Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Quick Review

Critic’s Notebook takeaway: the snappy, ripping 2+2, now mit turboladers.

byBrendan McAleer|
Porsche Reviews photo

Welcome to Critic's Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff collection of impressions, jottings, and marginalia on whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today's edition: the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S.

Help needed! By the time I'd hung up the phone, I was already out the door with keys in hand. My littlest, suffering from an ear infection, was yanking hard on her mother's last nerve. Time to ride to the rescue like Roger Moore in a saintly white coupe.

The pleasing thing about the 911 is that it's at once a selfish and a sensible choice. Unlike a two-seater like the Cayman GT4, that most excellent of beasts, the 911 is now and always has been a useful 2+2. In this particular case, I was able to flit over the highway with a dose of turbocharged shove, cram a car seat and a cranky one-year-old in the back, then hurry on home for a dose of infant ibuprofen and some Hot Wheels. She likes to put them in all the seats of her sister's Playmobil 911. “What are you, Xzibit?” I ask her.

“Gah!”, she responded.

For 2017, the 911 now comes with turbocharging as standard. There is still only one 911 Turbo, but there are many small-"t" 911 turbos, with boost and horsepower directly related to how much your bank account gets dinged each month. It may still be possible to find a last-of naturally-aspirated GTS on a lot somewhere, so if you're a fan of naturally-aspirated neunelfers, hurry up and buy one of those. Soon, only special editions like the GT3 and the 911R will offer flat-sixes that scream instead of huffing boost.

Almost every time Porsche tweaks the 911 recipe, fanboys lose their minds. In this case, trickle-down turbocharging seems to have met with less internet rage than you might expect; good thing too, because the changes are excellent.

Previously, the 911S came with a 3.8L, 400-hp flat-six that made peak power and torque relatively high in the rev range. It also came with a pair of gearboxes designed for Autobahn efficiency—with the dual-clutch option, you could lose your license by about third gear. The tall gearing made the 911 quiet on the highway, but stirring the six awake required making some pretty big speeds.

The facelifted car gets a 3.0L flat-six in both Carrera and Carrera S trims. This car being an all-wheel-drive C4S, that means 420 hp at 6500rpm, and a broad torque plateau of 368 lb-ft from 1700-5000 rpm. Given the muscle to crank through the gears, it flies. Porsche claims a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds if launch control is used in a PDK car; they're likely sandbagging like crazy—the base Carrera with PDK has been putting down times in the mid-three second range.

Divested of children by grandparents, I take the C4S out for a burn around a couple of wriggly coastal roads. The interior is pure business class, with a much needed update to the touchscreen infotainment. A new toggle switch has sprouted on the steering wheel, making it easier to switch between one of four driving modes. There's also a push-to-pass button in the middle of the toggle, which allows maximum attack to briefly get past a semi-trailer; the cynic in me feels like many 911 owners will use this button frequently while never considering the other modes, let alone doing a track day.

But never mind that. The new turbo 911 just rips. The power's right there, the smaller flat-six loves to snap towards redline, the brakes are brutal, and the chassis feels hewn from billet aluminum. Zero fuss, maximum velocity.

But is it lovable? Sort of. The usual thing is to complain about Porsche's options, but really, the company offers enormous flexibility to get the flavor just right. This one's white-on-grey color scheme is a little vanilla, and the all-wheel-drive is probably unnecessary. I'd keep the handsome wheels, delete the AWD and the rear badges, and choose the dark blue. And I'd probably get a stick shift, because some distant ancestor of mine passed along the smashing-steam-looms-with-wooden-shoes gene. You can have yours any way you like it: that's the beauty

However, even in this coldly efficient version, I found myself glancing back over my right shoulder every stoplight at my kid giving me a sly, toothless grin. Speed and power and panache and prestige—plus two. It's hard to beat that math.

2017 Porsche 911 C4S

Price (as tested): $110,300 ($133,100)

Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged flat-six, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, all-wheel drive

0-60 mph: 3.6 seconds

MPG: 21 city / 28 highway

Ideal Vanity Plate: TEMPLAR