Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

24 Oct, 2012 10:30am Tom Phillips

Our verdict on the four-wheel-drive Porsche 911 Carrera 4S coupe, ahead of its arrival in December


The new Porsche 911 isn’t quite the purist driving tool it once was, but in almost every other respect it’s a better car. A third of 911s sold are four-wheel drive. And given the remit of the latest 991-generation model to be more usable, practical and comfortable, as well as leaner, meaner yet greener than before; this latest Carrera 4S takes that mission and runs with it. Whatever the weather.

When it launched the latest 911, Porsche succeeded in making its evergreen supercar more usable, more refined and more comfortable than ever. And now the Carrera 4 has arrived, adding the security of the electronically controlled Porsche Traction Management four-wheel-drive system into the mix.

Carrera 4 and 4S models gets C-shaped strakes in the front air intakes, rather than solid ones which run across the whole air inlet on the Carrera 2.

But the major change is the wider bodyshell, with wheelarches that extend 22mm further on each side than those on the two-wheel-drive 911s. These house 20-inch wheels on the S model, which are wrapped with 10mm wider tyres than the equivalent Carrera 2. There’s also a red light strip that joins the tail-lights together, which is a tradition that dates back to Porsche’s four-wheel-drive 959 supercar of 1985.

It’s certainly an evolution of a famously evolutionary design, but the new 911 is a triumph of details, like the organic curves of the wheelarches, crisp shutlines and high-tech lights, which combine to give the car a solid, robust, appearance, but without making it look too big or too heavy.

Inside, it’s a similarly subtle story, with the only major change being the addition of a new dial that shows which axle is being fed power, and what percentage is being delivered, at any particular time.

And as soon as you set off, you can see why Porsche decided to fit that dial, such is the smoothness of the PTM four-wheel-drive system. There’s no fixed drive split, although the car is predominantly rear-wheel drive. But should it detect wheel slip or hard acceleration, the electro-hydraulic clutch in the centre of the car shifts as much power as is necessary to the front wheels. It works in just 100milliseconds and is genuinely imperceptible.

The 395bhp 3.8-litre flat-six and seven-speed PDK gearbox are carried over from the Carrera 2S, as is the suspension set up and a useful 65kg weight loss over the previous four-wheel-drive model.

The new electrically assisted steering might not quite offer the fingers-running-along-the-road-surface feedback of the old setup, but the wheel is light, smooth and direct.

The ride is firm even if you select the regular mode on the optional adaptive chassis control. It remains supple, though, ironing out bumps as impressively well on the motorway as it does on a gnarly, twisting back road. In the latter situation, the body control is superb, while the four-wheel drive gives extra traction over the undulating road surface, in particular keeping the nose tight into bends.

The brake pedal has a fairly long travel, so requires a decent shove to get the speed shed, but the pedal offers superb feel. Throttle response is excellent, particularly if you use the steering-wheel mounted flaps to change through the PDK’s seven gears manually. The engine sounds superb, too, and that was only enhanced by the £1,772 sports exhaust fitted to our car.

Visibility is really good, helping you place the 911 with ease. The new, wider rump takes a bit of getting used to, though, especially as the new wheelarches loom large in the door-mounted wing mirrors.

But is it different enough from the Carrera 2S, which is £6,717 cheaper than the 4S tested here?

Well, when you drive the four-wheel-drive car, there’s a feeling of extra security that you get, that the dial on the dash only serves to remind. Should your £90-grand investment hit a patch of ice, it’s nice to know that both you and the car are being looked after by the extra safety net of four-wheel drive.

What’s more, when you really start to explore the car’s limits, the extra traction makes for genuinely ballistic acceleration, particularly from a standing start. All told, the PTM system only enhances the new 911’s everyday supercar credentials.

Key specs

  • Price: £90,346
  • Engine: 3.8-litre flat-six
  • Transmission: Seven-speed PDK, four-wheel drive
  • Power: 395bhp
  • 0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 186mph
  • Economy: 31.0mpg
  • Emissions: 215g/km
  • Equipment: 20-inch alloys, leather interior, 4.6-inch colour touchscreen sat-nav, xenon headlights, MP3-compatible stereo
  • On sale: December 2012