It’s now 50 years since the first Porsche 901 (quickly changed to 911 after copyright squabbles with Peugeot) debuted and, more than 830,000 units later, it’s still causing a stir.
I can’t think of any other vehicle in the world that is immediately recognizable by just three numbers.
Ferry Porsche got it right the first time, which explains in part why the basic shape remains the same.
Iconic doesn’t begin to describe the 911.
Engine in the rear, deeply canted rear window, the volup tuous rear and, of course, there’s that unmistakable sound of a flat-six motor.
The genius is not just in the basic design, but the way Porsche continuously has refined and distilled every moving part in that it is the same, but not the same, all at the same time.
The latest model tested here is the 911 Carrera 4 and 4S. There are Coupe and Cabriolet models for both versions.
The “4” stands for permanent all-wheel-drive and the S for the larger of the two “boxer” engines available.
The S has wider (22 mm) rear fenders to accommodate the 10 mm wider tires necessary for the AWD setup.
While the Carrera 4 gets a 3.4-litre (350 hp) engine, the 4S gets the bigger 3.8 unit now producing 400 hp as standard (325 lb/ft), a figure undreamt of back in 1963.
The Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) twin-clutch automatic transmission is available as an option, but a new seven-speed manual is standard.
The 4S coupe gets from 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds (Cabriolet 4.3 seconds) and a top speed of 186 mph (Cabriolet 184 mph).
Fuel consumption (premium) ratings for the Carrera 4S as tested are 11.3L/100 km (25 mpg) city, 7.5L/100 km (38 mpg) highway. Driving the manual at a mix of city and highway, my real world average was 10.2L/100 km.
Featured is the latest version of the all-wheel drive Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system. While retaining the traditional rear-wheel-drive emphasis of the 911, the all-wheel drive chassis of the Carrera 4 and 4S delivers increased traction, road-holding and dynamic performance over a wide variety of road surfaces and in all weather conditions.
I’ve never driven a seven-speed manual. With a very busy shift pattern (reverse a dogleg to the upper left, seventh a dogleg to the upper right), I was expecting a lot of lag between shifts what with all those cogs crammed into one space.
I should have known better. Yes, the shift to seventh was a conscious heave up to the right but it was more due to my unfamiliarity than the box. Time and practise would cure all.
Cruising alone at 100 km/h the tach showed a hair under 1,900 rpm but that was not the best part.
When teamed with the optional Sport Chrono pack it is even more responsive than the PDK.
Sport Chrono ($2,110) lets the driver select Sport and Sport Plus that changes ride height, engine mapping and suspension.
There is also a little button beside the shifter that opens up flaps in the exhaust for smoother flow.
But working together in Sport Plus, the system automatically double-declutches during downshifts with a rich, deep burble.
You gotta love it!
Seating is perfect for the driver and the classic five-pot instrument cluster is, as I said many times, how it should be done.
There is one change to the cluster and that is the addition of a new menu that informs the driver how the PTM all-wheel drive is currently distributing engine torque between the front and rear axles.
But what it all comes down to is the driving pleasure one gets from a 911—any 911.
A 911 isn’t cheap. The 4S tested here starts at $120,500 but with boatloads of options plus the $1,085 shipping fee the grand total was $140,275 before taxes.
Is it, or any car worth that much?
When you factor in all that has gone into the 911 for 50 years you get a car that, in my experience, is the only one that, when you think it, the car does it.
As someone once told me, it spoils you for anything else.
In closing, this story has been about something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
I borrowed this new 911 tester from my old friend Rick Bye and that’s made me blue.
For some two decades Rick, or Ricky the Racer as I call him, has been not just the face but the heart and soul of Porsche Canada.
Rick was in charge of wrangling the Porsche press car fleet across Canada and did a marvellous job at it.
But times have changed. Porsche is no longer a small sportscar maker with a heart but a major car and truck manufacturer with a bottom line.
With sales up another 22 per cent last year, Porsche Canada has decided it needs a third party with several employees to do the job of trying to please the press/media/others and it makes some sense. For his part, Rick is not unhappy and it appears to be amicable on both sides.
But Rick was always there. A fierce and redoubtable (not to mention multi-winning race driver) competitor in all things, it was always a joy to see that wry grin and the no nonsense talk.
More to the point, he won my undying admiration when, in 1998 heading to Daytona for the 24-hour race, he came upon an accident in his path. As far as anyone knows, it appears Rick threw himself in front of his passenger at the last second and took the whole hit. Given the last rites, he was in a coma for months. But by sheer will, he rebuilt his twisted body when no one else thought he could.
I would not have had the wits to act that fast—or the courage. Typically, Rick refuses to take credit for his act. Regardless, in my book, he can do no wrong.
Ricky, thanks for rides and all the laughs along the way.
I enjoyed every one.
Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Coupe 2013
Body Style: Performance coupe.
Drive Method: rear-engine, permanent all-wheel-drive.
Engine: 3.8-litre, DOHC “boxer” six-cylinder (400 hp, 325 lb/ft)
Fuel Economy: Premium (94 octane rec.) seven-speed manual as tested 11.3L/100 km (25 mpg) city, 7.5L/100 km (38 mpg) highway
Cargo: 4.76 cu ft
Price: Base, $120,500, as tested, $140,275 including $1,085 shipping charge.