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AWD beats RWD: Rohrl

Talking traction: Monte Carlo Rally icon and Porsche test driver Walter Rohrl believes AWD is best.

Porsche test driver argues the 'perfect' sports car has 4WD

Porsche logo1 Jul 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

CONTRARY to popular opinion among ‘performance purists’, all-wheel drive – not rear-wheel drive – is a vital prerequisite for any series sports car.

So said Monte Carlo Rally icon and accomplished Porsche test driver Walter Rohrl (pictured below), who demonstrated exactly why over a narrow, broken alpine pass at the 911 Carrera 4 launch earlier this month.

"I always argue with people who say rear-drive is best," the softly-spoken German told GoAuto. "Many people don’t understand what I mean about the feeling of traction.

"The feeling of traction makes me crazy. The better driver will always show in a rear-wheel drive, but the perfect car must have four-wheel drive. If a person comes to a slippery place, 4WD will save them. In the same place in a rear-wheel drive, they will have an accident."The lanky, 196cm driver, who last triumphed at Monte Carlo in 1984 and has won for Fiat, Opel, Lancia and Audi, said proof of this was the fact that in the dry at the Nurburgring the Carrera 4 was as quick as the regular Carrera – despite an extra 55kg. However, in the wet the C4 was 20 seconds faster.

25 center imageThe 58-year-old, who revealed that his dream car would be a stripped-out, lightweight 911 Turbo AWD, said the C4 produced less understeer than any other AWD road car and that he "would have been happy to have a competition car as good as the C4 just 10 years ago".

"For a standard road car it’s very impressive. It has impressive tyre grip, amazing roadholding and offers an even greater level of safety and security than the rear-drive 911 – without affecting steering."While Carrera 4 is just one step short of the all-wheel drive 911 Turbo, Mr Rohrl said the ultimate Porsche was the Carrera GT supercar.

He rated stability as its best attribute ("I would never have believed it could be so stable"), followed closely by "unbelievable" brakes, a "perfect" gearbox, an inspiring exhaust note, stunning engine performance above 4000rpm and, finally, the impression of quality.

Carrera GT niggles? Only that the speedo indicated a 350km/h top speed when, in fact, on-board diagnostic equipment revealed he achieved "just" 331km/h.

In the real world, Mr Rohrl owns a new Golf GTI, which he rates as "one of the best affordable cars ever".

"Nobody believes me the new one can be so good, because the last few weren’t so good. It’s a quality car with a big boot, 17-inch wheels, amazing brakes and unbelievably good performance. A fantastic car," he said.

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