2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Russell Purcell

Porsche AG strives to produce cars that offer their owners an unrivalled driving experience, and its success on some of the world’s greatest race circuits have lead to enormous advancements in engineering that constantly trickle down into the company’s cars. This has lead Porsche cars to achieve envious levels of performance, safety and drivability.

The Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet is a good example: you can drive it like any other car, as it is docile when you want it to be – although the throaty rumble of the engine will tempt you to turn every launch into a race start. When prodded, the car hunkers down on its haunches and grabs the pavement, catapulting away at a tremendous clip.

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Click image to enlarge

Porsche claims that the sprint from 0-100 km/h takes a mere 5.3 seconds in the Cabriolet (5.1 seconds in the Coupe), which easily puts this car into a very exclusive club.

The Carrera 4S is a unique animal as it is basically the ‘Turbo’ minus the turbo-charger and the fixed rear wing. The all-wheel-drive system, as well as the car’s shocks and springs all come from the Turbo parts bin, as does the sexy, very muscular body work. From the rear the car is low and wide as its extended fenders taper over the big wheels. These flared expanses of metal resemble huge shoulders when you see them in your side mirrors, and give the car a very menacing look.


At the wheel


2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Click image to enlarge

As my brother and I zipped along the Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler, he paused abruptly and asked me if I had ever heard the theory that humans only really utilize about 80% of our brain’s capacity. At first I wondered what kind of brotherly jab this was leading up to but soon realized that he was relating this factoid to the car, and not my intellectual performance or lack thereof. He said that he had noticed that as we ripped through a series of pretty tight corners it became evident that under normal driving conditions the C4S wouldn’t even be stretching its legs. In fact, under normal driving conditions I would expect that a thoroughbred car like the C4S is more likely at the other end of that brain quotient, using a mere 20% of its potent potential.

Steering feel and response is unmatched, as a minor turn of the 3-spoke steering wheel immediately finds its way to the wheels. Power assist is very light, just enough to aid with parking and to help move the car’s over-sized rubber.

A low centre-of-gravity coupled with Porsche’s state-of-the-art all-wheel-drive system help this sporty beast stay planted, while over-sized wheels and tires make sure that the car keeps in contact with the road.

Equipped with massive ventilated discs brakes, the C4S will stop on a dime. During my week-long test I found them to be more than up to the task, and brake fade was non-existent.

It would be hard to find a smoother gearbox than that fitted to the C4S. The reverse gear is selected by moving the anatomical shift lever up and to the left, and its engagement was the only awkward element I noticed in the car, but this was largely due to my unfamiliarity with this arrangement. By day two it was a non-factor. The very light, short-shift lever clicked into each of the six forward gears with authority, and with a close eye on the large, centrally located tachometer, I found the dance from gear to gear to be one to be savoured. The music of the exhaust and engine combo spurring me on as I passed Jaguars and BMWs in my quest for Lemans glory! Hey, childhood dreams have a way of awakening when you find yourself rolling to work in this awesome machine.

For a sports car, the C4S offers exceptional outward visibility. The long hood quickly disappears, framed by the twin pontoon fenders that house the headlamps and offer the driver a means to determine the car’s perimeter. Rear visibility is also surprisingly good, even in the Cabriolet, whose wide rear canvas pillars and narrow rear window (glass) conspire to add a bit of a hindrance, but the slope of the rear bodywork makes it invisible to the driver. Put the power top down however and visibility is as expected, fantastic, for both you and envious onlookers. An optional hard top is available for use during periods of extended inclement weather and gives the car a look similar to that of the C4S Coupe, albeit with a smaller rear window.


Interior

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Click image to enlarge

My test car came fitted with a host of Porsche interior accessories. A carbon-fibre shift knob and brake handle were complemented by a pair of matching door-sill guards. A full carbon-fibre console surround is also available and each piece can be ordered separately to give some high-tech flair to the cockpit, but a full kit will cost you several thousand dollars, and may be a little more than you want to spend on what is basically an appearance treatment.

Supportive sport buckets hug your torso as you flick the C4S through the switchbacks, and their heating units ensure that the cockpit will be cozy all year round (remember, this car’s all-wheel-drive system makes it a four season cruiser, unless you live in a region where snow removal is an afterthought). Minute adjustments for both front seats are handled by well-placed fingertip switches, while access to the rear seating area is gained via shoulder-mounted levers. All vital switchgear is within easy reach and the compact gauge cluster is organized to place the over-sized tachometer immediately in front of the driver.

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Click image to enlarge

While best-suited for small children or waif-like supermodels, the rear seats offer passengers exceptional support and as they are separated by the transmission/drive train tunnel, a real cockpit feel.

Small storage compartments reside within each door panel concealed beneath the armrest pad, while a centre console and a narrow glove box suffice for smaller items not relegated to the front baggage compartment.

The mechanical noises made by a Porsche engine are all the music I really need to hear, but the audio system in this car, engineered by Bose, has been designed with a custom matched set of speakers, making the car’s cabin an amazing listening chamber. I was impressed with this system in a C4S coupe, but when I heard it in the soft-top model I came away even more impressed.

2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Click image to enlarge

The triple-layer top is a wonderful canvas for the music to play on, but when the sun beckons and the top is down, the matched speakers and powerful amplifier still produce sound levels superior to those in many fixed-roof cars. Audiophiles will have no complaints.


Verdict

With all the basic luxuries, advanced safety technologies like all-wheel-drive, and adrenalin-pumping performance, Porsche has created the automotive equivalent of a superhero. With four decades of development and refinement, it is easy to understand why the company keeps producing the 911-derived car.


Technical Data: 2004 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

Base price $136,700
Type 2-door, 2+2 convertible sports car
Layout longitudinal rear engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 3.6-litre, flat-six cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 315 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque 273 lb.-ft. @ 4,250 rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic automatic
Tires 225/40ZR-18 (front)/295/30ZR-18 (rear)
Curb weight 1,540 kg (3395 lb)
Wheelbase 2,350 mm (92.5 in)
Length 4,435 mm (176.6 in)
Width 1,830 mm (72.0 in
Height 1,295 mm (51.0 in)
Trunk capacity 130 litres (4.6 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City 13.8 L/100 km (20 mpg) (Imperial gallons)
  Hwy: 9.1 L/100 km (31 mpg) (Imperial gallons)
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Warranty 4-year/80,000 km

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