The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder
Only for those who love wide arches or snowy holidays
Pros
Magical sense of grip in all conditions
Astonishing pull from low revs
Nice sense of rear bias
Cons
No revolution on the inside or outside
Not as much fun as the cheaper Carrera S
Manual 'box is less efficient

First Drive review: 2016 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and 4S

Plenty of traction . . . why am I not gripped?

More Info

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 review

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 at a glance

  • Handling: ★★★★★
  • Comfort: ★★★★☆
  • Performance: ★★★★☆
  • Design: ★★★★☆
  • Interior: ★★★★☆
  • Practicality: ★★★☆☆
  • Costs: ★★★☆☆

COME TO South Africa, they said. Lots of sunshine, a fantastic racetrack and a pack of Porsches to play with, they said. As we watch a small tree float across a road junction during a biblical deluge just south of Johannesburg, it’s worth noting that two out of three ain’t bad.


View the used Porsche 911s for sale on driving.co.uk


Still, the reason we’re here is to test the new range of all-wheel drive 911 variants, so a slosh of monsoon isn’t actually a problem, except when it starts washing chunks of forest into the carriageway.

Luckily, we were at the racetrack in the morning when the weather didn’t require scuba-diving equipment, so we managed to get a pretty good handle on this range of four-wheel drives.

According to Porsche, one in three 911 buyers opt for a four-wheel-drive transmission, so the Carrera 4 and 4S are cars that the company definitely need to get right, or at least not mess up and put existing customers off an upgrade. Equipped with the next-generation 3-litre biturbo flat-six engine, this time you get more power and mpg, coupled with what promises to be a more effective four-wheel drive system.

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 review

The bare figures are impressive: the standard Carrera 4 produces 370bhp, manages 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and reaches 181mph, but is still rated on the official economy test at a respectable 32.4mpg.

That’s with the seven-speed manual gearbox. If you opt for the cleverer-than-you Porsche dual-clutch PDK automatic, those figures switch around a little and you’ll hit 62mph in 4.3 seconds, top out at 180mph but squeeze 36.6mpg from the same engine and power output. The PDK also spews out fewer carbon dioxides, apparently — enough for private buyers to save nearly £300 in tax in the first year.

The Carrera 4S gets a bigger compressor for the turbos, a different exhaust and tweaks to the engine management to release 420bhp. Its stats: 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, 190mph and 31.7mpg, or for the PDK version, 4.0 seconds, 188mph and 35.7mpg.

There are also the new-generation four-wheel-drive versions of both the convertible 911 and Targa, in both standard and S, so you can pretty much have anything you like driving all four wheels. And yes, the Porsche 911 range does get viciously complicated once you start digging around in PDK vs manual, and whether the car has the Sport Chrono Package fitted, all of which affect performance significantly.

The Carrera 4 will pull cleanly from 700rpm in sixth gear, which is a strange experience

On the outside, the new cars get all the visual changes common to the new 911 range, with “four-point” headlights and rear lamps, vertical slats on the engine compartment lid and a few other changes, with the rear arches widened by 44mm to house a wider rear track.

There’s also a rather neat illuminated lightbar that stretches between the two rear lights that gives the Carrera 4 a definite visual signature and accentuates the rear width. It also looks cracking at night. So not a huge amount of visual change, but enough to matter.

Inside, there’s a new steering wheel copied from the 918 Spyder hyper-hybrid, including a knob that allows you to scroll through Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual modes without having to prod multiple buttons on the centre console — though you only get it if you option that Sport Chrono Package (told you this was complicated) — and some new multimedia gear. Nothing revolutionary.

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera interior

The one standout feature is a new button that reads “Sport Response”; if optioned with that PDK ‘box, this preps the car for the best acceleration possible for 20 seconds, optimising gear selection and turbo pressure, throttle response and set up. Great for decisive overtaking without having to wonder about which mode to choose.

