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How paddles ruined the Porsche 911. By Gavin Green
01 December 2008 09:34
Amazing how one little thing can mess up a good car. I always liked the Lotus Esprit. But when I discovered it had Morris Marina door handles (so did the first Range Rover) that warm supercar glow became just a touch cooler. I love the latest Jaguar XJ, never mind the yesterday style. But every time I get into one and find someone else’s grubby fingerprints on the touch screen, I shudder. I don’t even like my own prints on it. It looks so used.
My expectations were high when I got into a new Porsche 911 – a Carrera S with Doppelkupplung (PDK) gearbox. Now regular readers will know I love 911s. And the best 911 of all is the latest 911. Do not go for a Turbo, do not ruin the style by going for a Cabriolet or a Targa and I suspect – if money is tight – the standard Carrera (non S) is just fine.
The Carrera S is fast, agile, feels small and snug (like all good 911s), has that impressive bull elephant-like mechanical bellow (and the exhaust timbre is now just a touch more strident, thanks to the new direct petrol injection), has brilliant brakes and, all round, is one of the very best and most stimulating sports cars I have driven.
But I hate the gear selectors. Give me paddles – nice chunky carbon or alloy paddles, tucked in tight behind the steering wheel, right for up, left for down – any time. Instead, breaking convention, the 911 gets rockers in the steering wheel, push with the thumb for up, pull with the index finger for down. Sounds simple. And the seven-speed gearshift – fast and jerk-free – is brilliant. But the selector action just isn’t natural. It made me angry. I found myself falling out of love with the car. The gear selector is just too important a component, in the man-machine interface bit, to get wrong.
So would it prevent me from buying a new 911? No. There is fortunately an easy answer to the sole irritant in an otherwise brilliantly impressive car. Choose the cheaper normal six-speed stick-shift manual gearbox instead.
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