• Nov 8, 2010
There's No Better Place To Drive A Porsche Than Germany


2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S - Click above for high-res image gallery

Driving a Porsche in Germany is akin to climbing rocks with a Jeep JK in Moab, piloting a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean, flying a Long-EZ into Oshkosh or guiding the Skycycle X-2 over the Snake River Canyon – the machine is a perfect choice for the venue.

With a personal European vacation already scheduled, it was an ideal opportunity to review a 2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S in Deutschland. During one full week of touring, I'd have the opportunity to drive the venerable sports car nearly a thousand miles through German Bavaria. The planned route would wander through wooded forests, cross fertile farmland and follow the banks of the Rhine River. There would be days climbing through the spectacular Alps, and countless miles spent zooming down unlimited sections of Autobahn.

There is no better place on earth to drive a Porsche than in Germany and it was going to be my job to prove it...



Photos copyright ©2010 Michael Harley / AOL

My wife and I started our week in Munich after being deposited at the airport by a high-flying Airbus wearing Lufthansa's familiar blue and yellow livery. The colorful hues should have tipped us off as a spotlessly-clean 2010 Porsche Carrera S in metallic blue with bright yellow brake calipers waits for us on the curb.

While a Cayenne or a Panamera would have been a more accommodating choice, this 911 was our primary method of transportation for the next week – my only requirement was that all of our accoutrements must fit snug and still allow a clear view out the rear windscreen.

It's not like the Porsche 911 doesn't have a trunk. The 2+2 coupe has a boot, but like the engine, it's been placed on the wrong end. According to those who measure such things, the trunk in the nose fits precisely 4.42 cubic feet of luggage. That doesn't sound capacious, but it swallowed one of our 22-inch expandable wheeled suitcases, a medium-size camera bag, and a medium-size soft carry-on without difficulty. The other 22-inch roller and an overstuffed ballistic nylon computer case were relegated to the small seating area behind the front seats. No worries, as the tiny backrests easily fold flat to create a nice carpeted cargo shelf.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S side view2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S front view2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S rear view

This particular 911 was a seasoned German press fleet unit with about 23,000 km (14,300 miles) on its clock. Being a local native, the Porsche doesn't speak English. Not only were all the gauges confusingly metric, but the navigation system and owner's manual required a formal education in the German dialect. While all of the controls were very familiar, the navigation system is nearly useless when it's in another language (we got by with a Garmin Nüvi for the week).

After a slew of improvements for the 2009 model year, the 2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S is a virtual carryover from last year's model. Nevertheless, we still wanted to see what this example is wearing. Unlike most American press cars, there's no window sticker folded in the glove box. After poring over it looking for clues, it appeared that this blue coupe was fitted with a handful of carefully-selected options designed to make it a track star (a betting man would say this Porsche has seen some time on the famed Nürburgring).

Virtually assembled on Porsche's web site (using the U.S. configurator), the base price of this 2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S is $91,450. Ours was wearing Aqua Blue Metallic paint over Stone Grey full leather and fitted with the optional Sport Seats, Comfort Package and the Infotainment Package. With performance a priority, it's also configured with the lightning-fast PDK automatic gearbox, Sports Exhaust System and the lightweight Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system with 13.7-inch ceramic rotors clamped by yellow-painted six-piston calipers up front. Added up, there are about $25,565 worth of options that bring the car's U.S. sticker to a bit more than $117,000. That's a wad of dollars in the States, but it's even pricier in German euros.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S wheel2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S exhaust system

Loaded with luggage, and with our destination programmed into the Garmin, it was finally time to leave the Munich airport. The sun was shining brightly over the German countryside and our 911 Carrera had full tank of fuel. As any other warm-blooded auto enthusiast would do, I pointed the 385-horsepower coupe towards the nearest autobahn.

The well-known German highway is famed for its unrestricted speed limits, but don't expect to find drivers with a Wild West mentality swerving flat out between lanes. Slower traffic is legally held to the right, and there are serious penalties for imbecilic moves (such as passing on the right or running out of fuel). In all truth, most cars travel between 70 mph and 90 mph very contently in the right lanes.

