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Porsche 911 review (991) Carrera 4 and 4S (2012 onwards)
Summary: Porsche has added an all-wheel-drive option to its latest 911. To diehard fans, anything other than rear-wheel drive is not an option. But for the rest of us, the Carrera 4 and 4S are every bit as good as their 'right-wheel drive' cousins.
We like: pace, space and er...grace, clever all-wheel-drive system, PDK transmission, efficiency
We don't like: lack of torque, can a 911 feel too refined?
Less than a year after the launch of the new 911, Porsche has now added an all-wheel-drive option in the form of the Carrera 4 and the 4S. Over two-thirds of the previous generation 997 models were all-wheel drive, suggesting that the 4 and 4S are destined to become a popular choice in the UK.
Visually, the all-wheel-drive models are set apart by wider rear wheel arches, which extend 22mm outwards and house rear tyres that are 10mm wider. The looks set the scene for further high-performance models to be launched in the future.
The overall effect is that the Carrera 4 looks stunning. The Guards Red 911 cut a fine figure carving through the autumnal roads of rural Austria. Add the aural delight of a flat-six engine reverberating around the valleys and you have something that resembles Porsche heaven.
In fact, the all-wheel-drive models demonstrate just how accomplished the '991' series of the 911 is. While it's easy to bemoan the new, almost Grand Tourer levels of refinement, the 911 remains the benchmark for those seeking a sports car in the sub £100k category.
The Carrera 4 comes with the entry-level 3.4-litre flat-six engine, developing 350hp. In seven-speed manual form it will accelerate to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds before reaching a top speed of 177mph. The optional seven-speed PDK transmission is a fraction quicker and also offers far greater efficiency.
The higher spec Carrera 4S is lavished with the 3.8-litre engine that adds a further 50hp over the Carrera 4. The 0-62mph time is lowered to 4.5 seconds in manual form, or 4.3 seconds with the PDK transmission.
Increased confidence every passing mile
Add the optional Sport Chrono package and the acceleration times are improved further, with a Launch Control setting available on PDK-equipped models.
We tested the Carrera 4 with PDK transmission on some very tight and often slippery Austrian mountain roads. The addition of all-wheel drive means that cross country pace is taken to another level, with the car inspiring increased confidence with every passing mile.
The only criticism would be that the 911's sweet spot is found high up in the rev range, making rapid and sustained progress quite an effort. But taking everything else into consideration, it's a minor point. The Carrera 4 is astonishingly quick.
Ride and handling
Perhaps the biggest compliment we can pay the all-wheel-drive 911 is that for 99% of the time, it feels just like its rear-wheel drive cousin. The Porsche Traction Management (PTM) has been carried over from the previous generation 997, with minor tweaks made to improve efficiency and economy.
In most circumstances, the power is directed to the rear wheels. But when the system detects that more grip is required, power is redirected to the front axle to keep things in line. The system reacts within 100 milliseconds, with an indicator on the dashboard showing where the power is directed at any given time.
Not that you'll be spending too much time studying the readout. Instead, you'll be revelling in the Carrera 4's delightful poise and stability. The electro-mechanical steering is surprisingly natural in feel and provides a huge amount of reassurance when covering ground quickly.
It's still possible to induce oversteer
Purists will be delighted to learn that it's still possible to induce some oversteer, but for everyday driving appeal, the PTM system is near faultless. It's quite easy to see why the all-wheel-drive 911 is such a popular choice.
Ride quality is also very good, with the latest 911 able to morph seamlessly from comfortable A-road cruiser to brutal B-road weapon. Switch from Normal to Sport mode and the ride firms up and the 911 feels a little jittery over rough surfaces, but it's the setting of choice for enthusiastic drivers. Sport Plus mode would be best described as antisocial and is best reserved for the track.
The first thing that strikes you about the new 911's interior is the increased feeling of space. It has lost some of its intimacy, which is either a good or a bad thing, probably depending on who you're travelling with.
As with all 911s, there's an overall feeling that the interior has been designed around the driver. The ergonomics are superb, and the steering wheel and driver's seat are adjustable to such a degree that everyone will be able to find their perfect driving position.
Front seat passengers will also revel in the interior quality and there will be no complaints from rear seat occupants, who'll benefit from the increased rear leg room. In truth though, the rear headroom dictates that travelling in the back is best reserved for children and Ronnie Corbett.
Economy and safety
It almost feels like heresy to talk about economy when reviewing a Porsche 911, but that's the way of the world these days. In fact, in the press conference, Porsche even coined the phrase "sprinting and saving".
Making the new all-wheel-drive 911 65kg lighter plays a part, as does the addition of the start/stop. In truth, the start/stop feels totally out of place in a 911, especially after spending an hour putting it through its paces on a mountain road, but it does help the Carrera 4 with PDK achieve a CO2 figure of 205 g/km and a combined MPG of 33.
Porsche has also introduced Adaptive Cruise Control which, when ordered with the PDK transmission, adds Porsche Active Safety, helping to prevent front-end collisions. Porsche has never worked so hard to make you feel safe behind the wheel of your 911.
As you'd expect, the brakes are superb and there are enough airbags around you to keep you safe should the all-wheel-drive system fail to keep you out of trouble.
MSN Cars verdict
The Carrera 4's all-weather appeal cannot be underestimated. Throw into the mix the option of the Cabriolet version and you have a car for every season that offers levels of driver appeal on a par with those from the rear-wheel-drive models.
Our only reservation would be that the Carrera 4 almost feels too perfect. Porsche has worked hard to iron out all the idiosyncrasies that make the 911 what it is. In doing so, they've created a masterpiece. A car almost entirely free of flaws.
It's a highly commendable approach. But somehow, the flawless 911 has lost some of its character. It's a car you'll respect and admire, but you may find difficult to love. Try it for yourself.
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