Porsche's PDK transmission is one of the more frustrating pieces of technology introduced in recent years. It makes for a brilliant marriage of engine and gearbox, producing fast, jerk-free gearshifts that make an old-style manu-matic or conventional automatic seem crude.

But its manual gear selection leaves a lot to be desired. Some think it was a simply case of Porsche not wanting to copy the accepted "left for down, right for up" arrangement used by all its competitors. Whatever the reason, the result is counter-intuitive and confusing. If you have to think about how to operate something in a moment of stress, it's too late. So if the F1-style steering wheel was the only modification to the way SpeedArt's SRS 420 drives, it'd be a major improvement all by itself.

A long-standing debate among paddle-shift advocates is whether or not the paddles should be fixed to the steering column or move with the wheel. There's a strong case for both designs. SpeedArt's paddles, fixed to the steering wheel, allow you to operate them without moving your hands from the nine-three o'clock position providing you don't have too much steering lock going on.

The other piece of good news is that SpeedArt's 340mm F1 steering wheel is not only manna from heaven for the latest PDK-equipped cars, but also the Tiptronic-equipped Boxster, Cayman, or first generation 997s. A wheel will soon be available for keen Cayenne drivers as well, and no doubt a Panamera version will not be far behind.

Out of the box, the 385 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from the all-new 3.8-liter second-generation 997 Carrera S motor gives the car a sharpness in response and beefiness in delivery that is hard to better for the money. Its lighter internals and direct injection deliver a crisper edge than before and improving this fine motor would seem to be a pretty tall order. But that's exactly what SpeedArt has done with its Power Kit II for the facelifted 997.

The conversion includes a sport air filter, equal-length headers, 200-cell metal catalysts, a stainless steel sport exhaust, and an ECU remap. If your car is fitted with the factory Sport Chrono package, you can also have the exhaust system with an electronically controlled bypass flap that activates when the throttle is depressed beyond a certain point.

Excessive exhaust backpressure is the bane of gas flow in any engine, especially a force-aspirated one, but you still need a certain amount of backpressure to keep the gases moving properly. Porsche has its standard exhaust systems flowing so well that it's very hard for an aftermarket exhaust specialist to improve the sound without actually losing power at the same time. More than that, with the high precision of the ECU programming required for current emissions laws, it's also clear that the intake and exhaust systems are now optimized along with the fuel and ignition maps. So for any meaningful gains to be had, intake and exhaust upgrades and ECU re-mapping must be done together as a package.

With all these modifications carried out, SpeedArt's Power Kit II delivers 420 hp, 35 more than standard, along with 325 lb-ft of torque. That's the same horsepower as the 996 Turbo from a street-legal, naturally aspirated 3.8 liter flat-six, albeit with 89 lb-ft less torque. How things have moved on.

Porsche's PASM active damping system has some leeway for different spring rates, and SpeedArt takes advantage of this using shorter, uprated springs made to specification by H&R.

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