Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) review

By Adam Towler 31 July 2008

By Adam Towler

31 July 2008

Following last month's meaner and greener 911 in traditional rear-drive form, Porsche has introduced the four-wheel drive Carrera 4 variant in standard and ‘S’ guises. CAR has just driven a Carrera 4S with Porsche’s new ‘PDK’ twin-clutch gearbox, carbon-backed sports bucket seats and the new PASM sports suspended chassis to see if this is the best 911 Carrera yet.

With typical Porsche predictability, it’s the new technology in a slightly wider body, correct?

Yes. The essential Carrera 4 recipe remains the same. That’s to say, the body from the Turbo version with its 44mm wider hips over the rear axle, now stuffed with the all-new flat six engines: a 3.6-litre for the regular ‘4’ and 3.8 litres for the ‘4S’. These units represent a significant step forward for Porsche, with around 40 percent less moving parts and 6kg trimmed off their bulk. All engines now feature a smaller stroke with a larger bore, direct fuel injection, and higher compression ratios (up to 12.5:1 on the 4S).

A 4S therefore generates an extra 30bhp over the old car (meaning a meaty 380bhp) with an additional 15lb ft of twist (now 310lb ft) but it’s also cleaner and more miserly with the fuel: a combined figure of 26.9mpg and a CO2 output of 247g/km are impressive, considering this is a 180mph car.

What about the other upgrades with the new car – has that been carried over into the ‘4’?

Indeed, there’s revised suspension, with the sports option on our car now using a two-stage electronically controlled PASM system like the much-missed GT3; a new exhaust system, a revised interior with at last an upgrade to the PCM infotainment system, and of course, that new seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox christened ‘PDK’. So it really is like an all-new car, but from the mildly tweaked styling you’d never guess – new rear lights, mirrors, grilles and bumpers are your clues, although if in doubt, tell by the daytime running LEDs.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK first drive

What about the four-wheel drive system – surely they’ve been working on that too?

The 4S is effectively now the son-of-Turbo as it gains that car’s electronically controlled four-wheel drive system (PTM). Instead of the old viscous coupling for the centre differential there is an electromagnetically controlled multi plate clutch, with a 22 percent limited slip differential now fitted as standard on the rear axle. You can also tell a ‘4’ by the return of a Porsche favourite – the red translucent ‘strip’ that spans between the rear lights.

So how does it drive?

Select ‘drive’, breathe on the throttle and the 4S attains a rapid cruising speed with little more than a murmur and slur from engine or gearbox. The steering is weightier than the ‘2’, and the car feels rock steady on the road, inspiring tremendous confidence. You can mooch around like this all day, and despite the sporting focus of this particular car, it isn’t uncomfortable. And that gearbox really is so clever.

Great, but this is a 911 – give it some throttle!

In CAR's August 2008 issue we compared the new Carrera 2 3.6 with the revised 4.7 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, and found there was nothing between them in terms of outright performance. Against this 4S the Aston wouldn’t have a chance, and despite the carbon-ceramic brakes, seats and suspension upgrades, it’s worth noting that the 4S still costs less then the Aston.

Porsche claims its car will accelerate from rest to 60mph in just 4.3 seconds (with launch control fitted) and that is produces 380bhp, but to be honest, both numbers feel subjectively rather conservative. It is the kind of car that flits up to 120mph in one greatly sustained surge and seems happiest taking apart a back road north of 100mph. Grip and traction levels are immense on dry smooth tarmac (the rear tyres have a 305 section width after all) and the four-wheel drive system is noticeably quicker to operate on slippery surfaces. Combine that with the brutally fast gear shifts in ‘Sport Plus’ mode and the tireless brakes and you’ve a formidably fast car.

Click 'Next' below to about the downsides and our verdict on the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK

So are there any downsides?

Well, although the gearbox is technically brilliant, the steering wheel selectors are unsatisfying in their operation and we maintain the selection of gears up and down should be the reverse of what it is. The new ‘S’ engine has a harsh, gritty note that only sounds tuneful when you’re really going for it and the steering seems to have slightly less to say. And in this particular form it’s the kind of car you have to drive hard before you expose its character.

Verdict

Technically one of the finest 911s yet, but for the enthusiast driver there’s still considerable appeal in the sweeter 3.6 litre engine hooked up to a manual gearbox.

Statistics

How much? £74,720
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 3800cc flat-sx, 380bhp @ 6500rpm, 310lb ft @ 4400rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed twin-clutch, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.3sec 0-62mph, 183mph, 26.9mpg, 247g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 1585kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4435/1852/1300

Ratings

Handling 5 out of 5
Performance 5 out of 5
Usability 5 out of 5
Feelgood factor 4 out of 5
CAR's Rating 4 out of 5

Photo Gallery

  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4S PDK (2009) CAR review
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