What is it?
The ultimate all-season sports car, the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet. As you’d expect, one of the most telling exterior giveaways is its broader rump, which has grown by 22mm at each wheelarch (over the standard two-wheel-drive 911) to accommodate the wider rear track, yet only 50kg of weight has been added as a result of the four-wheel drive system.
Both coupé and cabriolet versions have been launched together, and engines remain unchanged. Which means a 345bhp 3.4-litre flat-six in the Carrera 4, and a 394bhp 3.8-litre in the 4S tested here. The seven-speed manual is standard across the range, but here our test car comes with the dual-clutch, seven-speed PDK, plus the optional Sport Chrono pack — which brings launch control and faster shifts, reducing 0-62mph time from 4.5 to 4.3sec.
Adaptive dampers are standard in the C4S and come with a 10mm dropped ride height, and we’re also testing the optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control – an active anti-roll system – which drops the suspension by a further 10mm.
The active four-wheel drive system is as advanced as you’d expect. Essentially an updated version of the system fitted to the 997 911 Turbo, it’s able to divert up to 100 per cent of the power to either axle in just 100 milliseconds to maximise traction. The higher-powered 4S also gets the torque vectoring system (an option on the standard Carrera 4), which allows power to be shuffled between either rear wheel, as well as either axle. Cars fitted with PDK get an electronic locking diff, whilst manual cars get a mechanical one, and both will brake an inside wheel to improve cornering ability.
What is it like?
The 4S is entirely rear-driven until it senses hard acceleration or cornering, which means that in most situations it feels almost identical to the two-wheel-drive car. A trait that should be taken as a serious compliment. But start to ask the 4S for serious urgency and you begin to feel the true benefits of this system; the confidence-inspiring handling that makes it the bigger seller in the 911 range globally.
If provoked it will oversteer and deliver some real entertaining, absorbing handling. But in all but the most focussed driving, it remains firmly planted and will understeer before threatening any loss of traction at the rear. This is what makes this car appeal. It delivers 95 per cent of the two-wheel-drive car’s dynamism whilst dialling down the risk element of a high-powered, rear-driven sports car. It’s simply a more forgiving drive, and many 911 owners will appreciate that.
There is a small price to pay. Particularly in this Cabriolet version, handling is a touch dulled if you really ask for everything, with the added weight (the soft-top adds 70kg over the coupé) and wider track dialling down the light-footed responses that you’ll find in the Carrera 2. It’s a subtle change in character, and its advantages in terms of the sense of security it offers will certainly outweigh any mild degradation in dynamism.
Ride is very decent in its standard setting. It’s a remarkably planted and unflustered thing on the vast majority of surfaces and almost regardless of speed and cornering force, suffering only the odd jitter over rough tarmac. In sport it's predictably firmer and more inclined to jar a little over normal surfaces, but it does bring sharper body control - a worthwhile standard element of the more purposeful 911 S package – and it’s certainly not a deal breaker.
Ultimately, whilst the C4S encourages a slightly heavier handed approach if you want to get everything out of it, it doesn't disappoint, delivering ample driver reward, while also offering the unflustered predictability and reassurance that an all-wheel-drive 911 should.
Should I buy one?
Yes. If you want the fun, usability and desirability of a 911, without the inherent edginess it brings in two-wheel-drive guise, the Carrera 4S is entirely for you.
And while the near-£100k list price that this model commands is somewhat breathtaking (it’s the most expensive 911 currently, with four-wheel drive costing £7k and the soft-top a further £8500), it is competitively priced against its key rivals.
As a purist’s choice, we’d still opt for the cheaper, lighter and slightly more thrilling manual C2S coupé. But the all-wheel-drive 911 offers precisely the blend of entertainment and reassurance that many will want of a high-end sports car that will also be a daily driver. It’s the best all-wheel-drive 911 yet.
Porsche 911 C4S Cabriolet
Price £96,619 Top speed 183mph;
; CO2 217g/km;
Kerb weight 1535kg
; Engine Flat six, 3800cc, petrol
; Power 394bhp at 7400rpm
; Torque 325lb ft at 5600rpm;
Gearbox 7-spd double-clutch auto