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Test drive: How Porsche 911 feels on Indian roads

Last updated on: April 17, 2013 08:45 IST

Test drive: How Porsche 911 feels on Indian roads

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Rohin Nagrani in Mumbai


Purists swear by their rear-wheel driven 911s. Why? It's a touch twitchy, more adjustable and therefore a bit more, well, enjoyable!

Four-wheel drive for the 911 was mooted for a simpler reason - the famous Dakar rally. Of course, Porsche had twin victories to show, that too on a supercar blasting through hot sand dunes back in the mid-'80s.

It was the era of four-wheel drive, after all, influenced heavily by Group-B rallying. And then came the production 911s with drive axles on all fours, the 911 Turbo generally being considered the most deserving candidate.

It's the regular 911 with four-wheel drive, however, that's been the more widely accepted model, mainly because it's such a weather-cum-driver talent leveller.

Then again, the modern 911 comes with a whole bunch of abbreviations, starting with P, which pretty much sort things like snap oversteer, understeer, traction and what not.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Porsche
Tags: Porsche , Dakar

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Does the four-wheel drive version make sense at all, then? Or is it a hangover from which the white coats at Porsche can't recover? Let's find out.

With this, the third all-new 911 since 1963, things have changed considerably. The construction is a combination of steel, aluminium and plastic, with the body-in-white now weighing 45 kg less than earlier.

In 4S guise, the kerb weight is about 50 kg more than the S, but that's not too much of a gain.

There's nothing with the exterior design to find fault with; it's evolution that's at work here. Dictated by the location of the engine, the 911 has grown in size, the wheelbase is longer and therefore there's more space on the inside.

What it still does very well, though, is turn heads. In this canary yellow number, it grabs even more attention although the 'is it a Ferrari?' question is inevitable.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Porsche
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Test drive: How Porsche 911 feels on Indian roads

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Porsche has done a fantastic job of upping the quality quotient on the 911 C4S. From the superb paint to the small details, it looks and feels more premium than ever before, and that's exactly what the brief for Michael Mauer, Porsche's design master, was.

In a sense, the enlarged proportions and the 'bling' factor have made it more GT material and given the 911 a push it perhaps lacked before.

I'm a huge fan of modern Porsche interiors, for the simple fact that they use lots of aluminium bits and cold metal, rather than faux wood and faux aluminium.

Get inside and the sense of space up front has been heightened. There's more headroom and shoulder room than before, and six-plus footers will find that rather useful.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Porsche

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Test drive: How Porsche 911 feels on Indian roads

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The rear seats are still plus-two at best, though with additional space. Increasing the wheelbase, as you would have guessed, has done the trick here.

Everything else on the inside is pleasing to the eye and in proper Porsche tradition, finding badly finished bits is very, very hard.

From the captain's chair, the world is a beautiful place indeed. Five dials in typical 911 tradition, with the rev-counter in the centre and a host of controls on the port side, keep you busy and let me be fair, it takes some time before you get used to them.

Our test car came with optional yellow seat belts, sports chrono, powered sport seats, a sports exhaust, launch control and a host of other options that take the sticker price well north of the base price.

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The only thing you miss is a proper handbrake, replaced by the electronic parking brake in the 991, but we can live with that.

Thankfully, our test car did come with the optional sports steering with proper paddle shifters; a relief, considering the regular push-pull ones are quite an irritant.

The 3.8-litre flat six motor is far removed from the engines of the past, which were high strung, had motorsport credentials and could be tuned as far as your wallet could go.

This new motor was first introduced in the 997 Series, post facelift, and continues to do duty here too. With direct injection and a host of electronic trickery, it produces 395 bhp of peak power from its horizontally opposed six and nearly 45 kgm of torque.

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Mated to a seven-speed, dual clutch transmission (or an optional seven-speed manual), the C4S's motor has a nice blend of performance and driveability on offer.

With launch control on, the 911 is a whole lot quicker than without it. The dash to 100 kmph comes up in just 4.6 seconds, the numbers to 160 kmph are just past 10 seconds and 200 kmph can be done in just 16 seconds!

It's the kind of performance we've seen from the heavier but mightily potent BMW M5, with 550-odd horsepower to play with.

Clearly, any doubts about the new motor's performance in a straight line are well and truly thrown out of the window. Impressively, it's the gearbox that does most of the job, and rather well too.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Porsche
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Except for a large gap between the first two ratios, the rest of it is just a snap attack that can catch you unawares.

The dual-clutch PDK transmission is lightning fast, whether it's downshifts or upshifts, and this allows you to spend more time and energy focussing on where to place the nose, or how to catch that slight wiggle of the tail when you switch everything off.

With the 911 typically rear-biased, everything, including the design, components and dynamics revolve around it.

Typical problems include trying to get the front end to find grip and prevent it from going light, to ensuring tyre wear is even and what not.

With progress through seven generations, there is little of what one would find on the first cars 50 years ago.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Porsche
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Of course, progress has also meant some things have been lost forever; steering feel, for one. Where the hydraulic setups were the touchy-feely kind, the electric setup on the 991 lacks that decisive edge.

It's accurate and allows you to point the wheels where you want to, but that's about it. Shame, because the 997 and 996 were a class act in that regard.

Yet it's PASM and all those terminologies that work brilliantly here, in conjunction with the four-wheel drive setup.

Mash the throttle to the floor and you can feel the front end go a touch light, the rear stepping out and the aggressive bite-back of the electronics in bringing you back to shape.

This is especially true even in the dry, on concrete or paver block surfaces, like the ones which Mumbai is awash in.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Porsche
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Build up speed into three digits and the car feels supremely planted and sudden directional changes are possible without upsetting its balance.

Find a twisting, turning road and the 911 simply becomes a different kind of animal. It revels at the sight of them and then some more, although I'd say a mid-engined car is probably a happier place to be in.

Yet, the 911 simply challenges your instincts and reactions and keeps testing your driving abilities in a way that can plaster a smile on your face like no other entry-level supercar in existence.

And to top it off, the ride, despite the stiffer suspension, is more supple than most sports coupes or supercars.

There's just the right dosage of firmness injected into the dampers, without losing out on the suppleness over not-so-good stretches.

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In the 50th year of the 911, arguably the most iconic of supercars (apart from the Chevrolet Corvette) it still retains some tricks up its sleeve.

It may have become more premium, more expensive (how does Rs 1.46 crore sound?) and less hardcore, but it retains the fine genes of a line and the engineering wizardry of a company that has spent the better part of 50 years correcting a mistake.

Take my word for it, the Carrera 4S is a brilliant, every day, all-weather supercar that punches way above its weight and teaches you the finer nuances of what makes a good car great.

And if you crave an even more exciting recipe, then ditch the four-wheel drive, save some money and go in for a regular Carrera S. It's the purest 911 experience of them all!


Photographs: Courtesy, Porsche

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