Porsche 911 series: the world’s greatest sports cars
PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 4S
What exactly is it? The next instalment in the latest Porsche 911 series: a Carrera with all-wheel drive, wrapped in wide-body styling. It comes in two versions: the standard 3.4-litre C4 or the 3.8-litre C4S, as tested here.
Powertrain: 3.8-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder petrol engine producing 294kW/440Nm. Seven-speed PDK automated dual-clutch transmission, all-wheel drive. Combined fuel consumption 9.1 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.3 seconds.
Anything interesting in the equipment list? The C4S carries a number of features over the standard C4: aside from a larger and more powerful engine, the 4S has Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), lower ride height with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and 20-inch alloy wheels. Serious Porsche-spotters can tell one from the other by the colour of the brake calipers (black on the C4, bright red on the C4S) or the exhaust pipes (dual versus quad).
The Porsche 911 is such a unique machine is that it’s easy to think of it as having a singular character, despite the multitude of models offered.
It’s an easy mistake to make, but a mistake all the same. The 911’s rear-engine, rear-drive layout might be an idiosyncratic one but it’s also the base for some surprisingly different variations on the theme.
Keller Bier is bubbling with heritage and brewed in a unique way, but is a Monchsambacher lager the same as a Pilzilla or Aktien Zwick’l? I think not.
In fact, Porsche has a fine history of surprising the doubters and delighting the rest with its rollout of each new generation of 911 models. The core rear-drive versions come first, usually followed by the four-wheel drives.
There are convertibles, a Turbo and ultimately the hard-core GT generation. Each has always put a rather different spin on the 911 theme.
To the four
The latest 991-series (as it is confusingly known) of the 911 has just been expanded from the Carrera 2 (C2) launched nearly a year ago, into a new-generation Carrera 4 (C4). Based upon evidence of 911s past, we’re only just getting started. But already, the larger, lighter seventh-generation 911 has taken on a different character.
Ostensibly, the C4 is simply a C2 with drive to the front wheels. You certainly get the same choice of engines – 3.4-litre for the standard car and 3.8-litre for the S, as tested here – and similar equipment.
But there’s a bit more to it than that. It’s usual for the all-wheel versions of the 911 to be wider at the back than the rear-drive ones and that’s the case here: an extra 44mm across the hips and 10mm-wider rear wheels.
The latest 911 has less of a width differential front-to-rear than the previous 997-series: the new C4 plays with those proportions slightly, to take things back to that classic shape.
Underneath, those wider guards wrap around a wider rear track. Combine that with the extra traction of all-wheel drive and you have a 911 that feels quite different from a C2.
Paws and claws
The difference is not entirely down to the domination of the all-wheel drive system. Far from it, because the power is biased toward the rear as much as possible and torque is only directed to the front when really required.
That’s not just a cut-and-paste fact from the press kit: you can see it yourself when driving, because the C4 now has a rather distracting torque distribution indicator on the dashboard that tells you how much power is going to the rear and how much is being apportioned to the front axle.
It’s a digital graphic and you can swap it for other information on the dashboard. It’s a neat toy, which should probably be turned off: if you are doing enough to make the lights move, you should really be looking at the road.
So behave yourself and your C4 is mostly rear-drive, with a nimble feel. But you do have that massive safety net of all-wheel drive should the road be slippery or should you slip up, and the extra cornering ability of that hot-rodded rear section.
Not to mention electronic driver aids such as Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV). Even with all of that extra power, the C4S is one easy-to-use super-sports car, no mistake.
The real difference comes when you’re beyond normal driving limits: where a C2S might start to dance around a little, the C4S’s four fat claws simply dig into the tarmac. That might be the ideal for some buyers: it still feels nimble when you’re going slow but holds on tight when you’re going fast and giving yourself a fright.
Less drama is not automatically a good thing with a car of this type, of course. But the C4S has other ways to entice you. Fundamentally, it looks and feels right: it’s more grown-up than previous 911s but you’re still really tapping into the heritage of the 911 with this car.
The dual-clutch PDK gearbox is just grumpy enough at low speed to make you think this car is a thoroughbred, and it shifts fast enough on the open road to prove the point.
The 3.8-litre flat-six engine is delicious and sounds outrageous. My test car had help from a $6200 sports exhaust system but all new 911s have something called a Sound Symposer that intensifies the natural sound of the engine in the cabin.
Let me say this: one of the most wonderful things about the 911 is that it’s an exotic machine entirely capable of everyday duties. A 911 is not only exciting and exquisite to drive, it’s also practical and durable; it could easily be your only car.
In that context, you can really see where the C4S fits into the scheme of things. The all-wheel drive system and wider track take some of the edge off this rear-engined rocket but, in return, you get all-conditions excitement from a car that just might save you from yourself when you really need it.
The 911 is still the world’s greatest sports car, after all. Or with the choice available, perhaps that should be plural.