Porsche 911 Carrera S manual: The car to get before the EV wave

·Producer/Reporter
·6 min read

For car fans, and lovers of a true analog experience when driving a car, it seems time is running out — the electric revolution is coming soon. 

Sure, sales of EVs are around 2.7% of total car sales here in the U.S,, but we all see the writing on the wall, from Detroit to Düsseldorf: the gas-powered car is dying.

At the IAA Mobility Conference in Munich this week, automakers debuted a slew of new electrified cars coming out in the not too distant future. Porsche (POAHY) was one of them.

The legendary sports car company was quick to embrace the electric future with the Taycan electric sedan back in 2019, and at Munich the company debuted the Porsche Mission R concept, a vision of what all-electric sports car racing could look like (and also what a future Porsche electric sports car may look like.)

People look at a Porsche Mission R during the Munich Auto Show, IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich, Germany, September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
People look at a Porsche Mission R during the Munich Auto Show, IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich, Germany, September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

But before that future arrives, we are still living in the present, and luckily for us the Porsche 911 Carrera S exists. And Porsche here is still doing something that is becoming rarer and rarer these days, and that is including a true, 7-speed manual transmission.

Porsche knows fans of the car will always want a gas-powered engine, and manual transmission if they can help it. But legislation abroad, and likely here soon in the U.S., could change that availability.  

Porsche hears its fans, and the environmentalists too. It is spearheading eFuel investments, which are made out of CO2 and hydrogen, and are produced using renewable energy. eFuel burns cleaner and is essentially carbon neutral. This past week, Porsche and Siemens Energy joined forces to build a facility in Chile for the production of eFuel, and Porsche will be using eFuel produced there for their Supercup 911 race cars.  

eFuels are interesting technology, but what about an electrified 911 — is that the future too?

“Within the foreseeable future, you will see a lot of progress in powertrain technology, and I would say we’ll keep you posted whenever we do the next step, probably into hybridization,” Kjell Gruner, Porsche Cars NA CEO and president, says in an interview with Yahoo Finance. 

“But let’s see what that’s going to be [like]," Gruner added. "It’s really open what we’re going to do there, one thing is for sure, we’ll always have an engine in the rear, it’s always going to remain a 911, and for the time being e-fuels is going to be a great alternative.”

So let’s dig into what may be on of the last great internal combustion cars out there today, the Porsche 911.

New 911 design — can you spot any differences?

Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Porsche)
Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Porsche)

What can I really say about the design here? It looks like a 911. Take a picture of it to Times Square here in New York City and I bet 9 out of 10 people would instantly know what it is.

But could they tell the difference between the new 911 (model designation 992) versus the prior generation’s “991” 911, or the “997” before that? I would bet 9 out of 10 people could not tell the difference.

From a design perspective, what is different here is slightly bigger proportions, some nips and tucks along the way, a more angular front end, and a wider rear end, with 911 Turbo-like rear three-quarter panels that flow into a new full-length rear light bar. It’s modernized, that’s for sure, but an evolution of the 911 formula.

Inside, the 911 steps up its game, taking the prior generation’s fit and finish and materials, and bumping them up a notch into the luxury, near super-sports car levels of refinement.

Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

And lo and behold, in this particular Carrera S we have the piece de resistance: the manual transmission shifter jutting out of the center console. The manual transmission here is a 7-speed variant, and it’s a no-cost option. However you get kind of a deal here as the manual also comes with Porsche’s optional Sport Chrono Package, for free. This package gives you a lap-timer and clock on the dashboard, along with the Porsche drive mode selector dial (for comfort, sport, sport+, and individual settings) on the steering wheel.

Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

The 7th gear is your overdrive, or highway gear. A smart thing Porsche has done is adding a lock-out feature, where 7th gear is inaccessible for any gear below 4th, so you can’t accidentally go from 4th the 7th, when you really wanted 5th. It’s actually a really helpful feature.

Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

In other good news, under the instrument panel hood, right in middle position, is an analog RPM tachometer — an homage to 911s in the past and the iconic 5-gauge cluster they’ve always featured.

Unfortunately we are still missing an old-school, analog parking brake handle. Instead you have an electronic parking brake button, which no one seems to like.

Driving impressions

Let’s get down to business. The manual transmission compared to the PDK dual clutch automatic in the Porsche 911 is just more engaging — and fun. The manual gives you more of a thrilling, engaging driving experience because you’re focused on driving the car at almost every moment. 

Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Porsche)
Porsche 911 Carrera S (Credit: Porsche)

The gear shift itself is very positive, and very Porsche. You get that nice mechanical feel, almost rifle-like, and it feels good rowing through the gears. My only (slight) complaint was a little vagueness with the clutch pedal. It’s a little long, and I couldn't feel any discernible "bite" point. It is a light clutch though, so very easy to drive in city traffic.

Steering is extremely direct, with decent road feel and good heft. It’s quick too, and if you have the rear-axle steering option that our test car had, it makes the 911 seem half its size and, and there’s no fear of making tight turns, at both high and low speeds. It's a stellar option I recommend.

Putting the 911 in sport or sport+ mode takes the car to the next level. Throttle sensitivity is heightened, and you feel like you’re wringing out all of the 443hp and 390 lb-ft of torque from the 3.0 liter twin-turbo boxer 6-cylinder engine. It might be turbocharged, yes, but Porsche engineers have tried their damndest to make it feel (and sound) as though there’s a naturally aspirated, old-school boxer engine back there.

Brake pedal feel is almost best in the business — not too grabby and very linear, with great stopping power.

The price of entry isn’t cheap: The 911 Carrera S starts at $113,300, with our test car coming in at $135,840. But there really isn’t anything like it, a car that’s almost a supercar, but gives you the joy of a manual transmission that these days, along with a spirited gas-powered engine, is running out of time in our more electrified world.

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Pras Subramanian is a senior producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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