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The Porsche 911 is a car that deserves that overworked descriptor “icon.” Along with the E-Type Jaguar, it has an instantly recognizable shape that has survived the years. The thing about the 911 is that it is still in production, and thanks to subtle engineering and cosmetic changes, it still retains its position at the head of the sports car field.
The latest iteration, for the 2002 model year, is now appearing in Porsche dealerships in the U.S. The Carrera and the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 are the base upon which the 911 range is grounded. For those that want more, the first step up is the Carrera 4S, which I recently drove around Lake Garda in Northern Italy.
The base 2002 Carreras – you can’t really call a Porsche “base,” but you know what I mean – has minor cosmetic changes that make them a little smoother looking and also help their aerodynamics. But Porsche isn’t about model-year styling makeovers. Porsche is about engineering, and the big change for 2002 is an engine that is extended from 3.2 liters to 3.4, which gives it 320 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The major technical change is the adoption of Porsche’s Variocam Plus variable valve timing-system, which achieves the ideal combination of increasing power while at the same time decreasing fuel consumption – it’s a good trick if you can do it, and Porsche has.
Naturally the new engine is to be found in the 4S, but the higher-specification car doesn’t get a power increase – with 320 horses on tap, it’s not really needed.
What the 4S does get is a dose of steroids from the legendary Porsche Turbo. Ever since the very first Turbo, the top car of the 911 range has shown its power in a wide rear end born of wide tires and power to spare. The 4S, as we’ve said, doesn’t have more power, but it has got a body that has been to the same gym as its big brother. Deep air intakes at the front speak of racetrack heritage, but the aspect of the 4S that pleases most is the rear. Borrowing from the Turbo style manual, the 4S is almost two and a half inches wider than the standard car across its powerful haunches. It doesn’t sound much, but it’s enough to be noticed. Put it this way, no car buff is not going to notice that he has been passed by a 4S! The wider engine cover has a different rear lamp treatment that underlines the difference between the 4S and its brothers. In typical Porsche fashion, the cover is now made out of glass-fiber reinforced plastic. You can’t see that it’s made of a new material, but it’s lighter and it came out of racing experience – and that’s enough for the engineers from Stuttgart to use it.