As is the way with the launch of any new Porsche 911, first comes the ‘purists’ rear-wheel drive car, followed by the four-wheel drive 911 Carrera 4, bringing with it even more traction and stability in challenging weather.
Sending power to the front as well as the rear means you can better harness the power on offer, and in the new 4S model we tested, there’s 414bhp and 500Nm of torque, so four-wheel drive is certainly welcome.
In fact, for the first time with any four-wheel drive 911, it’s actually faster than its two-wheel drive counterpart. It might be slightly heavier, but with the same four-wheel drive system as the 911 Turbo S range topper – which delivers power to the wheels that need it most with even more accuracy – the Carrera 4S manual sprints from 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds.
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In normal driving the 4S has the same delicate balance as any rear-drive 911, but push the pace and you can feel the four-wheel drive system come into play. You can adjust your line going into a corner on the brakes, but plant the throttle on the way out and you can sense all four wheels hooking up, clawing away at the tarmac to deliver maximum forward thrust.
It’s hugely effective, and with an even wider track to match the four-wheel drive model’s extra 44mm body width over the standard Carrera, the 20-inch wheels and tyres cling on strongly.
Apart from the addition of the all-wheel drive system, the engine, gearbox and chassis are carried over from the Carrera, so in the 4S the same massive spread of torque to lug you out of corners means, on the road, acceleration in the mid-range is incredible.
But the new 3.0-litre turbo engine’s lower rev limit also means it’s not quite as spine tingling to fully extend. The optional £1,773 Sports exhaust unleashes a deeper, raspier sound, while the extra flexibility the turbos add day-to-day is a worthwhile trade-off.
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The Carrera 4 sits 10mm lower than its predecessor, and our car was also fitted with the optional Sports Chassis that drops the ride height by another 10mm. Together with Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control that helps to reduce roll in bends, it feels stiff and stable.
Adaptive dampers are now standard on all 911s, so you can switch between Normal and Sport for extra comfort or extra focus; in the default setting the body movement is well controlled, with supportive damping and a settled ride. This isn’t a luxury GT, though – the 911 is still a sports car, so it feels firm, but switch into Sport mode and an extra level of focus runs through the chassis.
The firmer dampers make it feel more alert, and with the £1,530 rear axle steering option (only available on S models) borrowed from the Turbo and GT3, the 911 responds to steering inputs with real urgency.
It’s not overflowing with feedback, but the messages relayed to the driver through the narrower 360mm GT steering wheel here are just enough to know exactly what’s going on at both ends of the car, striking a nice balance between feel and everyday refinement.
However, the seven-speed manual gearbox is a joy and adds that extra layer of involvement the 911 has always been famous for. The shift action is mechanically slick, making it easy to snick up and down the gearbox – and in either Sport or Sport Plus modes of our Sport Chrono equipped car it even gives a throttle blip on the way down to smooth out gear changes.
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Over the years the 911’s styling has evolved gently, with the rear-engined layout dictating the flowing coupe shape and Porsche’s traditional low nose. The design hasn’t altered that much, but just like the Carrera, there are new front and rear bumpers, with two central tailpipes if you go for the Sports exhaust.
The engine cover is now different, with vertical louvers to help channel more air towards those turbos, while other touches like the smoothed door handles and 3D rear lights help keep the 911 looking modern.
Unique to the four-wheel drive models is a new light bar that connects the taillights, but apart form this and the badging at the back, there’s not much to differentiate it from a standard Carrera.
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Inside you’ll find the same supportive seats and two smaller seats for children in the back – the 911’s USP – as well as Porsche’s latest seven-inch touchscreen that you can pinch and swipe, just like an iPhone. And if you’ve got one of those you’ll be able to make the most of Apple CarPlay and Porsche’s new mobile phone app that lets you check features like the fuel level of your car.
The 4S combines the subtle styling and technology changes with all-wheel drive to increase its appeal – but, like in the Carrera S, it’s the new turbo engine that’s the most noticeable difference.
Sending power to all four corners, this new 911 variant delivers its performance in a slightly different way again. But importantly, it serves it up in such a way that you’ll crave that hit one more time.