You are busy reading a Carbs and Coffee feature which makes you an accomplished petrolhead, so we really don’t need to tell you that the Porsche 911 eats at the same table as the most important motoring icons of all time.
Porsche may well be the most versatile petrolhead brand of them all. Obviously not as exotic as Ferrari or Lamborghini, the company brings sportscar experiences within the grasp of many petrolheads who are willing to make some financial sacrifices to make it work.
Arguably the best thing about Porsche is that the company offers a car for every need. There’s no other brand that consistently offers petrolheads excellent cars for every stage of life.
You want a brilliant mid-engined car that feels like a kart? No problem, will that be with or without a roof?
Family SUV? Choice of two.
The ultimate 2+2 sports car? Absolutely.
Ok, we won’t gush over the sedan option. The Panamera has historically been an awkward looking thing, although we haven’t driven one so can’t comment from that perspective. The new one is much prettier although the old one was hardly a benchmark for beauty.
Porsche has even made the thought of an electric daily a lot more bearable. The Taycan looks right at home sitting on charge next to a track-focused GT3RS. It’s remarkable.
But on this particular morning, it was time to experience a Porsche that has entrenched itself on the radar of collectors: a 996 Carrera 4S.
A few years ago, it was difficult to get much more than R400,000 for a decent spec 996. Now, good examples are selling for over R500,000 and we aren’t talking about the Turbo or the GT3, both of which we have featured before. We’ve also featured a Gen 2 Carrera previously, so we’ve spent a fair bit of time with the 996 family.
Arguably the smartest buy in the range is the Carrera 4S that you see before you here. There are still those who don’t appreciate the way the 996 looks, but we think this car is genuinely pretty.
The 996 4S was launched as part of the facelift of the 996 range. It inherited the widebody look of the Turbo, by no means a bad thing. With a Turbo face and a great rear-end with the tail light going all the way across (unique to the 4S), it’s a sportscar that has aged extremely well.
Once you’ve finished admiring the unmistakable lines of the car, it’s time to climb into the bucket seats and experience the magic of a 911.
Like all of them, the engine is hanging way out the back. This brings a unique driving sensation of being pushed along rather than pulled. That cliché Porsche meme about the horses behind the cart certainly applies in real life.
With “just” 235kw, you may initially think that the 996 C4S would get eaten alive by a modern hot hatch. In a straight line, maybe. We now live in a world where 0 – 100km/h in 5 seconds isn’t going to win every robot race.
If all you ever care about is straight line speed though, this is the wrong motoring blog for you. Cars are about so much more than that, especially weekend cars that focus on the art of driving.
You may wonder if the 911 is the most capable car we’ve driven in the corners. The simple answer is that no, it isn’t. The steering in this car is so perfectly weighted that you nearly cry tears of joy when you experience it, but the brakes and handling on corner entry are the chinks in the armour. We had the same feeling in the Turbo.
The 911 does a lot of things well, but the car is weaker on corner entry than on exit. It’s a very different feeling to a Cayman, for example.
However, the mid-range punch of the engine is something to behold. It feels much faster than the 0-100km/h time suggests, perhaps because it is always ready to kick you in the back. If you focus on making the most of the mid-corner onwards, you can drive very quickly in a 996.
This makes the car terrific for public road conditions.
On a track with controlled conditions, it’s great to be right on the limit into the apex, but it’s stupid on public roads. The hedges are full of BMW M4 drivers who don’t seem to understand that.
All you need is a pedestrian, cyclist, slippery patch of road or stray dog and tragedy could await. It’s much safer to attack the exit of the corner once you have full visibility of the situation.
For this purpose, the 911 is amazing. The C4S is particularly great, because the drive to all four wheels gives you confidence to plant it on imperfect road surfaces. Rather than detract from the experience, the all-wheel drive system adds to it.
As a car you can live with all the time, it also works well. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a soft or comfortable car. The ride is quite hard and the bucket seats don’t cushion the experience, so this may not be the best choice to take granny to the shops. However, the aircon is strong and the 2+2 format has brought joy to many parents who can own a great enthusiast’s car and still take the kids to school in it.
Don’t underestimate how impressive this feat is. The 2+2 market is full of bloated cars that aren’t sharp to drive, like the Audi S5. The 911 C4S may also be all-wheel drive, but the weight and setup delivers a sharp experience that leaves you with a smile on your face.
The 996 interior even offers a bit of old-world charm, whereas a 997 sits between the worlds of analogue and digital, without any particularly endearing features. The “manuell” descriptor for the aircon is a favourite. German for “manual”, it inspires occupants to make Fawlty Towers references about the much-loved Spanish waiter in the brilliant 1970s British comedy series.
John Cleese played his role in the development of comedy and Porsche has played its role in the development of the sportscar. Much like Fawlty Towers, the 996 4S has only gotten better with age and certainly isn’t depreciating from here.
As a smart place to store your money and plant your right foot on the exit of a corner, we can’t fault it. This is the 996 you should buy, offering the right mix of performance and value for money.