What is it?
Porsche’s 911, freshly provided with four driven wheels for UK buyers. But does it need ’em? It’s a question that’s been lingering ever since the ‘964’ was introduced in 1989, and – annoyingly – as the generations come and go, it only seems to get harder to answer.
Unlike Zuffenhausen’s first all-paw models, the new Carrera 4 and 4S ‘991s’ come with very few associated bugbears. The latest four-corner drivetrain, together with the wider body and fatter rear wheels that are standard on the 4 and 4S, impose a kerb weight penalty of just 50kg on the car; that’s half what it used to be.
In the case of our Carrera 4 manual test car, standing start acceleration suffers by just a tenth of a second, and top speed by just two miles per hour relative to the equivalent Carrera – according to the official claims. Carbon dioxoide emissions are higher, but not by enough to lift the Carrera 4 into £460-a-year ‘Band L’ tax disc territory. So the only cost owners really need to concern themselves with is the £6500 price premium.
What is it like?
Assured. The truth is, if your new 911 is going to be used most days, all year round, you should probably pay that premium.
Those who carp on about rear-driven 911s lacking for little on traction are right to do so. In the dry, 99 per cent of the time, you won’t even know that the front wheels of your Carrera 4 are being called into service for anything other than steering. In more slippery conditions, though, they begin to earn their money.
The grip levels of an ordinary 911 are quite high, but in the wet and at high speeds, you can just about approach them on the road. In those conditions, you can make the rear-driven car wake up and remind you where its engine is, by trailing the brakes into a fast bend or lifting the throttle around an off-camber roundabout, and edging the car into the beginnings of oversteer. For some, that adjustability is all part and parcel of the 911’s dynamic character.
In the Carrera 4, the impression of surefootedness is that bit greater: the car rarely runs out of purchase at either axle unless it’s deliberately provoked. On top of that, the new Porsche Traction Management system works particularly well to mitigate the 911’s idiosyncratic liking for power-on understeer at relatively low speeds, but never seems to corrupt the steering. The system just makes the car a little bit easier to drive when the weather is bad.
Should I buy one?
If your car is for general, everyday use, yes. For what it’s worth, though, if you’re going to save your 911 for summer trackdays and occasional holiday amusement, you’ll be better off sticking with rear-wheel drive and spending the £6.5k on optional kit.
Because even with in this latest case, a set of ceramic brakes, PASM active dampers and Porsche’s Torque Vectoring System Plus would be a better way to prepare your car for the kind of life that many would imagine for it than four-wheel drive, and would ultimately deliver a purer and more involving drive.
Porsche 911 Carrera 4
Price: £77,924; 0-62mph: 4.9sec; Top speed: 177mph; Economy: 30.4mpg; Co2: 219g/km; Kerbweight: 1430kg; Engine type, cc: 6 cyls horizontally opposed, 3436cc, petrol; Power: 345bhp at 7400rpm; Torque: 288lb ft at 5600rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd manual