As in past years, the 993-series Porsche Carrera 4 shared all the improvements of its rear-drive contemporary, but with a few differences. Tiptronic still wasn't available, but buyers did get "titanium-colored" engine-lid script, brake calipers, and shift-knob insert.
More significant, the C4's all-wheel drive was further simplified from the 964 system, replacing electrohydraulic differentials with mechanical components. These comprised a locking rear differential and a center diff with a viscous coupling -- basically a multi-disc clutch running in a silicone goo, not unlike that used in newer sport-utility vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. A driveshaft ran from the center differential to a small front diff with associated halfshafts.
Unlike the previous AWD, the new system diverted power to the front only when signaled by sensors monitoring rpm, temperature, and wheel speed (part of the ABD and ABS electronics), regulated by the rear differential. Thus, if both rear wheels began spinning, as on ice, up to 39 percent of available power was sent forward. In most other conditions the front/rear torque split could vary between 5/95 and 25/75 percent.
All non-turbo 993s shared the same new look with a lower nose and wide "hips."
The real beauty of the 993's AWD was that it weighed just 111 pounds, which trimmed C4 curb weight by a substantial 165 pounds. The new design also cut frictional losses by a sizable 50 percent. Even so, the new C4 remained a bit thirstier than the rear-drive Carrera and landed in the "guzzler" category, though only by one mpg.
Reviewers had nothing but raves for all the rejuvenated Porsche 911s. Let's start with the rear-driver, piloted for Car and Driver by Briton Peter Robinson. He noted that "no 911 has ever handled as well nor been as easy to drive. But do not think for a moment that this more friendly temperament has compromised driver pleasure...The [steering] wheel still transmits useful messages with typical 911 clarity as it writhes gently in your fingers, so that you feel there's almost no hydraulic help. Yet any artificial messages are eliminated, and so is kickback.
"The result combines razor-sharp turn-in response and sensitivity with staggering high-speed stability and a newfound sense of security. The contrived understeer engineered into the old Carrera 2 and 4 models has been replaced by a new agility...the greater roadholding and reduced understeer requiring far less steering effort...At its limit, the 911's not quite as serene as an Acura NSX, but it is far more predictable than a Ferrari 348" -- high praise considering those cars' pure mid-engine layout.
As for the Carrera 4, Road & Track's Joe Rusz tested it back-to-back with the rear-driver at Southern California's demanding Willow Springs Raceway, and his comments are interesting: "Without a doubt, the Carrera 4 is quicker, getting off the line with a fair amount of wheelspin but without the severe axle judder that seems to dog the Carrera...In fast sweepers the Carrera 4 feels more stable, its excellent awd enabling it to toe the line perfectly. The Carrera 2, on the other hand, gets very nervous and tends to oversteer at the slightest hint of throttle lift-off."
But Rusz found that "in slow, 90-degree corners, the C4...understeers, so much so that power-on exits often found the steering wheel reaching full lock. What's more, throttle liftoff only slightly reduces understeer -- in contrast to the C2 in which a reduction of power brings the tail out slightly and allows the front tires to bite. Why does the Carrera 4 understeer? Because when the front wheels are driven, less of their tires' grip is available for lateral traction. And with the rear tires getting such excellent traction, they propel the car forward, causing the lightly loaded fronts to lose their grip."
The 993 cabrio offered a "wind blocker" that clipped on to reduce air turbulence.
Whatever their flaws on the track, the new Porsche 911s were brilliant on the road. "[I]t seems Porsche's engineers have finally purged [the] flaws," Robinson declared, "and what's left is the sharpest 911 yet. And the most friendly." Said Rusz: "If I were a Porsche purist who knows how to drive...and who fully understands the meaning of rear-engine weight bias, the Carrera would get my vote. It's lively, responsive, challenging...But if I were the same fella and realized that there's a lot to be said for all-wheel-drive stability and all-weather traction, the new Carrera 4 would get my nod."
So as ever with Porsche 911s, "you pays your money and takes your choice." Only now you didn't pay so much. At just $100 shy of $60,000, the '95 U.S. Carrera coupe cost $5,000 less than its '94 counterpart, and the $65,900 C4 was a whopping $12,000 more affordable. Corresponding Cabriolet prices were $65,900 and $74,200. (Tiptronic S added $3,150 to either rear-drive model.) In convincing fashion, Porsche had made good on its promise of a better 911 for less money.
We're not forgetting acceleration, but gains here were relatively less impressive. R&T's rear-drive coupe matched the factory's 5.2-second 0-60 claim, which was a tick quicker than the departed RS America. The magazine's Carrera 4 clocked 5.7 seconds 0-60, 0.3-second off the official time, though about what you'd expect given a 111-pound weight penalty. Car and Driver got 4.9 seconds with a C4 coupe in the same sprint, which looked a shade optimistic.
As for skidpad cornering, R&T's Carrera 4 turned 0.85g versus 0.90 for C/D's car -- a big gap likely explained by different test sites. Porsche itself claimed "in excess of 1.0g on high-traction surfaces" for all 993s, which seemed a bit boastful in view of the above.
Overall, though, the 993-series was a remarkable advance on the 964 models, especially for being developed during one of the darkest periods in Porsche history.
The 993 Carreras were the most forgiving 911s ever, yet no less thrilling to drive.
Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:
|Porsche 924, 944, 968
||Porsche 928||Porsche 959|
|Porsche Boxster||Porsche Cayenne||Porsche Cayman|
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