Mounted in the back of this Carrera S is Porsche's celebrated flat-six powerplant. Completely re-engineered for the 2009 model year, the 3.8-liter all-aluminum mill features direct injection, revised intake and exhaust systems, and Porsche's VarioCam Plus intake-valve timing and lift system. With a redline of 7,250 rpm, and wearing a LEV-II emission certification, the engine is rated at 385 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S engine

The standard transmission for this water-cooled six is a good old-fashioned six-speed manual. In as much as that traditional three-pedal gearbox is a short-shifting pleasure to row – the poster child for the "Save the Manuals" movement – it wasn't my first choice for this mission. Instead, and with a bit of reservation, I had asked Porsche for a car fitted with the Doppelkupplungsgetriebe ("PDK"), the automaker's electronically-controlled double-clutch automatic gearbox.

When Autoblog reviewed the Porsche 911 with PDK just over two years ago, we were smitten with how quickly and accurately the next-generation automatic gearbox reacted on a race track. Optioned properly (with the Sport Chrono Package), and set in the correct transmission mode, the PDK shifts were substantially faster and more accurate than any human operator could emulate. The numbers supported our observations. The 6MT version of the Porsche 911 Carrera S hits 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The Carrera S with PDK and Sport Chrono will crack the same benchmark in 4.1 seconds (keep in mind that Porsche is widely known to be rather conservative with its numbers). Both transmissions top out at about 186 mph.

With the 911 strapped firmly to our undersides, my wife and I joined the high-powered Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz models in the left lane – the asphalt reserved for overtaking. Velocities in this lane vary quite a bit. Slow cars will do 90 mph, while others cook by at 150-plus. Thanks to electronic limiters, nearly all of the fastest cars are reigned in at 155 mph. Porsche, however, does not limit its vehicles.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S steering wheel controls2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S shifter

With the flat-six wailing through the must-have sport exhaust system, the Carrera S rockets up to speed and reels-in fast cars like a heat-seeking sidewinder. Nearly every driver in front of us observed the Porsche's LED running lights in their mirror and moved over. A few, like a stubborn Audi B5 S4 (wearing obvious signs of expensive modifications), accelerated with a puff of oily smoke and attempted to speed on further ahead.

The first afternoon, on a long stretch of nearly desolate autobahn, I easily spun the speedometer around to 269 km/h (my Garmin recorded it as 164 mph). The Porsche was still pulling, but I let off the accelerator at the next long sweeping curve. Thanks to excellent aerodynamics (its drag coefficient is just .29) and a pop-up rear spoiler, the Carrera cut through the wind without breaking a sweat. My wife, unaccustomed to moving much over 70 mph in the States, was so assuaged by the 911's docile high-speed manners that she dozed-off several times while we were doing 140-plus mph.

Our 1,000-mile route was carefully planned with the Porsche 911 specifically in mind. The course would take us on an oversized figure-eight through northern Austria and southern Germany. We first sped south to Innsbruck, Austria, and then back up to Schwangau, Germany (home of the famed Neuschwanstein Castle). From there, we headed north to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and then west towards Heidelburg and Frankfurt. We turned south to Stuttgart (for a tour of the Porsche Museum, of course) before heading back to Munich again to wait for our Lufthansa departure.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S interior2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S front seats2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S gauges2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S instrument panel

Whether stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a construction-choked autobahn outside of Frankfurt, or dodging cattle on one-lane roads in northern Austria, the bright blue Carrera S turns heads. It was awkward at first, but we soon became accustom to people giving us the thumbs-up as we drove by and making conversation when we parked (interactions made difficult by the obvious language barrier). One gas station attendant, mesmerized by the sports car, insisted on pumping our premium gas and washing its windows. A parking attendant at one of the tourist traps insisted that we position the car right next to his wooden booth, and most of the hotels let us park directly out front (on the sidewalk) throughout the night. Porsche 911s don't get this type of treatment in Southern California.

