Its Seal Grey Metallic paint is an appropriate color for a sports car whose shape has been compared to a breaching killer whale. Its black full leather interior is equally apropos to the vehicle's luxury status. And even though its color scheme enhances the car's desirability, it could have come in chartreuse and mauve and we wouldn't have cared (well, maybe a little bit). european car's long-term 2003 Porsche Carrera 4S is the kind of car one yearns to drive no matter which hues it comes in.
One reason behind that yearning is the C4S's engine. Powered by Porsche's 3.6-liter flat six, the C4S can outrun most other cars on the road. The engine's 320 bhp is available at 6800 rpm and its 273 lb-ft of torque peaks at 4250 rpm. The VarioCam Plus valve timing and lift system enables 84% of peak torque to be available from 2500 to 7000 rpm, giving the C4S serious pushing (as opposed to pulling in a front-engined car) power. The 3,240-lb coupe's reported 0-to-62-mph time can turn nearly every stoplight encounter into a quick-start challenge, even if the only person you're competing against is yourself. Rowing through the six gears of the manual transmission becomes an exercise in quickness and shift-point maximization. You can't help but have fun getting off the line.
A second point of desire is the Carrera 4S's handling characteristics. The all-wheel-drive system is the same as that on the 911 Turbo. Weighing just 120 lb, the system is based on a viscous multi-plate clutch located directly behind the front differential, sending 5- to 40% of available torque forward based on applied power and traction. The four-wheel independent suspension system has a MacPherson-strut design in front and a multi-link setup in the rear--both using aluminum components for reduced unsprung weight, stabilizer bars for flat cornering and gas-charged shock absorbers for minimized pitch and yaw. The result of these two systems is a chassis that is virtually impossible to break free. You'd have to be doing something phenomenally stupid, such as trying to defy the laws of physics, in order to cause the C4S to lose traction.
If you do manage to get the coupe loose, its four-wheel vented and cross-drilled disc brakes with one-piece four-piston calipers (it's the same setup as on the 911 Turbo) will tighten things up in a hurry. The front and rear discs are 13 in. in diameter, that's 0.5- and 1.2-in. larger, respectively, than on the standard 911. As with the 911 Turbo, the Porsche Stability Management system (PSM) is standard equipment. PSM is a dynamic handling control system that senses and then reduces instability by way of braking individual wheels and, if required, reducing engine power.
If power and handling aren't enough to make you want to drive the Carrera 4S, then its looks should be another variable in the desire equation. The C4S shares its body design with the 911 Turbo, giving you the Turbo look without the Turbo price. The lower front spoiler has three large intake grilles, just like the Turbo. The upper front spoiler differs slightly from the Turbo's to accommodate aerodynamically for the difference in weight and weight distribution. Obviously, the Turbo's side intake ducts aren't present on the C4S as they're not needing for the normally aspirated engine; however, the C4S does have the Turbo's lower rear quarter panel louvers. The automatically deployed rear spoiler is the one used on other Carrera models. The wheels are also Turbo style, measuring 8x18 in. in the front and 11x18 in. in the rear, and are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport tires, sized 225/40R18 and 295/30R18, respectively. Visible through the wheels are the signature red calipers from the Turbo.
Still need another reason to lust after the C4S? It also has the additional luxury amenities of the Turbo, including full leather seats with power adjust and memory, power heated side mirrors, electric sliding sunroof with tilt, programmable remote entry and integrated foglights. Porsche Cars of North America allowed us to order our C4S with whichever options we wanted--and we chose a fair amount. We opted for the leather sport seats (no additional charge) instead of the aforementioned power adjust seats, but asked that they be lowered by 10mm and heated, which cost $705 and $410, respectively. The Porsche Communication Management II option is the GPS navigation system, a $2,630 addition. We added the Bose High-end Sound Package ($795)--which consists of a 100-Watt switching amplifier with five additional 25-Watt linear amps and 12 loudspeakers--and the boot-mounted six-disc CD changer ($715), and turned our C4S into an awesome rolling sound system.
ec's new long-termer also has the 18-in. Sport Techno wheels, a $2,860 option (instead of the standard Turbo-look wheels), the Xenon Headlamp Package for $1,080, a rear window wiper for $345, a roof transport system (i.e., roof rack rails) for $400 and something called "Exclusive Options" for $540. All told, our C4S with a base price or $81,800 now retails for $93,055, including a $765 destination charge--that's $10,490 worth of extras. A bit steep? Maybe, but we figured that if someone could afford an $82k car, they could afford a $93k one.
I drove the then-new C4S nearly 2 years ago through the northern Italian lake district and came home raving about it (see european car, May 2002). So when we put in the order for our new long-term Porsche, my anticipation was high and the months of waiting for it seemed to be almost an eternity. Was it worth the wait? Time, and other ec staffers, will tell. But here's a clue: It's a Porsche Carrera, one of the most desirable cars on earth.