A FOUR-WHEEL-DRIVE Porsche? That would be the big, plug-ugly and somehow enraging Cayenne SUV, right? Well, yes, sometimes it would be — but not always. And not in this case, where a four-wheel-drive Porsche would be the newly built 911 Carrera 4S coupé, which is small and definitely not plug-ugly but may still be somehow enraging.
Before we get to that, however, can I deal with the colour of my test model? Racing Yellow is the description in the catalogue, though “racing” doesn’t really describe it. Nor does “banana”. This was a veritable beacon in the daytime, visible from 30,000ft.
The sight of a Porsche does not cause your fellow road user to lift up his heart and sing at the best of times. My fear was that the sight of a banana-yellow one might be an incitement to violence.
Certainly my children reacted strongly. They were keen to be driven to school in it (hey, it’s a Porsche). They were ready to endure the indignities involved in scrambling into its restricted rear seats (hey, it’s a Porsche). Yet they were also keen to be dropped two streets from the gates (hey, it’s a banana-yellow Porsche).
I could only sympathise and oblige. And then I could only drive home, wincing with self-consciousness and hoping that somebody would eventually let me out at a junction.
What a car, though. Porsche, in its quest for automotive perfection, does evolution at an incremental pace that can often make life’s emergence from the oceans seem hurried. In this respect, it’s a pleasure to report that this member of the 911 species comes with new, marginally improved door handles.
“It’s well known that, when you’re driving above a certain speed, the contempt of non-Porsche drivers becomes intangible and irrelevant”
It’s more substantially altered than that, of course. You shall know a four-wheel-drive 911 by its slightly fatter wheelarches and the rather fetching strip light across its back end. This one has active front air ducts that open according to how fast you go, and the redesigned air vents in the boot cool the steaming brow of your engine more efficiently.
It also gets a whole new engine. Where once sat a 3.8-litre naturally aspirated flat six now lies a twin-turbocharged 3-litre unit, bringing an increase in power and efficiency. The good news is you should be able to get 30mpg out of your 4S, as long as you drive it modestly. The bad news is you probably won’t feel the urge to.
You’ll want to hear the climbing whine of the engine, feel the gratifyingly tight, twitch-sensitive steering response and then come to a quick halt courtesy of the deliciously squeezable brakes. What’s more, it’s well known that, when you’re driving above a certain speed, the contempt of non-Porsche drivers becomes intangible and irrelevant.
Meanwhile I would like to offer thanks for the adaptive dampers, a boon around my way, where strips of flat road occasionally occur between long stretches of speed bump. The 4S wriggled across these obstacles with unusual ease for a car of its sporty frame.
What you get, then, is the power of a modern 911 with enough structural and electronic help to keep it more or less clamped to the road. Purists will sniff at the slightly microwaved four-wheel-drive 911 experience, but some of us are lazy and many of us aren’t racing drivers.
The way I look at it, the four-wheel-drive setup is to driving what auto-correct is to texting — except better, because auto-correct often makes irritating interventions, whereas the four-wheel drive only ever stops you hanging by your seatbelt in a hedge.
For this and much else, gratitude is due, although I think I’ll have a dark grey one, if that’s all right with everybody.