What is it?
We’ve already covered a lot of bases with the new turbocharged Porsche 911 range, but this is our first go in the four-wheel drive, automatic Carrera 4S on UK roads.
This upper mid-range model is one of the most popular, offering the extra all-weather peace of mind of four-wheel drive, and the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK auto gearbox for lazy traffic progress, plus the added titillation of the more potent, 414bhp S engine.
What’s it like?
Rabidly fast, in a virtually effortless way. The new engine – now with two turbochargers strapped to the flat-six, of course – pulls with fairly breathtaking voracity all the way from around 2000rpm up towards a lofty redline. There is a touch of lag and a kink in power delivery as the turbos start to stoke the engine properly, but this elastic-feeling engine still pulls cleanly and without feeling choked at very low revs, just as it will rip through the rev range to the peaky 7500rpm redline.
The gearbox does much of the work for you, with shifts barely encroaching on your consciousness in normal driving. Our car came with Sport Chrono (£1416), which brings varying driving modes, and if you stick it in Sport or Sport+ the gearbox quick-fires up and down the ratios, picking the right one at the right moment. We still reckon the paddles are more satisfying; ultimately, having the control yourself is just more involving if you fancy getting all white-eyed and sweaty-palmed.
In fact, if full control is your kind of thing, the manual may be more enjoyable at those critical moments. However, for most 911 users who also want a fairly easygoing daily ride, the PDK automatic is hard to fault.
Adaptive dampers are now standard on the 911 C4S, and they do a fine job, even when mated to the 20mm lowered Sports PASM suspension of our car (£558). Predictably, vertical damper movement is quite firm, so you get the full sportscar-effect, involuntary diaphragm-squeezing experience over fast compressions, and it bobs about quite a bit – particularly in the firmer setting – over undulating surfaces.
For all that, there is a supreme control to the ride quality of most 911 models that means they avoid ever feeling uncomfortable. Firm, yes, but the bump absorption is soft enough, the tyre contact resolutely unaffected by the road surface and the body control impeccably well mannered.
Our car also came with £1530 rear-wheel steering, but we’d say it’s not worth the extra cost. It’s one of the best rear steering systems out there, not intrusive or unpredictable at all, and having had the opportunity to drive cars with and without it back-to-back, you can feel the effect in the more aggressive turn-in. However, complete with the active four-wheel drive, as well as the inherent poise and towering mechanical grip levels of the 911, handling purity and precision is not something that’s lacking if you don’t have the rear-wheel steering.
Still, the 911 C4S has a sort of computer game feel to it that plenty of drivers will find quite intoxicating. Everything happens with such slick precision, at such speed and with such ease. That, in itself, is a full-on thrill, even if we’d be the first to admit that it feels a few notches away from the organic, driver-dependent experience that some may want of a 911.
Even with that in mind, having the joyously feelsome brakes and control weights of any 911 goes a long way to ensuring that you still feel entirely connected to what’s going on.
Should I buy one?
Buying a 911 these days is like buying a bespoke Savile Row suit. You can have it any way you want it, but the critical point is that you’ve gone to a world-class tailor, so even if you choose to have it flared and covered in sequins, it’s still going to be impeccably made and fitted.
In essence, the Porsche 911 C4S PDK is not the purist’s choice. For that, look to the GT cars, obviously, or in the Carrera spread then the manual 2 or 2S is a doozy. However, there are plenty of enthusiasts out there who love driving, who’ll find this spec precisely to their taste. It’s still an outstanding sports car and not diminished by offering something different to the purer experience.
The four-wheel drive system is playful rather than nannying, the engine is endlessly flexible and stupidly fast, and that uniquely 911-feeling precise, polished handling still delights even in mundane use. So if this flavour of 911 makes sense for you, then you should absolutely buy one. Sure, an all-wheel drive Jaguar F-Type is more sonorous and dramatic, if not as pristinely finished, and a Bentley Conti GT has a slicker ride for proper grand touring, but the 911 is still the most rounded of its elite class. It’s brimming with shock and awe despite its remarkable everyday, all-weather usability, and you’ll love every second with it.
Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK
Location Silverstone; On sale now; Price £93,231; Engine 6cyls horizontally opposed, 2981cc, twin-turbocharged petrol; Power 414bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 369lb ft at 1700-5000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd twin-clutch automatic; Kerbweight 1565kg; 0-62mph 3.8sec; Top speed 188mph; Economy 35.8mpg; CO2/tax band 180g/km, 33%
What is it?