First Drive: Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
What is it?
These are exciting times for Porsche. Sales were up 25 per cent in the UK last year to 7,998 units and the maker's constant launch programme is paying dividends. Last year, it launched a new Boxster, GTS versions of the Cayenne and Panamera, a Cayenne S Diesel and, at the latter part of the year, this: the four-wheel drive 911. All-wheel drive versions of the 911 started with the awesome 959, back in 1986, and since then they've become a staple of the 911 buyers' diet.
What's under the bonnet?
You can pick from the same units found in the C2. There's a 3.4-litre, 347bhp, 390Nm, unit in the standard model. But our test car was in S guise, which means 3.8-litres, 397bhp, 440Nm of torque and a 0-60mph time of just 4.5 seconds. There's a PDK automatic gearbox, which is brilliant, but we'd go for the seven-speed manual – the box is beautifully light and direct, the clutch smooth and easy to feed in and the novelty of seven gears never really wears off.
What's the kit like?
It's pretty decent, but you'll pay through the nose for a large chunk of it. Standard equipment on the S includes 20-inch alloys, dual zone climate control, bi-xenon headlights, leather, seven-inch touch screen with sat nav and a Porsche vehicle tracking system. Our test car had optional front and rear parking sensors (£637), Bluetooth (£558) and a BOSE stereo upgrade (£963). You even pay for the floor mats (£121). In fact there's quite a bit of kit you'll fork out for that really should come as standard, and the three-year warranty is a bit stingy too...
Loads. For this money, buyers with plenty of cash have lots of choice. Direct comparisons come in the shape of the recently refreshed Audi R8 and the Nissan GT-R. But then buyers could also be looking at a Range Rover Sport. The fact the Porsche has two rear 'seats', which can be used by children, often tips the balance in its favour with sports car buyers.
Is it any good?
Unbelievably so. I spent a lot of time in the C2 last year and if I'm honest I found it very hard to spot the difference between that and this four-wheel drive variant. Really, for most drivers, the C2 will be more than enough. However, for car park bragging rights, the C4 certainly has added cache. How do you spot the difference? Well, apart from the badge, the C4 has a red light bar that runs right across the back of the car and it's wider too. In both standard and S guise it makes a brilliant noise, especially with the sports exhaust button depressed. It handles superbly, and that much-maligned steering is hard to fault. I love the seven-speed gearbox too. My only complaint would be the seats – both my co-driver and I found they sent our hamstrings to sleep. Not so good in a £100k sports car...
The AOL Cars Verdict
The new 991 model is an utterly intoxicating machine, but the price has crept up with it. With options, the C4S we drove was £94,221. Roll back the years and in 996 guise the 911 was seen to be the affordable supercar with cars starting at under £60,000. Yes, this is a much better model, but it's also a lot more expensive. Porsche told us that C4 models represent nearly 40 per cent of 911 sales, but to be honest, apart from the smarter back-end appearance, I'd find it hard to justify the additional £4,856 for the all-wheel drive when, in the hands of the mere mortal driver (like me), it's quite hard to tell the difference.
Model: Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
Price: £94,221 (as tested)
Engine: 3.8-litre, petrol
Power: 397bhp, 440Nm
Max speed: 189mph
MPG (comb'd): 29.7