November 29, 2006

Photo Gallery: 2006 Porsche Carrera 4S

Specifications: 2006 Porsche Carrera 4S

The Guide: 2006 Porsche Carrera 4S

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We first told you about the new Porsche Carrera 4S (C4S) after a two- day drive through France and Italy. As we reported, the C4S is every bit as stirring as a regular rear-wheel drive Carrera, but raises the performance bar with even more grip and more settled front-end behaviour – probably due to the extra weight of the AWD system. For two days we blasted up and down through the gears, screeching tires in hairpins and pounding the brakes. Essentially we were in automotive nirvana.

As I write this I’m about halfway through a two-week cohabitation with a C4S in Toronto. How does it fare without Italian sun, winding French rally roads and Mediterranean vistas? Amazingly well in fact and that’s because the C4S is really two cars in one.

On the one hand, the C4S is a supercar. The ‘S’ specifications, 355 horsepower, larger brakes (you can get even bigger $11,400 carbon-ceramic brakes too), optional 19-inch Sport Design wheels ($550) and tires (snows in this case), six-speed close-ratio gearbox, driver-selectable suspension stiffness and throttle response, and a $122,800 ($4,700 less than last year) price-tag make the C4S a wallet-crushing, albeit mouth-watering proposition to driving enthusiasts. You can console yourself, however, that on the other hand the C4S has plenty of space inside for two, every luxury feature you could want, a useable front trunk, decent fuel economy (13.3 L/100 in our test and we weren’t taking it terribly easy on the ‘go’ pedal) and a secure, cosseting on-road feel. There’s even a pair of back seats that will mostly see duty as a parcel shelf, but if you had to you could put people you really hate back there.

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Our test car was fitted with the optional Sport Chrono package which includes the adjustable throttle and subsequent change in exhaust sound and right-pedal responsiveness. In the more aggressive setting, the exhaust burbles and pops around town and at WOT it’s just plain rude. We love it! Ripping through the gears is a stirring crescendo that lets other road users know not to even bother messing with the C4S. With the quickened response it takes but a touch or heel-and-toe to match revs every time. It’s worth every penny.

If you order the PCM system with Nav you can also get Sport Chrono plus ($1,290) which lets you plot lap times on the Nav LCD display and calculate average speed etc. With either system you get to use the beautiful dash-top stopwatch to time whatever you like. It’s one of the few timepieces in the automotive world that is on par with the quality of the vehicle it is fitted too – a bonus for watch lovers too then.

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You can buy faster cars for less money (the new Z06 for $90K and the Viper SRT-10 coupe for $130K come to mind) but nowhere, and we mean nowhere, can you get a car that can go toe-to-toe with the best of them on a racetrack and be driven reliably and economically day-to-day, year round in rain, sleet and/or snow.

Fitted with Pirelli winter tires, our C4S was unstoppable during the first snowfall of the year. On the highway the C4S doesn’t follow ruts and swerve violently side-to-side like a Viper, and slush piles don’t upset the chassis at all. What you do feel is ‘everything’ through the steering wheel. If the front tires have lost traction you can feel it, if the road surface is changing you can feel that too, heck you can probably tell whether a nickel is heads or tales. Progressive, informative, quick and responsive, the C4S’ steering is the key to fast and safe at-the-limit motoring.

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A few years ago we had a long-term C4S (996 generation) that we drove straight through a particularly nasty Canadian winter and it just never quit. With AWD, snows and the engine over the back wheels, the only way you are going to get stuck is if you high-centre it. Turn the stability control off and the Chassis’ natural balance is immediately apparent. Find a snow-filled parking lot and the C4S is the best snow-drifting machine on the market as it can be held in endless sideways slides with just a flick of opposite lock. This same balance translates into the car’s secure and predictable handling on dry pavement – it’s just easier to explore the car’s lofty limits in the snow.

We’ve gone on at length about everything but the way the car feels as a daily driver – and it’s just brilliant here too. 911s are pretty compact vehicles so they are easy to wind through traffic and to park; mundane conversation given the performance of this car, but whereas most sports cars are only fun once a week or so the 911’s power and packaging make it a special experience you can enjoy every single day. Get the 4S and throw on some high-performance snows and it is a supercar you can drive every day…in any weather.

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Combine all this with legendary durability, safety and undeniable prestige and what you have is, perhaps, the only car that is actually worth $130-grand or more (the option list is a killer). With the C4S it is apparent that this is a car that, although it may be purchased purely for vanity, can actually back up its reputation with peerless engineering. Though a small car, the C4S is densely packed with mechanical bits, all of which become an extension of the driver. As complex a machine as it is the C4S is easy to use and, in a sense, just plain simple. Though it’s replete with electronic systems and aids, they don’t interfere with the purity of the driving experience at all. It’s man and machine and that is truly unique among today’s automotive offerings. The bottom line is simply that there is no other car in the world, regardless of price, that can do everything the C4S can.


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