Porsche 911 C4 Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
porsche 911 c4 review

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.

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  • 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?

  • MaintenanceCosts Despite my hostile comments above I really can't wait to see a video of one of these at the strip. A production car running mid-eights is just bats. I just hope that at least one owner lets it happen, rather than offloading the car from the trailer straight into a helium-filled bag that goes into a dark secured warehouse until Barrett-Jackson 2056.
  • Schurkey Decades later, I'm still peeved that Honda failed to recall and repair the seat belts in my '80 Civic. Well-known issue with the retractors failing to retract.Honda cut a deal with the NHTSA at that time, to put a "lifetime warranty" on FUTURE seat belts, in return for not having to deal with the existing problems.Dirtbags all around. Customers screwed, corporation and Government moves on.
  • Bullnuke An acquaintance of mine 50+ years ago who was attending MIT (until General Hershey's folks sent him his "Greetings" letter) converted an Austin Mini from its staid 4 cylinder to an electric motored fuel cell vehicle. It was done as a project during his progression toward a Master Degree in Electrical Engineering. He told me it worked pretty well but wasn't something to use as a daily driver given the technology and availability of suitable components of the time. Fueling LH2 and LOX was somewhat problematic. Upon completion he removed his fuel cell and equipment and, for another project, reinstalled the 4 banger but reassembled it without mechanical fasteners using an experimental epoxy adhesive instead which, he said, worked much better and was a daily driver...for awhile. He went on to be an enlisted Reactor Operator on a submarine for a few years.
  • Ajla $100k is walking around money but this is almost certainly the last Dodge V8 vehicle and it's likely to be the most powerful factory-installed and warrantied pushrod engine ever. So there is some historical applicability to things even if you have an otherwise low opinion of the Challenger.And, like I said up thread, if you still hate it will be gone soon anyway.
  • Carlson Fan GM completely blew the marketing of the Volt. The commercials were terrible. You'd swear they told the advertising company to come up with an ad that would make sure no one went out and shopped a Volt after seeing it!...........LOL My buddy asked why I bought a car that only goes 40 miles on a charge? That pretty much sums up how confusing and uninformative the advertising was.