After spending one week in the Porsche's comfortable perforated leather seats, and becoming very attached to driving such an adept sports car, two things really stand out.

Without question, I became a born-again believer in Porsche's ceramic brakes. While I've flogged countless sports cars (and SUVs) equipped with PCCBs, both on and off the track, the $8,150 option always seemed more frill than substance. Why spend a wad of cash on a ridiculously expensive consumable when Porsche's stock cross-drilled brakes, if properly maintained, are nearly perfect? The answer was found on the autobahn.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S keys2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S brakes

It's common knowledge that repeated braking from ultra-high speeds wreaks havoc on tradition iron brake rotors – they simply can't dissipate the heat. The result is dangerous brake fade and pedal vibration due to warped rotors and deposited pad material. Unlike iron rotors, the ceramic discs are very resistant to extremely high temperatures. And with PCCBs, brake effectiveness and pedal effort isn't altered after a dozen hard braking and acceleration cycles – common on the crazy-fast, but traffic-laden autobahn. The heat capacity of the braking system seems unlimited, and there is a complete absence of brake judder or vibration. It's impossible to describe the confidence a set of PCCBs imparts when you are tooling down the autobahn at 150 mph and slower traffic cuts you off.

I've also sold my soul to Porsche's Doppelkupplungsgetriebe. As a devout manual transmission junkie, I cautiously embraced Porsche's dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission when it arrived a couple years ago. The computer-controlled gearbox could slam gears faster and smoother than I could on the track, and it was butter-smooth in traffic, yet I still couldn't simply fold. It pains me slightly, and I may be giving up some of my manhood in the process, but I'm ready to admit that the PDK gearbox has finally won me over.

Gliding through the Alps, with the PDK's gear selector in "Drive" and the electronic shift logic in "Sport," impeding traffic is disposed of with a quick stab of the accelerator pedal. Without any hesitation, the gearbox changes ratio, power is put to the pavement and the slow mustard-brown Vauxhall that was blocking the way becomes two halogen headlights in the rearview mirror. Even more impressive is how it responds at speed. When a train of cars doing 95 mph on an unrestricted section of autobahn suddenly pulls out of the way, the PDK-equipped Carrera S responds to throttle input by selecting the optimal gear and blasting ahead.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S rear 3/4 view

While the Carrera S is unbelievably competent, there are still a few blemishes, most only apparent after repeated five-hour stints behind the wheel. First, the short Miata-like wheelbase, praised in the tight two-lane roads winding through the Alps, draws minor criticism on the open autobahn due to body oscillations (setting the suspension in "Standard" mode helps a bit). Second, the wide contact patches (Bridgestone RE050A tires sized 235/35R19 up front and 295/30R19 in the rear) grip the road like taffy, but are annoyingly noisy. Lastly, the driving position delivers a low center of gravity, and it offers excellent outward visibility, but from the grounded vantage point it's nearly impossible to scan traffic a quarter mile ahead. These are all minor gripes (that come with sports car ownership in general) that would do nothing towards keeping us from Porsche's showroom.

The Porsche 911 is a very effective tool for touring Germany in much the same manner that an F-16F Fighting Falcon is great for a cross-country flight. Both offer unchallenged high-speed capabilities, yet neither is able to utilize the talent for anything more than a short sprint between population centers. Both are lightweight and nimble, at the expense of ride comfort over long periods of time. And each has an intimate cabin, but with very limited storage.

If you think it's preposterous to compare the 2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S to one of the world's greatest jet fighters, you probably also feel there's something blatantly wrong about deliberately choosing a hardened sports car for a one-week tour of Germany with your significant other.

Not the way this enthusiast sees it. In my judgment, there was nothing that could be more appropriate.



