SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Coupe ENGINE: 3.4-liter DOHC horizontally opposed six HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 300 hp @ 6,800 rpm/258 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual WHEELBASE: 92.6 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 174.5 x 69.5 x 51.4 in. BASE PRICE: $71,020
Let me start by explaining that there are two versions of the Porsche 911; the straight version and the all-wheel drive version. This week's tester is the all-wheel drive Porsche 911 Carrera 4.
Now your first question will unlikely be, "Why do you need all-wheel drive on a sports car, especially one with the heritage of the Porsche 911? Well, it's not because you'll be driving the car off-road necessarily. All-wheel drive provides even better handling and traction that the normal rear-wheel drive 911 on all road surfaces.
Let me explain. The Carrera 4 uses an all-wheel drive system based on a viscous multi-plate clutch. This system directs torque to the front wheels at a rate of 5-40 percent, depending on available traction and power applied.
We drove the Carrera 4 primarily on paved roads, but we spent a few miles on dirt-and-gravel roads as well. Where we normally had to slow to take certain corners on these roads, we discovered with the Carrera 4 that we could be more daring. This gave an added feeling of safety on those corners where we still had to slow, but we were confident that we weren't going to slide all over the place.
Of course the Carrera 4 is still a Porsche. As such, it's one of the best sports cars in the world, and definitely worth the $71,020 price tag, assuming you're able to come up with that amount of money.
Front passengers sit in individual bucket seats that offered excellent side support. This support is important when you're driving a car that begs to be thrown through corners. My wife appreciated the handles on the doors that gave her something to hang on to as I was thrashing the car around. I did notice, though, that there was less of a "panic grab" than there is with some other cars.
There is a rear seat in the Carrera, but frankly Porsche would have been better advised to eliminate it and make a more practical luggage area. We only carried two passengers, and folded the rear seat backs down to carry suitcases and long garments to our Easter dinner. As we usually do, there was a significant amount of food back there as well.
My wife was impressed by the amount of carrying capacity in the Carrera. It seemed that I was ferrying suitcases and bags from the car to the house for about 15 minutes after we pulled into the driveway. There is a small trunk in the front of the car, which proved to be ideal for small boxes and soft-sided bags.
The 3.4-liter horizontally opposed double overhead cam engine has a new exhaust system for 2000 that increases horsepower from 296 to an even 300. Coupled to a six-speed manual transmission, we always had enough power to do anything we wanted. Since the engine also has a significant amount of torque, we were able to achieve decent highway acceleration even in sixth gear. On an Interstate, you can drive the Carrera 4 almost as if it had an automatic gearbox. If you choose to keep it in fifth gear you're blessed with even more available torque, due to the higher engine revs. In sixth, however, you can get close to the quoted 24 mph highway figure.
The new engine is water-cooled as well, and has been for several years. We recall earlier Porsches where the din of the air-cooled engine detracted from the pleasure of driving the car. This engine is much quieter.
Our only major complaint with the Carrera 4 was the lack of cupholders. We have become spoiled Americans, and require cupholders in all our vehicles.
Since my wife and I like to bring along water bottles when we travel (it forces us into frequent "rest" stops), cupholders are a necessary convenience. We had to put our bottles in the center arm rest which was okay, but detracted from its utility.
If you're looking for a sports car with some practicality, the Carrera 4 is a good choice. For my own uses, I'd probably opt for the all-wheel drive version over the standard, even if there is a $5,000 charge for the option.