Karen – 2009 Porsche 911 S Cabriolet
The Porsche 911
Let’s start at the beginning. Shortly after all the dinosaurs died and turned into oil, Porsche launched the 911. There were a huge number of models spawned after the first officially designated 911 appeared in 1965. The basic shape hasn’t changed radically to this day, nor has the rear-engined layout, although there have been a few developments along the way. The key milestones in 911 development include the 1972 Carrera RS model – still viewed by some as the definitive 911 – the launch in 1974 of the first turbocharged model, the arrival of all-wheel drive variants in 1989 and, in 1997, the introduction of water rather than air cooling. The model that ushered this change in was the 996 generation. The ‘996’ marked a shift in Porsche’s development of the 911 range. The 996 also did enormously well for Porsche and survived fully seven years before the model we have here, the 997, was launched. Where the 996 was revolutionary, the 997 is more an evolutionary finessing of the 996 theme, tidying up the styling, imbuing the car with a higher quality, more technologically dense feel. In mid-2008, Porsche announced a revised range featuring their new Direct Fuel Injection (DFI) engine. This was the 997 generation 2, that we have here, named Karen.
Karen | Our 2009 Porsche 911 S Cabriolet
Karen is a second generation 997 Porsche 911 S Cabriolet with manual gearbox, named after the infamous ex-wife of Hank Moody in the TV series Californication. In the series Hank drives a black 911 964 convertible with tan interior, and a few seasons down a later 997 model like ours.
The iconic look of the 911 doesn’t leave much room for big changes, so Porsche designers refined the 2009 model while maintaining its familiarity with revised front bumper and larger air intakes, as well as by new large mirrors and the bright strip of LEDs below the headlights that serve as daytime running lights.
The new engine on the 997 phase 2 has gone direct injection, which has meant not just new cylinder heads but a complete engine redesign with every significant component changed. Efficiency has increased by 7%.
If you get an opportunity to hammer a 997.2, you won’t give a rat’s you-know-what about efficiencies. Direct fuel injection simply reinforces the Porsche boxer’s credentials as one of the sweetest, most wholesomely satisfying engines. If anything, the range of satisfaction is broader, with a bit more torque flowing from the bottom and even better, steadier breathing up top, with more eagerness to build revs. The DI boxer is more responsive to the throttle but not in a twitchy, overly sensitive fashion.
The 3.8-litre engine in the S churns out 385 horses. It is extremely smooth, and on a light throttle makes very little noise. Open its throat and you’ll get a crisp clean howl with a hard edge. It has extraordinary reserves of torque in its mid-range and yet has a primal bark up high that is simply thrilling.
Palpable engineering integrity is one of the crowning achievements of the 911. It feels well built. From the solidly assembled dashboard to the way it sits on the road, dives into corners and responds to every input into those precisely weighted, delicate pedals and (still hydraulically assisted) steering wheel. The crisp 6-speed manual gearbox with short-shift is a delight to use and feels like something from the past honed to perfection over many years. The 6-speed manual short shifter on a 997 provides, in our eyes, one of the best shifting experience this side of modern.
Putting the top down is a one-button affair that snugly retracts the whole thing in just a few seconds and sends it back up in a few more. All possible at speeds below 50 km/h.
We’ve learned from research and experience that 911s most likely figure in your list of driving heroes: they hail from that mystical sweet spot between the exotic and the drivable. Karen, our 2009 Porsche 911 S Cabriolet, is a very fine example of what a 911 should feel and look like. Enjoy it top up or top down.