Photos copyright ©2010 Michael Harley / AOL


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 54 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Even I am a little wet from reading this.
      • 4 Years Ago
      @zamfir, I'll agree to disagree. Porsche's entire lineup is not insanely fast if you include the Porsche Boxster in that mix.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Fast around corners?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Informative post,I enjoyed reading the post of Porsche 911 Carrera S and its quite interesting , thanks for sharing the information.Keep updating.semi trucks.
      • 4 Years Ago
      One of the best reviews ever. By the way, Michael, did you get to drive the car in the Nurburgring?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Traitor! Perhaps you would have enjoyed those automatic downshifts a little more if you had a latte in one hand and a cell phone in the other.
        • 4 Years Ago
        We all know you are not allowed to use a cellphone while driving down the autobahn...

        - Mike
      • 4 Years Ago
      The review is mostly correct, except its wheelbase criticism. A short wheelbase is key to the 911 characteristic 'go-kart' driving dynamics. I guess the author will be happier with the upcoming 991 version with its 4" longer wheelbase, although some of us will not.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't see any "error" in my story.

        A short wheelbase, as I pointed out, really makes for fun spirited driving on twisty roads. However, it must also be noted that the primary negative associated with a short wheelbase is ride quality — very evident after one thousand miles of driving. I'm no more looking forward to an increase in wheelbase than you are... I'm a sports car guy.

        - Mike
      • 4 Years Ago
      What a car. My 2001 Carrera 4 just turned 100,000 miles this past week and it puts a smile on my face every time I get behind the wheel. My friends complain about the sparse interior, my parents say it sounds like a truck when I fire it up on a cold morning and my coworkers call me a douche behind my back for owning a "Porsh" (everyone thinks it's one syllable), but I will sell the clothes off my back, eat Ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner and live in a shack if that's what it takes to always own a 911. There is no finer automobile on the road today, and for money money, there hasn't been in 47 years.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I love the first generation headlamps on the 996 Carreras. To me, it looks like a more holistic design compared to the redesign with the 2002-2004 headlamps.

        It sounds like a fun car you've got there.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm not a believer in the 911 ever needing any kind of major redesign, I love it the way it is except for one thing- I think they look best with the tail up. Is it an option to leave the tail up all the time or is it a high-speed activated thing only?
        • 4 Years Ago
        There's a switch where you can leave it up all time, but it's for cleaning, not for looking like a douche.
      • 4 Years Ago
      How much more is the 911 turbo then this? I think this car should be called the 911 Turbo Lite. Beautiful car either way.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @G82 - seriously. that quick with that much of a power deficit over the turbo, kinda crazy just how insanely fast porsche's entire car line-up is these days.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's how they get you. You start speccing a Cayman, adding options you figure you could get a Cayman S for not much more money. Adding more options, pretty soon you see that you could have a sweet Carrera for the same money. Adding more options you find out that you have a Carrera S on your hands with options running up to $120,000 and you figure you could get a Turbo which will include most of those options standard.

        After all of that, you tell yourself that you want to go back to basics and just get a GT3 for less than the Turbo, and finally you are happy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A lot more, a horrible lot more, but don't ever take a ride or drive a 2011 911 Turbo S unless you want to be disappointed with every other car in the world!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Don't get me wrong but a couple of standard pics and a description do not make a test. I understand that in order to get a Porsche for your honeymoon trip you had to pitch it as a road test but do not try to sell it as such.
      You can write something like this from you couch, with a netbook and a net connection. If you take out what you can get from literature and the usual "European" stereotypes about "autobahn" and driving an expensive car there, there is nothing left, nothing original or of informational value.

