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Porsche 911 Carrera 4S review, test drive

If you mentioned Porsche to the average Indian, you could forgive them for thinking of the Cayenne. The big SUV is, after all, the best-selling Porsche in the country by a huge margin, and the one you are most likely to see on our roads.

If you mentioned Porsche to the average Indian, you could forgive them for thinking of the Cayenne. The big SUV is, after all, the best-selling Porsche in the country by a huge margin, and the one you are most likely to see on our roads. But Porsche, at its core, is a sportscar maker, and its illustrious history revolves around one car - the 911.

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This latest model - codenamed 991 - may be the sixth generation of 911 worldwide, but it's only the second generation to go on sale here in India. But, as they say, it's never too late and we now have with us what is arguably the most technically advanced iteration of the 911 and crucially in all-weather, all-wheel-drive form. With proper aftersales backup from Porsche. Let's see how this legendary sportscar gets along in India.

No less than 90 percent of the new 911's mechanical ingredients are either all new or significantly improved. It has completely new dimensions, a new electromechanical power steering system and a construction richer in aluminium than ever before. It retains the classic rear-engine layout of every 911 since the original from way back in 1963, albeit with modifications to the engine mounting points, which have been optimised for improved weight distribution. As with the previous 911 (997), the front-end structure, complete with its MacPherson strut suspension, is more or less shared with the smaller Boxster and, at the rear, this 911 gets reworked multi-link suspension.The 911 continues with a predominantly steel structure and a body constructed from a combination of steel, aluminium and plastic composites.

A series of weight-optimisation measures has pared the kerb weight by around 45kg, bringing the new base 911 Carrera down to around 1380kg. This being the all-wheel-drive version, the rear track is wider, and it weighs in at a heavier 1465kg thanks to the extra set of axles. Speaking of which, the 4S is predominantly rear-wheel drive until provoked. Once the system detects the need for more traction, it'll shuffle power (you can see it working on a display in the instrument cluster) to the front axles until it is satisfied that things are under control.

The latest 911 adopts Porsche's new cabin design theme that made its debut in the Panamera. However, given that it's a sportscar, the 911's cabin layout is more driver-focussed than the Panamera and the Cayenne, with a narrower centre console and less of a button overload. The ancillary buttons are positioned neatly behind the gearlever rather than to its side, an arrangement allowed by the adoption of an electrically operated parking brake and a novel new location for the cupholders on the passenger side of the dashboard.The fit and finish and perceived quality of materials are hard to fault. The 911's cabin ambience now passes muster not just among anything else in its class, it can easily rival what you would see in a proper German luxury saloon.

Our test car came with loads of kit, but disappointingly, most of the stuff, like the Sports Chrono pack, powered sports seats, electric steering adjustment, navigation, Bose sound system, Bluetooth, auto dimming and folding mirrors, and the sunroof, are optional extras. The 911's low roof necessitates some amount of bending on ingress, but once past the wide-opening pillarless doors, what you find is a very cosy cabin. There is decent space for front occupants, and the thin A pillars allow for a fantastic view out the front. The nicely crafted seats are snug and well bolstered, and keep you in place even when you drive hard. While the Carrera 4S can seat four, it is best to use it as two-seater. Accessing the back seat is not the most elegant of procedures, and once you get in, the seat is cramped and the knees-up seating position is not very comfy. The front boot, at 125 litres, is quite generous for a sportscar and there's an additional 260 litres of storage area behind the rear seats.

The Carrera 4S is powered by a 3.8-litre, direct-injection six-cylinder motor. Producing 395bhp, this naturally aspirated motor sends its power to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (there is the option of a seven-speed manual too). This potent engine delivers brilliant performance from anywhere in its powerband and the four-wheel-drive system is quick to channel power optimally to the wheels. This motor's mid-range and top end are nothing short of explosive too. Tap the throttle and the 4S vaults off the blocks; thrust is immediate and very strong, power delivery is linear, and even short bursts of acceleration are addictive. Configure the onboard computer and set the gearbox, dampers and engine to Sport Plus mode, and things get even more insane.

Performance is now in proper supercar territory, and the car changes the way it responds to throttle inputs. The seven-speed, twin-clutch gearbox is lightning quick with its shifts and, as ever, you can use it in manual mode, where the gears shift up only when you pull the right paddle. Flat-out performance is rapid, with 100kph taking 5.09 seconds, 150kph 9.54 seconds and 200kph just 16.86 seconds! In-gear acceleration is very strong too, despite the car having tall gearing. You won't need a long stretch of road to hit its claimed top speed of 298kph. The only fly in the ointment is the big gap between first and second gears, which you will use frequently if you're driving up a ghat road. First is too short and second a bit too tall and this can lead to irritating moments while attacking a series of hairpin bends.Drive it a few notches down and the 911 is still impressive. On our ever-crowded streets, it's quickly apparent that, with the gearbox in D, this car is almost as civilised as most family cars - its direct steering, linear throttle response and smooth shifts making it no harder to drive than a Corolla.

The Porsche 911 remains unequivocally one of the most involving cars to drive and, at the limit, can be one of the most demanding as well. It doesn't flatter the faint-hearted with its rearward weight bias, but once you understand the physics of its rear-biased weight distribution, it can be hugely rewarding. This is a car in which you need to build up speed progressively through corners. It's best to finish braking before you turn in and then feed in the throttle gently upto the apex before flooring it as you exit. Under hard acceleration, you will feel the front go light before the 911 sits down on its wide haunches. The grip is simply astonishing and this can actually be measured by the 'G-force' meter displayed in the instrument cluster. Lifting off or braking mid-corner unsettles the 911, but the all-wheel-drive system and sophisticated stability programme will ensure that you don't swap ends. The ride is pretty impressive for a sports car and Porsche's PASM adaptive damping system (standard on the S models) must get credit here.

With four new vertical chassis sensors, the PASM is capable of making the 911 as supple as a family saloon whilst cruising, and instantly stiffening the dampers the moment you barrel into a fast bend. Also remarkable is the suspension's ability to absorb bumps and maintain composure over broken tarmac. In Sport mode, you can feel jolts more prominently and body movements are sharper but never to the point of being unduly harsh. Even the ground clearance is generous enough to tackle most speedbreakers.

The 911 has a fuel tank capacity of just 65 litres and, when you consider its low overall 6.3kpl figure, it gives it a range of just 400km. What's more, when you drive it hard, you shouldn't expect much more than 4kpl, and that means you have to constantly keep an eye on the fuel needle while travelling long distances.

  • First Published Date : 28 Mar 2013, 04:16 PM IST