "precise"
Motor Trend: Turbo "feels like a good (and light) rear-driver at times, so sharp is its turn-in, so instant is its response to your instructions"
Motor Authority: "you'd have to provocate pretty fearlessly to get the Turbo to step a little sideways--and even then the electronics would sweep in to save the day"
ConsumerGuide: ride "firm but seldom punishing"
Inside Line: "brakes are tremendously powerful and obviously dissipate heat well"