Porsche has just unveiled the new 991 Carrera 4 at the Paris motor show, which was no surprise as the car had already been announced. As per the 997 before it, the new four-wheel drive variant can be distinguished by its wider rear wings and full-width rear reflector between the lights.
I suspect that it’s these cosmetic changes, rather than any dynamic advantages, which will attract buyers to the 4 and 4S over their less expensive rear-wheel drive counterparts.
Porsche first introduced a four-wheel drive 911 back in 1989 with the 964 Carrera 4. This was followed a year later by the 964 Carrera 2 – the only incarnation that was actually badged ‘2’, later two-wheel drive versions were just called ‘Carrera’.
The 964 Carrera 4 developed a bit of a reputation for understeering, which it does when you push it hard but this can be improved no end by a decent suspension geometry set-up.
Since then, Porsche has improved the Carrera 4 with each new version, to make it feel more like a rear-wheel drive most of the time, with drive to the front wheels only really kicking in when required. Indeed, it’s safe to say that, for most drivers most of the time, it’s hard to tell the difference between a Carrera and Carrera 4 from the driver’s seat.
There are advantages of a Carrera 4 – every winter I get emails from smug owners reporting how they drove past BMWs stuck in the snow and ice – while a Carrera will still give the purest driving experience if you really want to push your 911 to the limit on a circuit (that said, plenty of Carrera 4 owners have a lot of fun on track).
Therefore, my usual advice to buyers of used 911s, is to choose the best car you can find, regardless of how many wheels are driven, unless you have a very good reason otherwise.