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Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

 

Even subject to the incredibly high expectations that accompany a $273,000 sports car, the latest 911 is superb: full of character, ferociously fast and yet still capable of cruising in comfort!

Base price: $273,000.

Powertrain and performance: 3.8-litre horizontally-opposed petrol six, 294kW/440Nm, 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, rear-drive, Combined economy 9.1 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.3 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4491mm long, 1296mm high, luggage capacity 125 litres, fuel tank 64 litres.

We like: Any 911 is awesome, blend of grand touring and sports car talents.

We don’t like: Ultimately not as engaging as rear-drive models, too much cabin bling.

How it rates: 9/10


WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

Once Porsche gets going with a new 911, there’s no stopping it: new models come rolling out consistently over the life of the car.

Following the launch of the seventh-generation Carrera last year, Porsche has now introduced four-wheel drive versions of both the standard (3.4-litre) and S (3.8-litre) models.

As with previous Carrera 4 generations, the new car carries over the engines and basic equipment levels from the rear-drive cars, but the body is wider over the rear wheelarches (by 44mm in this model) and houses (10mm) wider rear wheels.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Even subject to the incredibly high expectations that accompany a $273,000 sports car, the latest 911 is superb: full of character, ferociously fast and yet still capable of cruising in comfort.

The move to electric power steering (for fuel efficiency reasons) has had an effect on the 911’s legendary steering feel, but it’s not disastrous. The chassis is better than ever: the car is wider than before, built upon a longer wheelbase and yet lighter, so its handling limits are even further up the scale of awe/excitement.

No other sports car feels like a 911: Porsche has long since engineered out the tail-happy (sometimes frightening) handling idiosyncrasies of 911s from decades ago, but without losing that squat-and-sprint feel.

The four-wheel drive system only sends torque to the front when absolutely required. You can keep tabs on what it’s doing via a graphic on the instrument panel, which shows you how the power is being shared between the front and rear axles.

The 911 might make you feel like a hero, but there is a lot of technology enhancing the driving experience. The C4S has as standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) and Porsche Traction Management (PTM).

The PDK dual-clutch robotised seven-speed transmission is a little lumpy around town, but it’s both faster and more fuel efficient than the conventional three-pedal manual. If you like the outrageous noise that the 3.8-litre boxer engine makes, the PDK is a pretty good partner: its astonishingly fast gearchanges and downshift throttle blips really make the most of the soundtrack.

As did the $6200 sports exhaust system fitted to our car. Nice, but not strictly necessary as every 911 has something called a Sound Symposer that intensifies the aural excitement in the cabin.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?

The 911 has always been known as a truly useable sports car and still is. This generation is the largest yet, but it’s still compact enough to drive in the city without fear. Visibility out of the cabin is good, although you might have to keep an eye on those curvaceous rear guards in tight parking manoeuvres.

If there’s been any step backwards in the new 911 it’s in the cabin layout. Not in terms of quality, which is far ahead of any previous model. But in style and detailing, for the dashboard seems to belong more to a luxury car than a driver’s delight. The 911 seems to have picked up a lot of cues from the Panamera and Cayenne: a multitude of buttons when just a few would do, and an excess of shiny silver trim.

SHOULD I BUY ONE?

You’re either a 911 person or you’re not, to be honest. Assuming you are, is the 4S the one to go for? It does a wonderful job of preserving the unique handling characteristics of the 911 by operating in rear-drive most of the time; torque only goes to the front when required. Given the enormous grip of the car and arsenal of driver aids, the C4S really only goes into full all-wheel drive at warp speed or on very low-traction surfaces.

Four-wheel drive certainly makes the 911 an even more practical machine in all weathers. It does take away a little of the 911’s edge when you’re really enjoying the car, but in terms of active safety and sheer usability, that’s probably a compromise worth making.

Porsche 911: always a pleasure.


EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Air conditioning: Dual climate

Audio: CD, iPod compatible

Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Cruise control: Yes

Parking radar: Yes with camera

Remote audio controls: Yes

Satellite navigation: Yes

Seat height adjustment: Yes

Split/folding rear seats: 50/50

Steering reach adjustment: Yes


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