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2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK Automatic

We cycle through hundreds of cars a year, drive tens of thousands of miles, and spend hours analyzing, writing, and thinking about cars we don’t want to park in our garages. And then a Miami Blue Porsche 911 Carrera S drops by for a week.

I want one. Maybe not one as lavishly equipped as this $139,945 Carrera S. If I’m spending about $140,000 in a 911 fantasy, that fantasy definitely involves a $144,650 GT3. Math skills are especially valuable when trying to rationalize an expensive purchase. So, drop the $3140 paint, the $8520 carbon-ceramic brake rotors, and the useful, if pricey, $2590 front-axle lift system that keeps the nose from scraping the driveway, and, well, even the Carrera S’s $104,450 base price is still out of reach.

Yet the want remains. It has a lot to do with the Carrera S’s new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six. Smooth, snarly, and wildly powerful, this Halliburton case of an engine scoots the 911 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds thanks to the brilliant launch control built into the Sport Chrono package and the dual-clutch automatic transmission (PDK in Porsche-speak). Select Sport or Sport Plus mode, hold the brake with your left foot and floor the accelerator with your right foot, and the engine revs to 6200 rpm. Release the brake and the car launches with nearly the same surge as the all-wheel-drive Turbo.

One option we’d be tempted to keep is the $6290 Sport package, which bundles four-wheel steering, a smaller-diameter steering wheel, SportDesign side mirrors, and the Sport exhaust along with the (normally $1920) Sport Chrono package and its dynamic engine mounts, Sport Plus driving mode, Sport mode for the stability-control system, stopwatch on the dash, and the aforementioned launch control. With the Sport exhaust—also available as a stand-alone option for $2950—the 911 goes from housebroken to feral with the push of a button. Hit it once and you’re left with a smile that just might be worth three grand.

Like the Sport exhaust, the 911 Carrera S has two modes depending on where and how you’re driving. It operates with the same everyday friendliness as the four-door Toyotas inevitably surrounding it in traffic. Ensnarled in a school of sedans and crossovers, the 911 never calls negative attention to itself or annoys the driver. While the 911 mimics an appliance on your drive through Dullsville, its more intriguing side is always present. The steering has just the right amount of feedback and is resolutely accurate, the engine responds immediately to the prod of the accelerator, and the brakes cinch with a satisfying heft.

To reach our testing facility in Southern California we traverse curly strands of mountain asphalt, where the controls that feel right in a 15-mph freeway crawl start shouting “right on!” as you press the tires toward their lofty 1.04-g threshold. The four-wheel steering keeps the rear stable, and the car takes all that you can reasonably dish out on a public road. There’s not much need to slow for corners, but the 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros and the carbon-ceramic brakes will stop the 911 from 70 mph in a scant 142 feet.

Climbing the mountain, the turbo engine’s roar peaks at 85 decibels from behind the vestigial jump seats that have made the 911 (sorta) kid friendly for more than 50 years. A word about the $3200 dual-clutch automatic: We’d definitely have our Carrera S with the seven-speed manual, despite the PDK’s superior acceleration performance. This decision is not due to any issue with the automatic. The PDK is eerily prescient when it comes to downshifting and holding gears through the 100-plus corners on our way to the desert test track. We just like shifting, matching revs on downshifts, and saving money.

Spend $139,945 on a car and it should look as if it were assembled and painted by Keebler elves on Adderall. In this regard, the 911 doesn’t disappoint. Panel gaps and paint finish are flawless. This car’s Miami Blue, a turquoise hue, costs $3140 and is reminiscent of Riviera Blue and Mexico Blue, Porsche colors of the recent past. Even though a Porsche the color of New Mexico’s state gem is shockingly handsome, we’d save some cash and order Graphite Blue Metallic, a relative bargain at $710.

Clad in leather that’s part of the $3850 leather interior option, the instrument panel is largely unchanged since this generation’s debut as a 2012 model. A notable exception is the new touchscreen that incorporates incredibly useful Google search and Google Earth functionality into the navigation system.

Revealing the magic of this car isn’t as simple as pointing to its superlative test numbers. We drive many very quick cars that fail to seduce. The appeal here is deeper than how hard the Carrera S accelerates, brakes, and corners. The 911 works equally well in traffic on the way to the office, on empty roads on the way to nowhere, and circling a racetrack. Its dialed-in primary controls make it an immersive and interactive experience. A lot of care appears to have gone into building each example, and high-quality materials are used throughout, which helps justify the price.

It also helps that it’s a little weird looking. There’s no ignoring the matter of the iconoclastic rear-engine layout. Clearly, Porsche is wrong about putting the engine in back—even the 911 RSR race car now has its engine in the middle—but the company has made this bass-ackward thing work, in the process setting the 911 apart from an increasingly homogenized automotive world. It’s enough to make you want one.

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