Porsche 911 Carrera 4

Turbo tweaking continues with AWD variants

STEPHEN CORBY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

TO THE Porsche obsessed, it can feel like the things that made the 911 legendary are being stripped away, one at a time; perfect hydraulic steering, the manual gearbox, naturally aspirated engines, the flat-six’s unique metallic atmo howl.

Yet demand for the iconic sports car is so high that Porsche is talking about putting on a Saturday shift at the factory, so it appears buyers are willing to accept less tradition in exchange for more power, higher speeds and lower fuel numbers and emissions.

The new Carrera 4 is the first of the turbo-tweaked 911s I’ve had the chance to drive and my first impression is not good. The new door handle – now “without finger plates”, whatever that means – feels thin and lacking in Porsche heft. Let’s hope it’s just a gramsaving measure.

Everything else feels familiar, except the new touchscreen, which looks better and leaps to life when you so much as wave your finger towards it.

There’s no denying the new engines look impressive on paper, or stopwatch, with the downsized 3.0-litre now making 272kW and 450Nm in the basic all-paw model and 309kW and 500Nm in the 4S, which can now sprint to 100km/h in 3.8sec (an improvement of 0.3sec, while the Carrera 4 slices off 0.4sec for a 4.1 dash, both faster than the RWD versions).

All that performance comes with a claimed fuel economy figure of 7.9L/100km, which sounds like witchcraft.

The extra 60Nm (plus 15kW) both engines gain from turbocharging should cancel out the dreaded lag, and in our drive around the fearsome Kyalami circuit in Johannesburg, it certainly feels like it.

At full pelt, the Carrera 4 is a hugely capable track car – fast enough to scare you, particularly the 4S – with prodigious grip from its new electro-hydraulic traction management system.

On a track, at constantly invigorating revs, the turbo whistle is almost inaudible and the much-loved boxer bark still in evidence. Head out on the road, however, and there’s a lack of aural stimulation at leisurely speeds, with just the slightest hint of lag from low revs.

In a manual, or in the fun mode of PDK, this is cancelled out by grabbing a lower gear, which is never a chore, and there’s no suggestion that either the new Carrera 4 or 4S are slow. They’re just… different.

Would you still pay $233,900 for the 4 (or $269,000 for the 4S) if you could afford it? Absolutely.

But if you’ve got an old non-turbo version, you might want to hang on to it, because you can be sure Porsche purists are going to make them collector’s items.

PLUS & MINUS

Atmo noise will be missed; tiny amounts of lag; still too expensive Power; economy; styling; all-wheel grip; steering; speed; legendariness

Play partner

Bringing it into line with other brands like Hyundai, the new 911’s PCM 4 connectivity system allows owners to use Apple CarPlay, but Android phone users are out of luck.

Global research shows that some 80 percent of Porsche customers use Apple products, which is why they don’t feel the need to support Android Auto, despite the fact that other Volkswagen Group vehicles do.

Whether the Apple/Porsche synergy is an indicator of inherent stylishness or just an older buyer profile was not mentioned in the research.