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Car reviews - Porsche - 911 - Carrera 4 range

Our Opinion

We like
Linear power delivery, low-down torque of the 3.8-litre, dynamics, Tiptronic shifter will make you fall in love with autos, all-wheel drive grip, interior finish
Room for improvement
Very little. A car of this calibre deserves PASM as standard, more standard bling for your bucks would be good too, metallic paint a $2590 option!

4 Nov 2005

A PEDANT could possibly argue the point that a Porsche 911 already enjoys such high levels of grip that adding all-wheel drive is just silly.

For most purposes the velcro-like grip of the standard rear-drive car is more than sufficient, they would say.

But then we always tend to want more. Don't we?

So Porsche has kindly responded by adding all-wheel drive to the 997-generation line-up in the form of the 3.6-litre Carrera 4 coupe and 3.8-litre Carrera 4S coupe and Porsche Cars Australia has just added the newcomers to the line-up.

For those in sunnier climes, there are all-paw cabriolet versions as well but our focus is on the Carrera 4S coupe.

Visually the four-wheel drive Porkers are little different to the standard car, until you stroll around the back and see the small "4" on the rear deck and the wide rump.

Parked side-by-side with a rear-drive 911, the Four looks as if it has dined out on a few trays of delicious Krispy Kreme donuts.

Its curving rear flanks are a massive 44mm wider than the two-wheel drive versions as the body arches out from the A-pillar back to cover the taut profile accommodating the bigger wheels and tyres.

The almost sculptural lines hide massive 235/35 ZR19 front and 305/30 ZR19 rears on the 4S and apart from the "4" badging, these are the only cues there's a four-wheel drive system underneath.

The viscous coupling AWD does add 55kg - mostly over the front wheels - but the inherent refined balance and neutral handling is unaffected.

The all-wheel drive system splits the drive from five per cent to up to 40 per cent to the front wheels depending on conditions.

The suspension remains largely unchanged with McPherson struts up front and a sophisticated independent multi-link rear while the wheelbase, at 2350mm remains the same.

Redesigning the luggage area and dumping the space saver spare has liberated five more litres for the fuel tank, now 67 litres and lifted boot capacity to 105 litres, or space for two suitcases. Instead of the spare owners get a tyre puncture kit and small compressor.

Apart from the rump, all-wheel drive models share similar traits to the other 997-generation cars, with superb linear power deliver, smooth-shifting six-speed or tiptronic auto transmissions, precise steering and aurally stirring sounds generated by that beautiful flat-six behind you.

We may lament the loss of the venerable air-cooled flat-sixes of days gone by but there's still plenty of mechanical thrashing to entertain today's Porsche owner.

The 3.8-litre C4S, in particular, now has so much torque at low revs that it behaves like a lazy Aussie V8, with a raspy exhaust note issuing from its quad exhausts - the standard C4 has twin oval pipes.

Porsche fans also won't be disappointed with the tunes both cars sing right to the 7200-rpm redline.

Step on the accelerator in the 3.8 and the 911 lurches to attention, surging effortlessly well beyond the posted speed limit, requiring a cautious eye on the digital speedo readout to make sure you stay on the right side of the law.

With 261kW at 6600rpm and 400Nm at 4600rpm on tap there's plenty of mumbo at any speed. Officially, the C4S has a top speed of 288km/h and hits 100km/h in 4.9 seconds, or 5.4 seconds in the Tiptronic.

Conversely, it will also happily dawdle through city traffic without a problem.

Although we tried both the slick shifting six-speed manual and five-speed tiptronic auto, for press-on driving the adaptive Tiptronic emerge as a favourite.

Such is the all-wheel drive's capacity to generate high cornering speeds, self-shifting manually becomes something of a mad shuffle. Great if you enjoy that type of thing but the Tiptronic, with its steering wheel shift buttons, did the same job but with less bother.

Maybe we're just getting old but the auto seemed to gel with the car's dynamics and the engine's peak performance through some fast, curvy sweepers near Brisbane.

Like all Porsches, the Carrera 4S is seriously flattering to any driver and the Porsche Active Suspension Management - standard on the S - is set up for either sport or normal driving.

The system continually monitors suspension movement and adjust the ride accordingly. On normal, it is more comfortable, changing only to a more sporting mode only when the driver chooses to push-on. Pushing the console button to "sport" hardens the dampers for more enthusiastic driving.

In either mode, the 4S will turn-in precisely, offering just the right amount of steering feedback and the high levels of grip and reassuring stability will dispatch many a corner at significantly higher speeds than the posted limits.

Which brings us to the brakes.

The Carrera 4S we drove did not come with the optional composite ceramic brakes but the car didn't need them.

The 330mm cross-drilled brakes on the C4S are among the best in the business strong, progressive and resistant to fade regardless of the punishing long downhill runs over the 300km test route.

Porsche offers a lightweight composite brake package for serious racetrack work or club-sport events but at a whopping $18,990, we'd have to agree that only serious enthusiasts need apply.

Like 911s of the past the cabin is strictly a two-seater, despite the inclusion of two smallish rear seats. Most people will flip them down and use them as storage areas but in an emergency they will fit a child or small adult.

For those up front the 911 is perfect. The deep footwells allow driver and passenger to stretch out and the hip-hugging seats provide plenty of support in the cushion and lower back.

Likewise the traditional five-cluster gauges are evolutionary rather than revolutionary and hark back to earlier 911s.

The large rev counter is right below the driver's line of sight, flanked by the speedo to the left and water temperature and fuel gauges to the right with oil temperature and pressure gauges on the outer extremities.

A digital speed readout is inset into the rev-counter. In all, perfect information for the serious business of driving.

Standard equipment runs to six airbags, leather upholstery, climate control air conditioning, alcantara roof lining, nine-speaker six-stacker Bose CD stereo with MP3 compatibility, navigation system, trip computer, cruise control sunroof, bixenon headlights, aluminium trim highlights, height and reach adjustable steering.

If that's not enough, there's an extensive, and expensive options list for the ultimate personalised 911.

However, even the standard C4S offers a far from standard driving experience.

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