Disclosure: Travel to Ehrenhausen, Austria, accommodations, meals, test vehicles and a pre-determined driving route (which didn't include a stop at Arnold Schwarzenegger's museum) were provided to the writer by the automaker.
When you see a Porsche 911 on the roads anywhere in Canada, chances are that it's all wheel drive—more than 55 per cent of 911s are sold here with four driven wheels. There's something about the surefootedness of the Carrera 4 that meets the needs of sports car buyers in our four-season climate.
These new Carrera 4 (and Carrera 4S) models are available in coupe and convertible versions, and with Porsche's latest all-wheel drive and driver assistance technology, these are some very formidable sports cars.
As with the rear-drive Carrera, the heart of this machine is its 3.4-litre, flat-six cylinder engine that hangs out over the rear axle. It produces the same power in the Carrera 4 - 350 horsepower and 287 foot-pounds of torque. As with the Carrera I tested earlier this year, I found myself longing for more torque. (It's available, of course, in the Carrera 4S, which has 38 more foot-pounds of torque and 50 more horsepower thanks to its larger 3.8-litre engine.)
The new all-wheel drive system, however, is a marked improvement over the previous generation. More so than in the previous Carrera 4, Porsche has retained the dynamic feeling of the rear-drive Carrera with one exception - when power is needed at the front axle. During my test, the Austria roads were damp from rain and only accelerating under full throttle did I notice the system working.
Manual transmission cars can be specified with a mechanical limited slip differential as part of the $1,510 Porsche Torque Vectoring option. PDK cars get an electronically-controlled diff with the $1,710 PTV Plus option.
The AWD system adds a weight penalty of 50kg over the base Carrera, but the new Carrera 4 is still 65 kg lighter than the previous model. With modern cars gaining mass, it's great to see this driver's car getting lighter. Well done, Porsche.
As much as a company like Porsche should be pushing the performance envelope, I found that I preferred the standard steel brakes to the $9,730 PCCB Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake option. The standard brakes have exceptional power and feel - and it's the brake feel that gave me the confidence to properly attack the mountain roads of Styria. The ceramics just don't offer that same level of feel.
Despite Porsche's sports car roots, they've now added a lame parlour trick to 911s with the manual transmission and the Sport Chrono option. On downshifts, the throttle bumps the engine speed for smooth, rev-matched gear changes. This is something typically reserved for lesser cars, or it's a built-in function of the automated, PDK dual-clutch transmission. While the Sport Plus button needs to be switched on, it now eliminates the need to ever perform a conventional heel-and-toe downshift. It's a shame, too, because I prefer 911s with Sport Chrono - with the push of the button, the throttle response sharpens and the stability system backs off its involvement.
For most drivers, the PDK transmission is the better option anyway - it shifts quicker than any human, keeps both driver's hands on the wheel and allows the car to drive more efficiently (if driving a 911 efficiently is your thing). The proof's in the pudding, too - most 911s are now sold with PDK.
By the numbers, the Carrera 4 will do zero to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds. The PDK is two tenths of a second quicker than the manual at 4.7. Top speed is an Autobahn-scorching 285 km/h.
Speaking of efficiency, my drive on Austrian roads in the 911 Carrera 4 were more about burning fossil fuels, but my recent real-world test in a Carrera
produced an average 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres. The Carrera 4 is rated at 10.9 city and 7.2 highway and I'll expect similar real-world numbers
Ergonomics / Comfort / Quality
The 911 features one of the best driver's cockpits in the world. You can't get much better than the Carrera's superb seating position and excellent visibility. There still are an excessive number of buttons on the console, but they become less distracting as you become accustomed to them. As well, if humans are required to ride in the back seats, they will suffer for being cramped, as my surly teenager will testify.
There's no difference inside the cabin between the rear-drive and all-wheel drive models, but I should highlight the addition of a torque distribution display in the instrument cluster. While it's interesting to see torque moving between the front and rear axles, it a gimmick that you'd expect to see in the video-game themed Nissan GT-R.
If you fancy yourself an audiophile, you'll want to tick the box for the Burmester sound system. Sure, it's $5,720, but it's one of the best audio systems in the business - at least to these racecar-ruined ears.
Functionality / Usability
For the first time, Adaptive Cruise Control was introduced on the 2013 Carrera 4, and is now available on the entire 911 range. As with other similar systems, simply set your speed and the car will, in traffic, maintain a safe following distance behind other cars.
When paired with the PDK transmission, the cruise control system integrates the new Porsche Active Safety system. When the system detects that the car is rapidly approaching another car, it readies the braking system so that the driver will have maximum braking available as soon as the pedal is pressed. If the system detects that the driver hasn't started slowing soon enough, it will alert the drive with a quick jab of the brakes and should the driver not brake, the system will initiate braking to help the driver avoid a crash.
One of the cars I tested was a Carrera 4S Cabriolet and had to try both top up and top down modes. The fully automated top does one neat thing - it can be opened or closed at speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour. There's little penalty to this modern convertible. With the top up, the Cabrio's soft roof doesn't significantly increase wind or road noise, and even with the top down, the chassis seems just as rigid as the coupe's.
For more than 20 years, the 911 range hasn't been complete without an all-wheel drive model, and this all new Carrera 4 is the best yet. The manual transmission Carrera 4 starts at $103,900 and adding some desirable options can rapidly put the price near $130,000.
For example, the PDK transmission is a $3,400 option and the Premium Package with it's convenience options like power, heated seats, dynamic headlamps and auto dimming mirrors adds another $3,360, if you prefer the standard sport seats, as I do. Want the adaptive seats? Add another $1,720 to that. Even the Bose sound system is $2,770.
While the 911 has many competitors, from the BMW M6, Jaguar XK-R, Nissan GT-R, Audi R8 and the Chevrolet Corvette to an extent, it's only the Nissan and Audi that are equipped with all-wheel-drive. The Nissan, however, is a much harder riding, hard-core performance car and the Audi less usable with limited storage space and its exotic car roots.
I often get asked what car I'd choose if I could drive only one car, and there is never any question in my mind - an all-wheel-drive 911. It's an extremely competent sports car with excellent day-to-day comfort. With its improved performance, this all-new Carrera 4 solidifies its position as my favourite all-around sports car.