I understand if you can’t tell the difference but trust me when I say that this is the all-wheel drive Porsche 911 Carrera launched sometime back in August. That’s right, this isn’t the rear-wheel drive car – it is the one that runs with all paws on the ground.
Unconvinced? When I first set eyes on it in Austria, where the media drive was held, I thought the same. The most obvious visual cue is the tail light ribbon that runs east to west, bridging the gap between the skinny tail lights. And if your eyes are acute enough, you’ll also note that the all-wheel drive 911 adds 22 mm to the wheel arches and 10 mm to the tyres. Which effectively increases the rear track width of the Carrera 4 by 42 mm and 36 mm on the Carrera 4S.
The bodywork has also been reworked albeit ever so slightly. From the side, it’s the black recessed sill panels that make the difference. The nose, especially in the air intakes, now wears sleeker lateral screens.
Open the doors and you’ll find there isn’t much to differentiate between the RWD and the AWD models. It’s all the same – wrapped in skin and accentuated with metal, with plenty of options to customise your 911. Importantly, every car that rolls out of Zuffenhausen will smell of luxury.
The only major difference, and this one is mainly for the tech geeks, is the graphics that display in real-time where the Porsche Traction Management (PTM) is sending the torque to. By the way, PTM is Porsche’s way of saying four-wheel drive, much like how xDrive is to BMW and 4Matic is to Mercedes-Benz.
Another new gizmo, if you can call it that, is the optional Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Porsche Active Safe (PAS). In a nutshell, the 911 can now stop and start itself in traffic with the ACC. While the PAS uses the front radar to alert the driver of impending collisions with light and sound, and full braking if the driver’s reaction time is slower than a snail. This has to be part of Porsche’s customer retention programme.
Let’s get back to the PTM. Situation normal, the 911 sends 99 percent of torque to the rear axle and down to the back wheels, which makes the car drive like its two-wheel drive counterpart. Hit a patch of black ice, or an oily-wet road (which is more relevant to us), and the multi-plate clutch sends the twist into places where traction is needed the most.
And it accomplishes the transfer so smooth and quick that by the time you suck in your breath, and hope you don’t become part of the landscape, the car would have already done the math. The computer will graze the brakes on some wheels and pass the torque to the other wheels to keep the car honest to the electromechanical steering. In very extreme situations, the 911 becomes 100% front-wheel driven.
Safety aspects aside, the PTM also gives the 911 the ability to carry more speed into the bends. It lets you brake a little later and power out of the corner a little earlier. This also means that you can be braver and a little faster, especially when you throw the car around the narrow and twisting roads that connect one remote village to another. The nose does not twitch unlike the rear-wheel drive counterpart, which makes it easier to drive closer to the limits. Unexpected hints of understeer do creep up now and then, but only if you deliberately unsettle the car.
Don’t be fooled though. This is still a 911 and the engine is still at the back. So let this be a fair bit of warning: drive it like an overzealous monkey and you will exit the corner tail first and tucked between your legs in spite of the car’s best efforts. The ‘slow in, fast, out’ philosophy is still very much applicable – it is still a Porsche and must be treated as such.
Two engines are offered – you know them – the flat-six in 3.4 litre and 3.8 litre guises. The 3.4 litre gives out 350 hp and 390 Nm; the 3.8 litre has 400 hp and 440 Nm on tap. In both cases, the engine deletes the 50 kg weight penalty incurred by the all-wheel drive system.
Both engines can be paired with the seven-speed manual or the PDK. The PDK is, without a doubt, faster than the manual clocking in a 0-100 km/h time of 4.3 seconds. Although the seven-speeder is slower by 0.2 seconds and lacks the rapid-fire shifting that only a well-oiled machine can achieve. Yet, I’d go for the stick shifter; there’s an unexplainable fizzy-buzzy sensation every time I move through all seven forward ratios.
Perhaps, here’s another reason to go with the manual – double declutching. It piggybacks with the Sport Chrono Package (which shaves off 0.2 seconds more from the century sprint time) and not available with the PDK. Downshift and the engine blips and the exhaust brurp-brurps, and the acceleration seconds after is explosive. Did I also mention it makes you feel like a driving hero? Double declutching: it does great things to the ego.
You can have the Carrera 4 and 4S in coupe and cabriolet body styles. The cabrio has a soft top that, when closed, retains a shape similar to the coupe, which also lets the cabrio retain the coupe’s aerodynamic benefits. One more thing: having the top down is the best way to listen to the glorious noise the boxer makes.
It is speedy too, the roof, taking only 13 seconds to fold or unfold. And since it’s a soft top, which means you don’t need to stop and put it up, the roof is operable up to speeds of 50 km/h.
So, this new iteration of the 911 Carrera is easier to handle and safer to drive. However, as the PTM takes away some of the nervousness, it also takes away some of the brilliance that made the 911 Carrera great. A contradiction, I know, but take nothing away the fact that the Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and 4S remain great cars to drive.