      Let me give you some "pointers":
      - "German Bavaria"? Ha, do you know the name of that "land"/state? Before everything, they are Bavarians. Or do you know another Bavaria and wanted to substantiate the difference.
      - the metric system is the international standard and if traveling to Europe, you should be prepared to use it.
      - the navigation system and the car bord-computer can be easily changed to English or any other "major language". Even more, being a VAG based system (Audi/VW), it is very close to the RNS 510, a very easy to use system. Sorry, but I had a good laugh when you told us that u had to use the Garmin for the entire week. Or it was because you had the road trip entirely planned in the Garmin and did not know how to program the "way points" into the Porsche system?
      - "carefully selected options" to "enhance track performance"? What? The car had almost all the possible optional equipment installed! If you want track performance, you take manual gearbox, no navigation system, etc.
      - yeah, you get to meet the occasional tourist trying his hand at "driving the autobahn". A very dangerous sport if you ask me.
      - a PDK equipped Porsche has lower end speed, about 2-3 mph less than a manual.
      - I guess you can do a study on the spot at Neuschwanstein and find out that 90% are honeymooners from US. What a computer desktop pictures can do for your house. I guess that's why Google inventend Google Street View...maybe americans will see that there is something else worth to see in Germany.
      - Sport Exhaust makes for a deeper and cleaner engine sound, but the "performance gain" is zero or near zero.
      - at some gas stations, the attendant is "required" to fill up your car and if you agree, check your car's fluid and wash the windshield. Even if you pull up in a rental i10, the still will be ready to service your car.
      - I am not a fan of PCCB. Yeah, they sound fancy and futuristic, but you should sit when you will be told the cost of servicing them and replacements. The standard steel brakes are good enough for 99% of the people and situations. I drive a C63, non restricted, goes up to 290km/h and never had experienced brake fading on the autobahn. If you do, you do not know how to drive...sorry. Or worse, you are a danger for the others, braking very late, etc.
      - PDK- yes and no. Porsche has very good gearboxes and for track a manual one is lighter and you can control the car better. But, on the other hand, it is a well made VAG DSG in disguise, so it is a good and responsive gearbox in general. Not like Mercedes who cannot build a good one for SLS.
      - Carrera S the tool for touring the autobahn and Germany? Yeah, right. Depending on how much luggage you carry with you, the ideal car to travel in Europe is either a wagon or a sedan (unless you love convertibles and you want one at any price...but be aware, it gets noisy and tiring on long highway legs) WITH a diesel engine. Automatic is recomended.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You spelled "recommended" incorrectly.

        - Mike
        • 4 Years Ago
        pointers 2,3,4,5,7,8 good.
        pointers 1,6,9 devalue your accurate corrections.
        Accurate spelling is almost as important as accurate facts... but not quite.
        Sorry Mike, I like the 911, I like your story idea, I generally like your writings... but this was weak.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Wow, you are kind of an ass.
        • 4 Years Ago
        guys this is a blog at the end of the day, not the auto bible/koran/Tora. Mike and the other authors can go into their personal experiences because there are no written rules on what to write and what not.

        i think it was a great entertaining read, If i wanted to know everything there is to know about the car itself technically dynamically and other, i would go to the specialized sites that actually review these cars with a batch of electronic equipment on the back seat... this was a fun week, that resulted in a fun read. whatever the info it offers it would always be attacked for inaccuracies...

        Dorel you're a lemon... your dissection of the write up is uncool, and you had to mention that you drive an overpowered, overpriced compact sedan. the 911 is the best way to tour any country if you;'re only two people and the luggage fits. however, i do warrant the criticism that a few extra minutes would let an y tech savy person switch the Porsche's system from German to English...that system is the best and most user friendly on the planet, light-years ahead of what your C63 Mercedes might have...
      • 4 Years Ago
      I greatly enjoyed the report and the author's comparison to the Fighting Falcon F-16. It took me back to my youthful fantasies of flying a Spitfire and driving a 356 Carrera, or a 550 Spyder. Even the color of the car had me salivating, though I lean toward a subtler, metallic midnight blue. The article provided some diversion from the anxiety I am feeling as I wait for a reply from Matthias Muller, Dr. Rheinhold Neitzel, or the other four directors who will receive my request to be at station 61, on January 12, 2011, when the "marriage" of frame and engine, half way down the production line, establishes the unique character of my new Porsche 911 Turbo S, in metallic midnight blue. Thanks to my beautiful wife, Linda, I got to fly in a Supermarine Spitfire, and perhaps the Board of Supervisors, can get me into the assembly line for my new Porsche. I gave up flying (in the air) a long time ago, when the thrills of a 1969 911S outshone the performance of a Cessna 150. Thanks for further grounding my fantasies.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't understand what the difference is.

      Every single Porsche is the same as the other.
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