2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S review: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

The idle-stop system turned out to be pretty smart. Stopped in traffic on a San Francisco hill, windshield offering a beautiful sky view, the car did not let the engine shut down, and even activated a hill hold feature to prevent rollback. It also deactivated idle-stop on down slopes.

Porsche puts a lot of technology into the 911 Carrera S' engine and handling, but does not quite match that level of innovation in the cabin. The cabin tech suite, going under the acronym-producing name Porsche Communication Management (PCM), is overall very good, and what you would expect in a car of this lofty price. But Porsche is not pushing any boundaries here.


The mass of buildings in the navigation system's perspective view can be a little much.

The navigation system shows multiple map views: top-down, perspective, and even satellite imagery when zoomed too far out to be useful. In perspective view, it renders buildings in 3D in certain city centers. Driving around San Francisco, the clusters of buildings shown on the screen were so thick it was difficult to see the roads.

In the plus column, the graphics indicating upcoming maneuvers were rich with information, showing a good representation of the lanes. Under route guidance, the system read out the names of streets and used traffic data to avoid jams. It was also very responsive, never taking long to populate a screen or update the car's location.

Likewise, the onscreen keyboard for address entry was responsive, and used predictive text to deactivate letters that could not follow the previous one entered. As with other Porsches CNET has reviewed, a voice command system was available but not optioned in.

The 911 Carrera S includes as standard a Bluetooth phone system. After pairing my iPhone, a painless process that let me set a custom PIN, it automatically downloaded the numbers in my contact list, making them available on the PCM screen.

But unlike its German luxury competition, Porsche has made no attempt at app integration. Beyond the traffic data integrated with the navigation system, there is nothing connected about the new 911.


Porsche put a G meter in the auxiliary display in the instrument cluster.

Although lacking online music services such as Pandora, the car's stereo includes a full complement of other modern audio sources, including HD Radio. Bluetooth audio streaming is there but requires digging through an options menu to check a box to enable it.

Invoking one of my pet peeves, Porsche puts the USB port, which works with a white iPod cable or USB drive, in the glove compartment. That placement is fine when keeping a music library on a USB drive plugged into the car, but very inconvenient for an iPhone.

Porsche offers three audio systems in the 911 Carrera S: the base system, a premium system from Bose, and an audiophile system from Burmester. CNET's car came with the Bose system, a $1,590 option. It produced very clean, enjoyable sound, but did not have the richness of an audiophile system. When I played Yello's "Flag" album, the initial stereo beats of "Tied Up" were well-separated and distinct.

Although I did not get a chance to listen to the Burmester system tuned for the 911 Carrera S, I previously heard the version in the Panamera. There it produced stunningly good sound, so I can guess that it would be very good in the smaller car, too.

In sum
The 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S earns very high marks for its suspension and drive-train technologies. The electronics add to the handling without being intrusive, while the transmission shows it can deal with both performance and daily driving. And fuel economy, at least in the EPA tests, is better than you see from any other car with this level of performance.

The 911 Carrera S is less spectacular when it comes to cabin electronics. The car includes quality systems in the big three areas, navigation, audio, and phone, but does not push into the sorts of new territories that other automakers are exploring. The lack of connected features and driver assistance systems was particularly notable.

The design of the new 911 is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Although it's a low-slung sports car, I was impressed that, looking over my shoulder, I had a wide view of the road and could see any cars in what would have been the blind spot. The cabin tech interface was usable, but was neither pretty nor particularly practical.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Porsche 911
Trim Carrera S
Power train Direct-injection 3.8-liter flat 6-cylinder engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
EPA fuel economy 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 18 mpg
Navigation Standard hard-drive-based with traffic data
Bluetooth phone support Standard with phone book integration
Disc player MP3-compatible single-CD
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio Bluetooth streaming audio, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system Bose 445-watt 12-speaker system
Driver aids Park distance sensors
Base price $96,400
Price as tested $125,780

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

Part Number: CNET101406651

MSRP: $96,400.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Trim levels Carrera S
  • Body style Coupe
  • Available Engine Gas
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