Porsche 911 Carrera 4 (964) ~ 1989-1993

Get into a 964 and you’ll immediately feel at home with that classic 911 dash. You know – a row of five dials in front of, and partly obscured by, the steering wheel, and switchgear haphazardly scattered around the cockpit. But compared with earlier 911s – even the internally similar 3.2 Carrera which was sold until 1988 – the 964 cockpit feels and looks so much more modern, even if it’s basically the same.

Proper dash-mounted, electronic heater controls help, as does an array of warning lights and a stumpy gearstick. Other than that, though, it’s all pretty much classic 911. However, it nonetheless seems, for some indeterminable reason, less antiquated, and certainly a place you can be comfortable in for long journeys.

Start the engine and there’s no doubt whatsoever that’s an air-cooled flat-six behind your back. The sound, wonderful as it might be, is comfortably muted by sound-deadening so, once again, this is a car you can live with on long journeys.

That feeling is confirmed when you start moving. You see, the 964 was the first 911 to have coil springs, rather than torsion bars. That means you get a better, more forgiving ride, and more conventional handling.

If you’re used to earlier 911s, than the 964 undoubtedly feels a heavier car. Which it is – that transmission system, plus all the electronics and sound-deadening aren’t light. But what the 964 lacks in agility it makes up for in pure driveability. You can push the car ever harder into bends, and it always feels secure and well-planted, with less of the floating front-end feeling of earlier 911s (and, indeed, of the contemporary Carrera 2). Accelerate hard through a bend and you can feel all four wheels putting the power down – and, significantly, the front ones pulling the car around the corner

Yes, there is understeer, but so what? At road speeds, even if you’re pushing hard, it’s never off-putting and, besides, understeer is always a safer state on public roads than oversteer. At least you can feel what the car is doing and remain in control. At slow speeds that power steering – a novelty for a 911, but standard on most other prestige cars in 1989 – makes parking a doddle.

You are always very much in control of the Carrera 4. It’s a forgiving machine – thanks again to that understeer – and you’re unlikely to get into trouble with it. Go out in the wet or ice – conditions that get owners of older 911s rushing for the safety of the garage – and you appreciate the reassurance that the four-wheel-drive offers, too. The tail-happy behaviour of earlier 911s may be fun once you’ve mastered it, but the tamed 964 is a car that anyone can get into and drive with confidence.

The 3.6-litre engine pumps out 250bhp – a respectable increase on the 231bhp of the outgoing 3.2 Carrera. Again, though, the weight goes some way to dampening the engine’s power. At first, this doesn’t seem a sizzling performer, more a refined cruiser with plenty of torque for lazy driving. But you’re being misled. Get the revs above 4500rpm and things really start to come alive. Keep between here and 6000rpm by making good use of the gearchange and the 964 is quite a different animal. The engine screams behind your head and that alone is enough to encourage you to keep the revs high, not to mention the phenomenal acceleration (0-62mph takes a claimed 5.7 seconds – just 0.7 seconds behind a 2003-model Carrera 4). It’s quite the Jekyll and Hyde routine and very addictive.

The 964’s not perfect, mind you. The steering is a little vague, thanks in part to bizarre front wishbone bushes that were designed to flex in an effort to improve the ride. And, despite the coil springs, the ride is rather unrefined at times and the car can be knocked off track if you hit a bump on a fast corner. That gearchange, too, is somewhat notchy, the heater still needs constant adjustment to maintain a consistent temperature, while the car’s turning circle is truly abysmal.

It’s a great-looking car, though, even. The single-piece plastic bumpers are smooth and elegant, and are visually matched by subtle sideskirts. Yet classic 911 lines are retained by the pop-up rear spoiler. !

 
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