2012 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Driving a 911 attests to its brilliance... something you really must do at some point in your life. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

The Carrera 4 delivers 4-wheel traction for blistering performance in all weather conditions. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

19-inch wheels up the performance ante and look fabulous! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

911 interior combines a feast for the eyes with a tactile experience that borders on sensory overload. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Worth every penny! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 03, 2012

Infotainment system is fully featured, highlighted by a Bose audio system that really pumps out the tunes. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Room for the kiddies too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 03, 2012

Published on March 03, 2012

Within sports car circles there are few that don't revere the 911, and in my experience those who don't give the car the respect it deserves simply haven't driven it. Truly, it's a victim of its own success. A sports car icon that has become so popular that many take it for granted, and considering the number of examples you're likely to see idling their way to the office on a Monday morning it's no wonder folks lump it into the well-heeled commuter camp. But really, the fact that you can drive it through rush hour traffic day in and day out with unfailing reliability, and then on the weekend best the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini on the track is much of what makes the 911 legend.

Some might consider the Carrera 4 coupe the most practical of all 911s, thanks to its all-weather all-wheel drivetrain. I normally lean towards rear-drive 911s because I like the way they perform at the limit, but the C4 brings higher levels of safety and control that makes it the 911 of choice in colder climes.

A quick glance at the 2012 C4 I drove and you'll probably notice it looks no different from last year's car despite an all-new 911 being introduced for the 2012 model year. You're right. It's the same car, 997 in Porsche-speak. Only rear-drive 911 coupes and convertibles converted to the new 998 design this year, which means that it's either time to buy this more classic looking 2012 C4 while you still can or, depending on your take on the new shape, worth waiting for the upcoming 2013.

Buying a C4 now means you'll get slightly less output from Porsche's horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine, currently capable of 345 horsepower at 6,500 rpm instead of what's expected to be 350 at 7,400 rpm (at least that's what's in the 2012 C2). They both make 287 lb-ft of torque, although the new engine needs another 1,200 rpm to achieve its maximum thrust (5,600 instead of 4,400). What's the difference between the two?

The new engine is smaller by 200 cubic centimeters, measuring 3.4 litres instead of the current car's 3.6. It's all in the name of efficiency, of course, with fuel economy being the obvious benefactor and weight secondary, or vice versa depending on whether your objective is performance over saving at the pump. You can bet Porsche had its eyes on U.S. CAFE ratings, with the added performance merely the benefit of upgrading its next generation engine lineup with direct injection. Hence, opting for the outgoing 2012 C4 means a little less technology.

Technology in mind, if you go the manual route in the upcoming 2013 C4 you'll get the same 7-speed gearbox (yes, a 7-speed manual!) as with the current rear-drive Carrera, whereas the 2012 C4 makes due with 6-speed unit. My tester featured Porsche's 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission dubbed Doppelkupplung, or PDK. Now with paddles at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions it feels race ready, a sensation enhanced by this particular car's upgraded sport suspension and 19-inch Turbo II wheels that together add a tauter albeit non-punishing performance tradeoff to the usual firm yet compliant 911 ride.

The C4's leather-clad seats are firm too, but in that oh-so-good Teutonic way. They're bolstered in all the right places and get seat warmers that heat hot enough for therapeutic lower back relief. Just driving a 911 is therapy enough mind you, the 3-spoke sport steering wheel feeling fabulous between palms, thumbs and fingers, and seat of the pants thrill-a-minute performance monitored by the optional Sport Chrono analogue meter atop the dash and digital display integrated into the infotainment system.

I don't know if I like what the Sport Chrono package can do (analogue and digital stop watches for performance stats such as quantifying lap times, and with PDK, it increases throttle response via a Sport Plus button, allows launch control, and initiates motorsport-derived gearshift strategy for better track performance) more than just how much I like looking at it. Yes, like a lot of guys I'm a sucker for anything that looks like a high-end wristwatch so it's a must-have option for me. Ditto for the BOSE audio system that makes music almost as glorious as the sound of Porsche's flat six at full song.

Yes, let's not get our priorities mixed up here. This is a 911 and despite the niceties that surround, and there are aplenty, this car is more about the drive. With four wheels locking down simultaneously takeoff is instantaneous, propelling the little 1,500-kilo coupe to 100km/h in 5 seconds flat and then on to a top speed of 284 km/h if you've got the nerve for it. I wouldn't admit to it even if I did, but suffice to say I've tested 911s at high speeds previously on closed road courses and they live up to all the hype and then some. Engine hanging out the back and all, a 911 is a shockingly well balanced handler aided by four-piston calipers clamping down on 13-inch vented discs, not to mention state-of-the-art electronic technologies like Porsche stability management that doesn't take any of the fun out of driving at the limit yet when push literally comes to shove will save your bacon before your $118,515 investment goes belly up.

That's the price as tested, freight included, with the base Carrera 4 starting at $98,485 and a no-frills rear-drive Carrera beginning life at just $94,785. The C4 comes standard with all the usual luxury car features, plus rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles, Porsche Communication Management with 5.8-inch colour display, an iPod interface, Bluetooth connectivity, rich suede-like Alcantara headliner material, an automatic extending rear spoiler, and much more.

You can option any 911 to the moon and back, with mine featuring the $4,660 PDK automatic gearbox, $560 PDK steering wheel, $2,390 PASM sports suspension, $2,790 19-inch Turbo II wheels, $560 5-mm wheel spacers, $1,690 Sports Chrono Package Plus, $790 dynamic cornering lights, $480 auto-dimming mirrors, $3,440 Infotainment Package (navigation, Bose surround sound audio, XM satellite radio), $920 leather sports seats, $330 Porsche crest on the headrests, $600 heated front seats, and $820 Platinum Silver Metallic paint.

Standard with the C4 PDK is a fuel economy rating of 11.4 L/100km city and 7.5 highway, surprisingly good considering the car's priority on performance. Other practical notes are rear seats that fit my two youngest kids and a front trunk that is enormous by sports car standards. For longer items Porsche offers a specially designed $460 roof rack system, too.

And these are just some of the reasons you see so many 911s commuting to work each morning. The rest you'll just have to experience for yourself.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Porsche, 2012, Carrera 4, $75,000 - $99,999, $99,999+,

Organizations: Porsche

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