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Review: Porsche 911 4 Cabriolet

Driven January 2013

Review: Porsche 911 4 Cabriolet

They will tell you if the power doesn’t go to the rear wheels, it isn’t a 911. But they don’t know that the four-wheel drive has been a regular on the 911 line since 1989. And since then, of all the homes that have a 911, about 40 per cent are four-wheel drive. So, nearly half the world likes their 911 ready for snow, frozen lakes or an oil slick.

Going by the weather in Graz, Austria, and the snowfall predicted, the all-four 911 seemed like the right car to have. It takes its four-wheel drive system from the Porsche Traction Management of the previous-gen 911 Turbo. Visually, the only way you can tell the 4 from the normal 911 is by the wider rear… something you won’t notice, and the continuous running strip of the red brake light running parallel to the spoiler at the rear… something you will notice.

What you will also notice is the all-wheel drive indicator on the instrument binnacle. In Standard mode, the bar in the rear axle is lit. When you take a corner hard, the front ones light up a wee bit, indicating the amount of power going through the front. The rest of the car, though, is way more different from the standard 911 Carerra S we drove early this year.

Of course, the precision is there. But everything else seems a quarter notch down. Now, this is a cabriolet and about 65kg heavier than the rear-wheel driven 911. But what we got was the non-S version. Instead of a 3.8-litre flat six making 400bhp, this car had 3.4 litres making 350bhp. And that 50bhp deficit showed. If not in outright acceleration, then definitely in some histrionics.

You see, the 911 is no longer a basic, light sportscar that is fun irrespective of horsepower.

It has added several kilos over the years. Add to that, the additional weight of four-wheel drive, and the extra rigidity to compensate for the lack of a roof makes this particular variant one of the less sensational 911s. With the roof down, and with the Sport button pressed, you do get some rorty notes from the engine through the Sound Symposer. It absorbs the vibration from the air induction between the throttle valve and the air filter and transmits them to the interior.

It’s this sort of tinkering you don’t want. This is a sportscar. The sportier exhaust should come by default. If Porsche’s customer clinics show that there are people who buy their sportscars for some quiet time, Porsche should themselves push them down a cliff. It’s simpler and cheaper than a Sound Symposer.

Refinement is faultless, though. With the roof up, you can barely hear any wind noise. Roof down, you still won’t go deaf with the wind gushing in. And like typical Porsches, you get that feeling of travelling in a sorted, comfortable car that has no quirks, no compromises, no monkeying about in the name of a sportscar.

Plus you get the same precision and accuracy out of this version as you’d get in a, well, vanilla 911 Carerra S. The steering is responsive, the pedals have enough weight and travel, and the entire car is rather quick on its feet. The question is, forget a drop-top, forget the smaller engine, do you need four-wheel drive?

As we said earlier, through that drive indicator, we realised the car was barely using the front wheels for any grip and power. Mostly because it was barely required.

Rear-wheel drive is good for most surfaces. Moreover, with modern traction control systems, you’d have to be extremely daft to end up wrapped around a tree. Besides, on slippery surfaces, even four-wheel drive is no inoculation from accidents.

Let’s put it this way. This particular 911 is best if you want a bit of everything – an open top, the assurance of four-wheel drive in an engine package that’s got enough of performance. Like an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet where you nibble a bite out of everything on offer. But if you know what you want, it has to be the standard 911 Carerra S. That’s like a slice of toast with a layer of butter. Unlike an all-out buffet, it’s light on your fingers, perfectly brown, crisp, quicker and way easier on your senses.

The numbers
3436cc, flat-six petrol, AWD, 350bhp, 390Nm, 7A, 0-100: 4.7 secs, 282kph, 1500kg, Rs 1.3 crore (ex-Maharashtra approx)

The verdict
Still the most complete sportscar around. But vanilla rear-wheel drive coupe is better.

Sriram Narayanan

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