Motoring

BACK TO BASICS

The Porsche 911 Carrera 4S mixes all-wheel drive, turbocharged technology with the heart, soul, and detailing of the original 1960’s Porsche 901.

Steve Holmes

The last time I drove a 911 was back in early 2014 when I was kindly helping Car & Driver magazine with some performance testing. It was the Turbo S and thanks to its launch control, we were consistently running 2.9 second 0-100s. That was two-up with professional timing gear. It was all very professional. Very German. Quite antiseptic. The Turbo S performed like it’d been designed by men in white coats in a laboratory. The 2020 911 also feels like it’s been designed by a man in a white coat, except this one has wild curly hair and a nervous twitch, who spends his time concocting crazy ideas, such as a Sport Response button on the steering wheel, that you can press for 20 seconds of all-out, flat-six warfare. The latest 911 has gone back to its roots. It looks super modern, and while it crams in a 450bhp, 3-litre turbocharged engine, mated to an 8-speed PDK gearbox, with power going to all four wheels, there’s a strong nod to the original 911 models that launched this iconic brand.

Press for 20 seconds of all-out, flat-six warfare.

CLASSIC STYLE

I like old Porsches. The older the better, so to my absolute delight, during the pre-test inspection of the Carrera 4S the first detail I notice is the 911 badge on the engine cover. The script has been replaced by the bold 1980’s font, similar to that of the 911 SC. Immediately I’m hooked. The bonnet, which was smooth, now has the sunken centre of the original 901 of 1963. Interestingly, Peugeot wasn’t happy with Porsche using three digits with a zero in the centre, so they swapped it with a one, and the rest is history.

Messing about with the steering wheel-mounted Performance Dial is the best way of getting to know the 4S.

Climbing in and the Sport-Tex Square leather seats keep the classic high back style while the dash also does away with the centre console, and now has a full-beam dash exactly like the original.

Set behind the small-diameter steering wheel (it’s only 350mm) is the iconic five-gauge pod, but for 2021, there’s an analogue tach, flanked by digital readouts. To be honest, once you’re on the move, the tach and digital speedo readout are the only points of reference you need and they’re mounted centrally.

THE DRIVE

Firing up the turbocharged engine requires the twist of a ‘key’ located to the left of the steering wheel. It’s a satisfying action, as is the noise that greets you once the roof has been lowered (it only takes 12 seconds). The flat-six makes an unmistakable sound. In normal mode, you have to flick a switch to open up the valves, but that’s automatically taken care of in Sport and Sport Plus. Pulling out of Porsche’s Silicon Oasis HQ, the 911 feels taught and nimble. It’s just before rush hour, so the roads are busy and are getting busier. I’m not going to make it back to the office, so I decide to just head to nowhere, in particular, to see how the 4S behaves in traffic. Unsurprisingly, it feels small and nippy. There’s no turbo lag, so torque is constant, making it easy to dart into spaces along Al Khail road. You sit low, but with the roof down and some relatively these pillars, you have a virtually unobscured 360-degree view.

The S-models feature red monobloc calipers with 350mm brake discs at the front, with 330mm discs, rear.

Traffic is painfully slow here and the 3-litre behind your back is aching to show you what it can do above 2000rpm. And so, it’s time to head south towards the desert, as far away from the TATAs, Ashok Leylands, and Toyota Coasters of Al Khail.

Out in the desert, the temp is dropping as quickly as the sun – perfect for turbocharged motors. At the first empty stretch, I punch the throttle, and for the first time, the flat-six barks as the revs hit 3000rpm. Acceleration is constant and relentless, but always completely safe, as the all-wheel-drive system keeps you far away from any throttle heavy tomfoolery.

Messing about with the steering wheel-mounted Performance Dial is the best way of getting to know the 4S. In normal mode, it’s relatively hushed, with the gearbox switching between seventh and eighth. It’s all very user-friendly and at motorway speeds, you’re barely stressing the engine. Turn it to Sport Plus mode though and the box drops down 40 fourth at around 90km/h, giving you instant response and all the acceleration you could possibly need. However, press the button at the centre of the dial and for 20 seconds you’re in Sport Response mode. This is basically KITT from Knight Rider’s Turbo Boost button but fitted in a 911. Now you’re in third gear at 90 km/h. The flat-six is poised like Christian Coleman waiting for the gun to go off at the start of the 100 metres sprint and then you floor the throttle and the Porsche gives you everything, all at once. And all accompanied by that sound.

Heading back to base, it’s time to reflect. There’s literally no denying Carrera’s performance credentials. It’ll accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, and go on to hit 301 km/h. The engine sounds fantastic, barking away as the revs rise and popping and banging when you come off the throttle and if you’re ore worried about the style and looks, then the retro touches will have you reaching for your wallet, ready to hand over AED 549,600, or in our case, with full options, AED 656,140. Worth it? There is no other car like a turbocharged Porsche 911.