Italicized lowercase “turbo” script on the backside of a Porsche 911 has long been cause for reverential pause amongst sports car enthusiasts. After all, it was once the world’s fastest production car.
Today, however, Turbo merely refers to a particularly potent 911 trim line. What’s changed? Almost every model Porsche currently produces is turbocharged, the 2017 model year doing likewise to the entry-level Carrera lineup, too.
Regulatory pressure forces wastegate induction
Welcome to the biggest change to the iconic 911 since the water-cooled boxer replaced the air-cooled unit in 1999. The adoption of turbocharging is the result of increasingly stringent global fuel economy targets and emissions standards.
Fortunately, some technologies are as helpful to performance as they are to Mother Nature. The 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera’s new 3.0L flat-6 engine proves this point with 370 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, up 20 and 44, respectively, over last year’s naturally aspirated 3.4L mill.
What’s more, the new 911 Carrera S delivers 420 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque for an identical gain of 20 hp and an even better 58 lb-ft advantage over its predecessor’s 3.8L unit, while full twist is achieved at just 1,700 rpm for more immediate response off the line. All this from a smaller powerplant that saves up to 12% in premium fuel, my all-wheel-drive 4S tester getting an 11.0L/100km city and 8.5L/100km highway rating.
What’s not to like?
Cleaner and quicker
A week well spent with the new 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S has made me a believer in the brand’s new forced wastegate induction philosophy. This model is easily the best of its Carrera forebears.
Its straight-line performance is addictively quick ― 4.2 seconds from 0-100 km/h with the enhanced 7-speed manual transmission, 4.0 seconds with the automated, dual-clutch PDK, and 3.8 seconds with the latter when upgraded with the Sport Chrono package. It’s the first 911 Carrera to ever break the 4.0-second mark.
Porsche certainly gives buyers good reason to abandon their adherence to the DIY shifter (the lack of a clutch pedal in any of the Turbo trims or the GT3 RS being another), while the subtle turbo whine combined with a faintly muted albeit still characteristically guttural flat-6 sound coming from behind the firewall constantly reminds you that Porsche’s engineering prowess will never let tradition stand in the way of progress.
Some useless information to those interested in keeping their licenses includes top speed numbers of 295 km/h for the base 911 and 308 km/h for the sportier S when the manual gearbox is chosen. My 911 Carrera 4S tester with PDK was supposedly good for 303 km/h.
An entirely new level of transmission tech
That PDK is a masterful piece of electromechanical kit, featuring an intensely quick, positive-shifting, dual-clutch design that’s still surprisingly smooth until your right thumb rotates the new 918 Spyder-inspired steering wheel-mounted drive mode dial past “O” (default) and “S” to the most extreme “S+” setting, at which point the shifts are appropriately more abrupt, although nothing that resembles a race car.
Alternatively, there’s an “I” position that lets you apply individually programmed settings, or you can hit the centre “Sport Response” button for a 20-second adrenaline burst. This “press to pass” feature instantly engages Sport+ mode, drops the PDK to its lowest available gear, maximizes boost, and throws all thoughts of fuel efficiency under the proverbial bus.
The PDK’s greener side might be even more mind-blowing, however. Along with the fuel-sipping auto start/stop and brake regeneration systems, it manages near-CVT levels of virtual gearing, capable of engaging adjacent gears simultaneously while slightly slipping both clutches in order to achieve an effective gear ratio in between.
Say what? I know it sounds like a recipe for burning through pricey clutch material, but apparently this isn’t so. The result of finding the optimal gear ratio every time is said to improve performance as well as reduce fuel economy and emissions.
Much improved all-weather traction
Upgraded, Turbo-spec all-wheel drive technology improves traction at takeoff and through fast-paced curves, where you’ll also appreciate enhanced steering reaction and feedback. It never once left me guessing about the available grip. The process of adding load to the outside wheels is wonderfully progressive, and eventual rear-wheel slip is as predictable and precise as one could hope for, while the car’s derriere still squats when burying the throttle on exit, although not to the point of making the front 234/45ZR20 Pirelli P-Zeros overly light and non-engaging.
I should note there’s a PSM Sport feature that basically shuts down the electronic safety net for what’s effectively a 305/30 disintegrating drift mode, so if you’re brave (or stupid) enough it’ll provide as much fun as your talent allows or else ego-busting, tail-swapping embarrassment. There’s reportedly a “residual PSM support” feature that’ll save your backside (and the car’s) even if “everything” is supposedly turned off, but being that I didn’t get into trouble, I’ll never know how well it works.
The 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S’ handling is actually quite neutral most of the time, which is impressive considering its front/rear weight distribution has been pushed backwards, all the turbo plumbing adding 35 kg (77 lbs) when compared with the old 3.4L engine.
This is probably why Porsche included standard PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), which automatically lowers the ride height by 10 mm and also dynamically adapts damping levels to changing road conditions. I won’t likely ever be able to tell you what a 1970 Chaparral 2J feels like when its second engine-powered fan sucks all the air from under the car so it literally hoovers down the racetrack, but this Carrera 4S has got to be close.
Making matters even more interesting, the Sport package upgrade now includes rear-axle steering from the 911 Turbo and GT3 for even greater high-speed stability during lateral transitions, not to mention a 0.5m smaller turning circle at low speed. Continuing on the theme of absolute control, the standard brakes are ridiculously capable, making me wonder how otherworldly the optional ceramic composite rotors must feel.
Styling gets a boost, too
It would simply be wrong to introduce so much advanced performance without updating the 911 Carrera’s styling, so Porsche gave this 991/2 model a classic nip and tuck that includes the brand’s now signature quad LED driving lights integrated within new headlamp clusters, a more sharply focused front fascia with redesigned LED fog lights, elegantly simplified door handles, a cool new vertically louvered engine vent (that actually forces cold air into a complicated array of three separate intakes), newly sculpted 3D taillights boasting a quadrant layout comprised of longer LEDs as well as a classic light bar connecting the two below the deck lid, and of course new wheels.
To my eyes this is the most beautiful 911 since the ‘90s-era 993, and possibly even more so.
The interior is mostly carryover, which is fine by me. The design is ideally minimal, the quality of materials is superb, and most of the switchgear is above par. The only changes are the aforementioned steering wheel and its rotating driving mode selector, that latter item’s controls now missing from the slanted centre stack, plus a new state-of-the-art 7” multi-touch colour PCM (Porsche Communication Management) infotainment system.
The quicker-reacting, more graphically stimulating, proximity-sensing PCM includes Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto due to Google’s insistence of a near complete OBD2 data dump every time someone connects), online navigation with Google Earth and Google Street View, real-time traffic info that automatically adjusts your chosen nav route, Wi-Fi, and more. To summarize, Porsche finally offers infotainment matching the rest of the 911’s goodness.
And yes, the renewed 2017 Porsche 911’s goodness is great. This Carrera 4S model proved much more fulfilling than the Turbos I first tested when starting my auto scribbling career in the early aughts.
As was the case then and still is now, you can almost double the car’s base price of $102,200 with extras, mine already starting at a cool $126,100 plus freight and fees. Along with carbon ceramic brakes, the Sport Chrono package, adaptive sport seats, Burmester surround sound, colour-matched leather, carbon fibre, hardwood interior trim, etc., you can also add new adaptive cruise control and lane change assist to the upgraded standard menu that now incorporates post-collision braking.
No matter which options you add to the 911 model, you’ll get a car that’s purely designed for driving enthusiasts, if not Porsche purists. I say it’s the best Carrera yet.