Story and photos by Laurance Yap
The word “poseur” does, unfortunately, come to mind when contemplating this Porsche Carrera 4S. It is, after all, the wannabe 911 Turbo, the car with the Turbo’s wide body and big-wheeled look but without its 415-horsepower engine, ducktail rear wing, and side air scoops. Its wheels look like the Turbo’s but are heavier, because they have solid spokes instead of hollow ones; the front fascia pulls the same party trick but actually has differently-shaped air intakes and a kink in the middle where the Turbo’s hugs the ground.
This is what you get for $120,000? A poseur Porsche?
Let’s not get carried away here. Because even the most poseur of Porsches is still a driving machine that eclipses almost any other sports car out there. So what if there aren’t twin turbos? The newly-invigorated 3.6-litre boxer engine still kicks out a healthy 320 horsepower, enough to slam it to 100 km/h in a few heartbeats; and with new variable-valve-timing technology, it’s got a fat spread of torque to go with the power, meaning instant throttle response in any gear, including sixth. Twitch your toe and the incredibly accurate throttle pedal meters out horses one at a time, from slight acceleration to huge waves of speed.
Click image to enlarge
There’s more Turbo in the Carrera 4S than you might expect. For instance, that wide body wraps itself over Turbo-sized tires; they stick way better in the corners than the narrower items on narrower 911s; thanks to all-wheel-drive and those bigger tires, there’s less power-on understeer, too. The steering has the same nuggety feel, with less kickback than rear-drive Carreras, and the nose exhibits less of the characteristic 911 bobbing motion when you’re hustling.
Along with the tires comes Turbo suspension; though it’s been retuned for the 4S, it gives the same amazing stability through turns, and also the same bone-jarring ride on less-than-perfect surfaces. The brakes are from the Turbo, too, and constitute this car’s greatest single improvement over standard Carreras; they haul this rear-engined beast to a stop even faster and even harder than the already-breathatking four-piston calipers and vented discs of the base cars.
Inside, the 4S carries much of the Turbo’s standard equipment, too. The headlights are bi-xenon, and the interior is a full-leather one, with the dashboard and doors covered in hide as well as the seats. There’s a powerful six-disc audiophile Bose soundd system, power memory seats, and–heavens to betsy–a couple of really over-engineered cupholders. Hit the gas and your drink will fly into your lap; serves you right, for drinking while driving such a fast car. Despite the compact dimensions, the interior is remarkably spacious for the two front-seat riders (pockets are provided in the rear for really small people), and the seats are comfortable even after hours behind the wheel. The C4S makes a pretty practical touring car, as well, if you use those back seats for cargo, and the front trunk is big enough for a couple of soft bags.
It’s this everyday usability–remember that the 4S is all-wheel-drive, and that a fantastic winter tire package is available for $5000–and practicality that has always made the Porsche 911, for many, the ideal compromise between a sports car and a full-out supercar. It’s quick enough and has long enough legs to make mincemeat of almost anything else on the road, but it’s comfortable enough for you to drive it to work every day, come rain or shine. Which is an important consideration when you’re paying this kind of money; a lot of cars as expensive or more are simply fair-weather friends that can’t play when the weather gets bad, or that don’t want to sit through the rush hour with you.
A lot of other publications have been touting the C4S as the best all-round current-generation 911, and despite my initial concerns about the poseur factor, I can see their point. While I would, if I could afford it, still go full-whack and get a $253,000 911 GT2, the Carrera 4S largely lives up to the hype of its widened Turbo-style body. Besides, it’s now the only naturally-aspirated all-wheel-drive 911 coupe you can buy in North America.
|2002 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S|
|Type||2-door, 4 passenger coupe|
|Layout||longitudinal rear engine/all-wheel-drive|
|Engine||3.6 litre HO six cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves, VVT|
|Horsepower||320 @ 6800 rpm|
|Torque||273 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm|
|Tires||245/35 ZR 18 front; 295/30 ZR 18 rear|
|Curb weight||1320 kg (2910 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2350 mm (92.6 in.)|
|Length||4430 mm (174.5 in.)|
|Width||1770 mm (69.7 in.)|
|Height||1305 mm (51.4 in.)|
|Cargo Capacity||130 litres (4.6 cu. ft.) front trunk; 201 litres (7.1 cu. ft.) rear seats folded|
|Fuel consumption||City: 13.8 L/100 km (22 mpg)|
|Hwy: 9.1 L/100 km (31 mpg)|