Porsche 911 C4 Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Greed is good, but gluttony is better. Greed means you have an insatiable desire for more. Gluttony means you're busy catering to your insatiability. Although many observers still consider the Porsche 911 a Gordon Gecko greedmobile, it's actually a glutton. For curves. No matter what kind of corner you throw at it– from a highway sweeper to a twisting country lane to a freshly laid race track– the C4 wants, needs, must have more. Reverse camber, broken surface, bad weather– it doesn't matter. As soon as it's exited one corner, the C4 is ready for the next. And the next. No question: the way this thing handles is a sin.

The C4 is the next-up next-gen 911: a wide-hipped iteration of the new Carrera's Coke-bottle-as-suppository design theme. As such, it's also a minimalist vision of the forthcoming be-winged and bi-gilled Turbo. Although the C4 offers Porsche-spotters a few cosmetic tweaks to the basic model's retro-modern mix, it is, at its core, another Armani-clad psycho-killer. Considering the C4's inherent potential for luring its pilot into legal entanglements, the stealth wealth aesthetic is probably a blessing in disguise.

The C4's interior remains unchanged from the last time Porsche changed it. Now that The Sultans of Stuttgart furnish their 911 interiors to match their $70k-and-up price tag, we can stop bitching about the quality of the cabin materials– and start bitching about the ICE and HVAC interface. Although the C4 has all the gizmology you'd expect for one so dear– sat knavery, XM radiology, integrated cellularity– its Chicklet-sized buttons make its functions a hit-and-miss affair. (Even the daintiest digits suddenly seem elephantine.) Given the C4's glove-weather capabilities and the dashboard's limited real estate, a central touch screen would have been the logical solution.

Nothing needs doing in the sound and fury department. Crank the C4's starter and the Porker's 3.6-liter engine tells the world that motorized mayhem is manifest. The C4's flat six's sonic signature is hard to pin down– and even harder to forget. It combines the nuclear-powered bass notes of Mr. Incredible's cartoon car, the mechanical whirlwind of a Florida Everglades fan boat and the resurrected rasp of Porsches gone by. It's about time paddles appeared on either side of the blissfully button-free steering wheel, but at least the C4's clutch action is perfectly judged. The six-speed snicks home with all the tactile satisfaction of a swooshed b-ball. Right. Time to smoke 'em since we got 'em…

The C4's surge into VarioCam Land is so smooth it's easy to mistake the rev limiter's stuttering for aberrant ABS. It all happens so fast. Sure, the weight of the all-wheel-drive gubbins makes the C4 a tad slower than the identically engined C2. As both mean machines sprint to sixty in near-as-dammit five seconds, arguing about the difference is like debating the relative merits of Dom Perginon and Cristal. More to the point, the C4's ability to transfer up to 40% of its horsepower to the front wheels makes it the quicker of the two cars in anything other than a straight line.

When contemplating the C4's ability to violate the laws of time and space, the main thing to keep in mind is, of all things, safety. The C4's stability-controlled four-wheel-drive system and its stupendous stopping power give adrenalin-crazed amateurs the freedom to make mistakes at truly monumental speeds. This is the sports car that maintains its death grip on the tarmac when rear wheelers have twirled off into the scenery; that lets you know when you're about to make a mistake; that tells you when you've just made a mistake; that gives you a chance to rectify your mistake; that shrugs its computerized shoulders and sorts it all out for you, so you can try again.

If you really want to get picky, yes, the C4 has a bit more understeer at the limit than the C2. On the other hand, the C4's slightly heavier helm makes it easier to position than the rear-wheeler. Again, these are differences without a distinction. Both Carreras are finely-honed surgical instruments fully capable of dissecting your favorite road and leaving it for dead in less time than it takes to deploy its [much-appreciated] cup-holders. That said, only one of these cars significantly increases your chances of avoiding the same fate as the roadway, should over-exuberance and inexperience conspire to kill you dead.

The biggest problem presented by C4 ownership is… greed. Once you've driven the C4 boldly where you've only tip-toed before, you will feel a deep, irresistible urge for more horsepower. And then it's straight to… envy. The first time you see the Carrera 4S or, God forbid, the new Turbo, you will experience an ugly mix of desire and hatred. As anyone who owns a Carrera will know, buying the new C4 makes you a glutton for punishment.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
2 of 3 comments
  • Robert Farago Robert Farago on Aug 18, 2011

    The most recent C4 is so good I sold my left testicle to buy one. That didn't work out as well as I planned, but my God, what a motorcar.

  • Morkus Morkus on Oct 31, 2011

    Are you referring to this year's model, or the '05 reviewed in the article? While we're on the subject, I am considering a myriad of 911s. Everything from base to turbo, '01 - '05, and I want to spend @50k or less. Any recommendations?

  • Analoggrotto Level 50 Trolling at it's finest. Well done.
  • Lorenzo The unspoken killer is that batteries can't be repaired after a fender-bender and the cars are totaled by insurance companies. Very quickly, insurance premiums will be bigger than the the monthly payment, killing all sales. People will be snapping up all the clunkers Tim Healey can find.
  • Lorenzo Massachusetts - with the start/finish line at the tip of Cape Cod.
  • RHD Welcome to TTAH/K, also known as TTAUC (The truth about used cars). There is a hell of a lot of interesting auto news that does not make it to this website.
  • Jkross22 EV makers are hosed. How much bigger is the EV market right now than it already is? Tesla is holding all the cards... existing customer base, no dealers to contend with, largest EV fleet and the only one with a reliable (although more crowded) charging network when you're on the road. They're also the most agile with pricing. I have no idea what BMW, Audi, H/K and Merc are thinking and their sales reflect that. Tesla isn't for me, but I see the appeal. They are the EV for people who really just want a Tesla, which is most EV customers. Rivian and Polestar and Lucid are all in trouble. They'll likely have to be acquired to survive. They probably know it too.