If you'd still rather conduct your own orchestra, Porsche does offer the world's first seven-speed manual transmission.


Connected to that transmission in the Carrera S is a 3.8-liter, direct-injected, six-cylinder engine making 400 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

The engine itself seems smoother and a touch more refined than in the previous 911. Around town and with all the car's settings in their normal positions, the car is surprisingly restrained. The engine and exhaust are quiet, the throttle takes some real goosing to accelerate quickly, and the transmission's shifts are nigh imperceptible. If this were your first time driving a Porsche, you'd be wondering where the sports car was.

Fear not, it's there.

Switch the car into Sport Plus mode, turn on the louder exhaust and sport suspension, and keep all legs and arms inside the cabin. The car moves toward the horizon like someone stepped on its tail, throwing out a throaty, mid-range wail all the while. Throttle response is immediate, and shifts come only when the engine is screaming near its 7,800 rpm redline.

When the road goes curvy, that fancy suspension system deftly keeps the car flat and composed, while the stability control gives you the benefit of the doubt before subtly intervening.

This Porsche feels more stable and predictable than an older 911, with grip easier to find. Some will see this as a loss, as indeed this 911's polish comes at the expense of older versions' more raw and kinetic predilections. I'm fine with the trade-off; seek out Porsche's Cayman R if you want a truly raw experience.

What is certainly lost is the granular feel of the old hydraulic steering system. To be clear, the setup on this new 911 is excellent, but it's excellent with an asterisk.

Completely free of caveats is the rest of the driving experience inside the 911, as the car's interior takes an august step into the 21st century of refinement.

Not so much constructed as it is chiseled out of a block of granite and then wrapped in leather and adorned in aluminum, it joins Porsche's Panamera sedan and Cayenne sport-utility vehicle as members of the industry's 1% interior club.

Step outside the car and the casual observer might have a tough time differentiating new 911 from old, at least from the front. The traditionally oval-shaped headlights return, as they will indefinitely. Porsche deviated from this recipe just over a decade ago and might as well have turned the 911 into a minivan, such was the uproar.

But park a new 911 next to an older model, and you'll see how the new one is larger and appears to be covered in a gossamer scarf that smooths and stretches its lines and curves. The tail of this 911 is noticeably refined and alluring with thin, graceful LED taillamps.

Seductively designed, efficiently engineered and eminently pliable. Dogleg or not, this is how you evolve.

david.undercoffler@latimes.com