Some significant artifacts from 1963: Bob Dylan's 'Freewheelin'; architect Louis Kahn's Salk Institute; Andy Warhol's 'Eight Elvises'; the Porsche 911. Argue as much as you want about the cultural importance of all of 'em; truth is, Porsche's flagship sportscar, now 50, is the only one still evolving (no disrespect intended, Mr. Dylan). So it was naturally our duty to take the car-shaped key fob of a Carrera S Cabriolet for a week to investigate this mark on the timeline of 911-dom.
The 2013 model is only the 911's seventh generation, and although the redesign subtly tweaks and tones the aluminum and steel body, making it just slightly longer and lower, its quintessential sloped-back shape remains (as does its rear-engine layout). Those cosmetic updates made our test car, in Yachting Blue, look fit to fight; the street presence of the seventh gen is more athletic than the 911s of the past. But the significant transformations are underneath its sheet metal, so we took our Carrera top-down from Times Square up the Taconic to one of the East's great driving roads, Route 7, near Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, to test its mettle. What we found and felt was that the Carrera S's laundry list of new tech adds to the driving experience. It doesn't take away from it, as Porsche purists perennially fear.
First, there's the near-perfect seven-speed PDK gearbox, which has two clutches: one for gears 1,3,5, and 7, and another for 2, 4, and 6. It pre-selects your next gear in the background. The resulting shifting is quicker than we expected; try it and don't be surprised if you swear off the stick. And that's just the start. The Carrera S's smart circuitry continues with dynamic chassis control, which anticipates body lean in corners and kills it with hydraulic actuators; a new stability control system that prevents slippage by applying brakes to independent wheels, blipping the throttle down and prepping the brakes for hard stops; and torque vectoring, which applies a brake to the inside rear wheel during cornering, lending the outside rear more torque. Surprisingly, all that gadgetry isn't a dulling prophylactic on the tarmac; instead, it allows you to push the car's 400-hp flat-six engine harder, with more confidence. As we unleashed road hell on Route 7's lifts and drops and sweeping turns with a rip and snarl, a thought kept bubbling up. It's a rare thing to claim the status of a classic while reaching for progress; the Porsche 911, for now, is still pulling off that daring move. [From $98,900; porsche.com]