Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

A sensible Porsche 911? Something doesn't sound quite right here…

Price: £87,959
Engine: 3,800cc, flat-six cylinders, 24 valves, 400bhp
Transmission: Seven-speed gearbox, four-wheel drive
Performance: 189mph, 0-62 in 4.5sec, 29.7mpg, CO2 224g/km

A four-wheel-drive 911? It might sound strange, but there can be more to a four-wheel system than just the ability to haul a vehicle over tricky terrain.

Nor is an all-wheel-drive Porsche 911 anything new. The first 911 Carrera 4 arrived in 1989, its drive system inspired by that of the turbocharged Porsche 959 supercar that could reach around 200mph. Now, as then, the idea is to share the power as well as the grip between all the wheels as required, which can be useful when – as here – that power amounts to a hefty 400bhp.

Sounds sensible, and arguably attractive for the extra £6,700 if snow and slipperiness are often to be found under your 911's wheels. But that "sensible" word brings up a conflict when 911s are involved. That's not just because they are fast, expensive and sometimes evoke hostile thoughts in other road users. It's because a 911 remains the only car left with a rear-mounted engine, a design which physics says is innately unstable.

The whole 911 story since the first example appeared in 1963 has been about making the design work and the challenges it has posed to the driver. Here lies much of a 911's attraction, as you pit your skill against the treacherous auto-beast, and feel the thrill as its tuneful flat-six engine sings its song.

In essence, the thrill hasn't changed much over the years, but two facets of this latest example undermine that foundation. The first is that a year ago, Porsche thoroughly revamped the 911 for only the third time, making it larger yet lighter, more comfortable and quieter. One change was to include electric power-steering because it uses less energy than an older hydraulic system, but in doing so Porsche deprived the 911 of some of its unique tactility.

The second is the four-wheel drive, suggesting that this option – newly available on the third-generation 911 – is aimed at drivers concerned more with image than thrills. This Carrera 4S may be a brilliant car, but is it a brilliant 911?

The S part, by the way, denotes that 3.8-litre, 400bhp engine; a Carrera 4, cheaper by £10,000, makes do with 3.4 litres and 350bhp, which are probably fine for most purposes.

Anyway, back to the 4S, and such is the mighty pulling power of its engine that you use the long-legged seventh gear entirely naturally, which helps keep the economy at a level able to place the C4S just under the max-tax band. Sport and Sport Plus buttons firm up the ride and sharpen the engine's responses; these modes also make the exhaust noisier but you can switch that toy off separately. This car sounds delicious even in "quiet" mode.

And the four-wheel-drive part? Mostly this 911 feels, and is, pushed along predominantly by the rear wheels, but myriad sensors tell the systems to divert torque towards the front wheels when the rears are feeling overwhelmed. That is on top of the other traction-control systems, and a dashboard display can tell the driver what is happening. You can feel it working as the 911 scythes through a wet roundabout, generating grip extraordinary for the conditions.

It is a supremely capable, confident, comfortable grand tourer which is extremely easy to drive quickly, very quickly, should the chance arise. It's your best friend on a wet, windy night. It's brilliant. But does it take away from the 911's essence? For me, it does; it feels too "normal". My favourite 911s will always be propelled by the rear wheels alone.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine