First drive: the new Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and 4S
So what do we have here, then?
The four-wheel-drive variants of the 911 range sub-Turbo, now with the new 3.0-litre biturbo flat six. So they’re all-wheel drive with turbos, but still not actual ‘Turbo’ models - that name is still reserved for the new Turbo and Turbo S which are also refreshed. And four-wheel drive. But more of that later - current Porsche ranges get complicated quickly if you’re not paying attention.
Ok, let’s stick to the basics - what’s new?
Well, the new downsized flat-six gets forced induction, more power and greater efficiency, just like in the basic refreshed 911 Carrera, this time mated to a four-wheel-drive system nicked wholesale from the Turbo. Apparently one in three 911 buyers opt for a four-wheel-drive variant, so this is an important car to get right.
You’re looking at 365bhp and 32.4/36.6mpg for the standard Carrera 4 (manual/PDK gearboxes), with the S bumping those figures to 414bhp and 31.7/35.7mpg, thanks to bigger compressors for the turbos, a different engine map and slightly freer-flowing exhaust. There are also four-wheel-drive versions of both the Convertible and the Targa, in both standard and S formats.
Performance depends on which spec the car comes in - the PDK dual-clutch box is quicker and cleverer than humans, so turns in better figures than the manual, and cars equipped with the ‘Sport Chrono Package’ lop a few tenths. But the basics are properly rapid: mid- to low four second sprints to 62mph in some variants, eclipsing the two-wheel-drive versions in pure acceleration terms for the first time, and taking a few tenths off the previous-generation cars.
Can you tell the difference by looking at it?
Most of the changes are the same as the next-gen cars, so as well as the new headlights and a rear decklid with vertical louvres, the AWD versions get rear arches flared by 44mm, with a cool illuminated lightbar running between the new rear lights. It makes the car look wider, accentuates the arches and looks most excellent at night with the wide third brake light lit above it. There’s no mistaking the extra track at the rear, especially if you see standard and AWD cars side-by-side.
What’s it like to drive?
Fast. Solid. Stable. Fast again. The new electro-hydraulically controlled Porsche Traction Management all-wheel drive apparently allows for more precise metering of torque and traction between the front and rear axles, just as in the range-topping Turbo models, and it certainly seems to be able to find grip wherever it needs it.
The 4 and 4S both have a 10mm drop in ride height for the retuned PASM chassis (Porsche Active Suspension Management) and it seems to have a marginally increased sense of stability when driving quickly. We drove it in torrential rain, and it was rock solid. On the road it’s a little bit crunchy on bad surfaces, but the steering is good, and as ever for a 911, everything seems to fall to hand just so. No messing about trying to find a comfortable driving position, or massive blindspots. We also discovered that Porsche apparently likes to prefix everything with the word ‘Porsche’, even though it’s a relatively meaningless exercise on.. y’know.. a Porsche 911.
On-road, this generation of AWD 911s present an almost infallible sense of security. On track - in this case the newly refurbished and incredibly scary Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in South Africa - the story is pretty much the same. Not as much fun as a straight Carrera 2 - marginally - and prone to understeer if you pile into a tight bend carrying too much speed, but predictable and very, very quick once you get used to it. It’s perfectly fast enough to get you into trouble, but the thing is, it just doesn’t feel like a natural track car, and it’s more convincing as daily driver. That feeling is exacerbated in the Convertible and Targa (pictured below) - the two heavier variants - which just don’t feel quite as keen.
The cars we’re driving are fitted with pretty much everything, so they sound raw and persistent with the optional sports exhaust, though it’s worth noting that they sound better from the inside than out, where you can hear the turbos spooling up and generally making themselves known. Throttle response is impeccable, and the power arrives in a metered rush. Not violent, but incessantly rapid. You need the proper Turbo (533bhp) or the Turbo S (572bhp) to really snap necks, but it’s got all the same initial feelings and sense of traction.
There’s also a rear-wheel-steer system available as an option, nicked pretty much wholesale from the 911 Turbo and GT3. Usual operation: at speeds above 50mph the rear wheels turn marginally in the same direction as the fronts, aiding high-speed stability, and below 31mph turn in the opposite direction, helping with agility. It’s more useful than you think: lopping nearly half a metre off the turning circle is actually appreciable, and on the circuit there’s a long right called ‘Sunset’ that made the wheelbase feel about 100ft long, such was the stability.
The manual shift with the new twin-plates is also light and useful, and it has to be said the shift action is no chore. If you don’t do loads of commuting traffic, then it’s worth trying before you absent-mindedly tick the PDK option box.
Anything else that’s new?
Well, inside there’s a new steering wheel that’s a bit like the one in the 918 Spyder hypercar, and it gets a new rotary knob mode switch - again, if you option the Sport Chrono Package - that allows you to scroll through Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual modes without having to prod the centre console. There’s also a new function called ‘Sport Response’ which, if optioned with PDK, preps the car for the best acceleration possible for 20 seconds. It basically makes the car hyper alert: optimum throttle response, gear and turbo pressure. After 20 seconds you can re-engage by just pressing the button again, but it saves faff if you just need to make one decisive overtake. Feels a bit like grown-up nitrous.
There are also new gear ratios for the seven-speed manual, along with that twin-disc clutch that allows for a comfy pedal action even given the hefty forces it needs to control. A ‘centrifugal pendulum’ incorporated into the flywheel also dampens out the vibrations you get when trying to pull a certain gear at too low a rev-range, so that the 911 can actually drive below the accepted rev limit. Good for efficiency. As ever with Porsche, it says it will work.. . and it just does.
There’s also a new, simplified multimedia system and that’s a little bit better than before as well. Which just about sums the whole new 911 AWD range up: a little bit better than before in pretty much every direction; v2.5.
It’s all very clever. And incredibly effective. Pick of the four-wheel drives, leaving out the Turbo and Turbo S? A 4S manual would be a great daily, but for the looks and general vibe - the drivetrain not being the most ‘exciting’ of the 911 range, then a Targa 4S in Miami Blue would cope with most situations. There’s something about that wraparound rear ‘screen and the wider track. To be honest though, unless you live in seriously wintery territory or have a particular fetish for wide-arches, a Carrera 2S would probably still be our choice.
Unless, of course, you start to bring the Turbo into the equation…