It’s the little hardware changes that really make you wince at the lengths Porsche will go to to wring the last bit of efficiency from the package, though. There are new gear ratios for the 7-speed manual, along with a twin-disc clutch that allows for a comfy action even given the hefty forces it needs to control.

There’s even a “centrifugal pendulum” incorporated into the flywheel that dampens out the vibrations you get when trying to pull a certain gear at too low a rev-range, so that the 911 can actually drive below the accepted rev limit and keep mpg up. Really. And it works: the Carrera 4 will pull cleanly from 700rpm in sixth gear, which is a strange experience.

Fun? Sort of. But these things aren’t really track cars and don’t feel at home on a circuit

The electro-hydraulically-controlled “Porsche Traction Management” all-wheel drive allows for even more millimetrically precise metering of torque and traction between the front and rear axles, and the system is nicked entirely from the range-topping Turbo, so it’s probably able to cope.

Combine that with a 10mm drop in ride height for the re-tuned PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) chassis and the new optional rear-wheel steer system, and you get a car that stays flat, stable and solid no matter what the conditions, and one that feels rear-biased most of the time.

The rear-wheel steer really is worth it in this case: at speeds above 80km/h the rear wheels turn marginally in the same direction as the fronts, aiding high-speed stability, and below 50km/h turn in the opposite direction, helping with agility. It actually lops nearly half a metre off the turning circle, and if you go charging around the newly refurbished Kyalami Grand Prix circuit far too quickly it keeps everything feeling far more secure than you imagine.

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S review

It’s not the perfect 911 though. Hammer around the track and both models will still generously understeer, and you can’t manage things as easily from the throttle as you can with a basic Carrera 2. Back off a bit, smooth things out and the Carrera 4 becomes safe and rapid, and unlikely to see you embedded in a wall.

Fun? Sort of. But these things aren’t really track cars and don’t feel at home on a circuit— much better to experience them on the road, where being neat and tidy resolves the Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S into all-weather sports cars of the highest order. The four-wheel drive is all but undetectable until you really need it, and seems to magically find grip where you think there might be none.

And yet… unless you’ve got a need for wide arches or live somewhere with regular extreme weather, this probably isn’t the 911 to buy. With modern traction control systems and the right tyres, a 911 Carrera S would cope with 90-percent of the environments, be a bit more fun to drive and is cheaper.

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 PDK specifications
  • PRICE: £83,786
  • ENGINE: 2,981cc, bi-turbo flat six
  • POWER: 370bhp @ 6,500rpm
  • TORQUE: 332 Ib ft @ 1,700-5,000rpm
  • TRANSMISSION: 7-speed PDK (auto), front-wheel drive
  • ACCELERATION: 0-62mph: 4.3sec
  • TOP SPEED: 180mph
  • FUEL: 36.7mpg (combined)
  • CO2: 177g/km
  • ROAD TAX BAND: I (£350 for first year, £225 thereafter)
  • RELEASE DATE: On sale now
2016 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK specifications
  • PRICE: £93,231
  • ENGINE: 2,981cc, bi-turbo flat six
  • POWER: 420bhp @6,500rpm
  • TORQUE: 369 Ib ft @ 1,700-5,000rpm
  • TRANSMISSION: 7-speed PDK (auto), front-wheel drive
  • ACCELERATION: 0-62mph: 4.0sec (3.8sec Sport Plus)
  • TOP SPEED: 188mph
  • FUEL: 35.8mpg (combined)
  • CO2: 180g/km
  • ROAD TAX BAND:  I (£350 for first year, £225 thereafter)
  • RELEASE DATE: On sale now

 

Porsche 911 Carrera 4 rivals

Audi TTS (view cars for sale)

  • For Great interior; latest model has better handling characteristics than ever; price
  • Against Less powerful; less edge

BMW i8 (view cars for sale)

  • For As futuristic as they get; plug-in economy and tax benefits
  • Against Not as satisfying to drive quickly; six figure price

 


Browse NEW or USED cars for sale on driving.co.uk