2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Tested: A Good Way to Avoid YouTube Embarrassment

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Source: Car and Driver
Full Article: 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Tested: A Good Way to Avoid YouTube Embarrassment

All-wheel drive can cover for a lot of driver ineptitude. Carry too much speed into a corner, stand on the gas anyway, and you can squirt out the other side none the wiser. Do that in a rear-drive car and you’ll be hangin’ it out like Jason Bourne eluding the CIA yet again, or worse, stuffing it into a curb, as hundreds of Cars and Coffee wipeout videos on YouTube prove. Notice how almost every last one of those single-car crashes involves a rear-wheel-drive car, too much throttle, and a clueless pilot. This is no coincidence.

In most situations, the latest Porsche 911 all-wheel-drive models, the Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S (or C4S, the car tested here), operate as rear-drive vehicles. When Porsche Traction Management (PTM) detects or anticipates slippage, it engages a clutch, directing some of the available torque to the front axle. Porsche says that more torque than ever before can be directed forward in the seventh-generation 911 (all-wheel drive first appeared on the 1989 Type 964 after being used on the 959 supercar). We believe it. Mashing the throttle on corner exit rarely results in wheelspin. You have to really provoke this car into a drift. Don’t get us wrong, the C4S will go all Dukes of Hazzard on you if prodded, but its general demeanor is subdued.

Now add rear-axle steering, part of the $6290 Sport package on this test car (it also brings SportDesign mirrors, the Sport Chrono package, a two-mode sport exhaust, and the GT Sport steering wheel). It reduces stress on the front tires while improving handling and stability. The ZF-supplied rear-steer modules (there are two) trickled into these mainstream 911s from the capital-T Turbos, GT3s, and even the 918, but Porsche had passive rear steering on the long-running 1977–1995 Porsche 928 by way of the crafty Weissach axle, which would toe a wheel inward under cornering loads, likewise improving stability.

Just as AWD can mask a driver’s shortcomings, all-wheel steering can transform a chassis, improving stability in high-speed corners, and quickening yaw response (how quickly the car turns) in slower corners. It works remarkably well. On the skidpad, the C4S, also equipped with the lowered PASM Sport Suspension ($890), hangs on at 1.04 g’s. That’s just a couple hundredths below what the rear-drive, and 177-pound-lighter Carrera returned on identical 20-inch Pirelli P Zero tires.

The real advantage of all-wheel drive isn’t falsely perceived stability in slippery conditions— it’s the tires that help you there—it’s traction. More specifically, launch traction. Combine the test example’s dual-clutch automatic ($3200, called PDK) and Sport Chrono on the build sheet and you also get launch control. With it, the new 420-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-6 propels the C4S to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds. While that is just 0.2 seconds quicker than the base Carrera with 50 fewer horsepower, the extra grip on launch translates to a 0.4-second advantage in the quarter-mile, an 11.5-second pass at 121 mph. With 19.6 seconds of clear road ahead, 150 mph is within reach from a dead stop. There is no reason to doubt Porsche’s claimed top speed of 188 mph.

When we heard that the 911 was going all turbo, all the time, we were nervous that the pursuit of mpg by downsizing and turbocharging would come at the cost of engine response. While you can feel some lag in higher gears below 2500 rpm, this engine is as responsive to throttle changes as any turbocharged engine. The C4S with an automatic went from 22 mpg EPA combined to 24. We observed 19 mpg, one worse than the EPA’s city score, during this car’s stay with us.

As with any great sports car, the real pleasure doesn’t come from anything that can be sorted on a spreadsheet. Sure, the $4280 two-tone leather interior looks and feels great and the $2330 14-way sport seats tailor themselves to just about any bottom, but it’s much more difficult to quantify crisp turn-in, taut control over body motions, or long-haul comfort. That’s the difference between good and great cars. The steering delivers immediate gratification that Jeff Bezos only fantasizes about offering Amazon customers. Both the steering wheel and brake pedals communicate clearly and this not only boosts confidence, but it also makes linking a series of corners into a smooth, almost serene experience. It’s the kind of pleasure one gets hustling a Mazda MX-5 Miata down a tree-lined two-lane, only your synapses are firing much faster in a 911 and there is nearly no body roll.

Greatness in a C4S comes at a significant cost: $138,040 is a whole lot of scratch for a car that is effectively a two-seater. Still, the Porsche’s features are nearly on a par with any of the similarly expensive German full-size sedans (Audi A8, BMW 7-series, Mercedes-Benz S-class, or Porsche Panamera), and the adaptive dampers mean its suspension doesn’t pound you into submission on pothole-strewn roads. Heated and cooled front seats, keyless entry and starting, auto-dimming mirrors, and LED headlights are part of the Premium Package Plus option ($3970). A one-time premium of $2590 insures against front-end damage by raising the front ride height on demand. Porsche’s new infotainment interface is standard here, including navigation, and the system features Apple CarPlay integration. It is many factors better, both in terms of appearance and execution, than the interface it replaces.

The one aspect that might not make one feel grand about touring in a 911 C4S is interior noise. Road and tire noise raise the sound level to 76 decibels at 70 mph, which is anything but luxurious. Even the Mercedes-AMG GT S belts out 74 decibels at 70, so the 911 isn’t horrible in this regard, but ears can grow tired of the abuse on longer trips. Fortunately, the Bluetooth phone integration is superb and we heard no complaints of excessive ambient noise from the other end of our conversations.

As with all the other modern Porsches, the driver can choose among various modes. With the GT steering wheel, selecting between Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and the customizable Individual modes is done with a control wheel below the right spoke, the Porsche version of Ferrari’s manettino. But there’s no reason to set that dial to anything but Normal unless you’re on a track. Seeking to drawing attention to the C4S by making it louder or raising the spoiler will only highlight one’s own personal insecurities—you’re in a 911, trust us, people see you. Just don’t let the Carrera fool you into thinking you’re a hero, lest you be seen as that guy on YouTube.

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