The philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ underscores the history of the Porsche 911. For more than twenty five years, Porsche colluded with 911 buffs by labeling every improvement arid styling tweak as an `edition’ or ‘version’ of the globally-beloved original. The Porsche 964 Carrera 4 changed that perception. The Owner’s Manual might say `Porsche 911 Carrera 4′, but the 964 (the factory model code) was a total revision, the first since 1963.
Over 80% of its components were new or completely redesigned — but Porsche still managed to stay true to both the spirit and instantly recognizable profile of the old 911. The 964 Carrera 4 was as much a triumph of marketing tact as it was of engineering and elegant styling. For the new car, Porsche looked to the technology of the Porsche 959, proven on the race track, at Le Mans, and in city centres. The 964 Carrera 4 of 1989 was a four-wheel drive with refined aerodynamics that integrated the front and rear bumpers into the body shape, greatly improving the drag coefficient and (with the flat undertrays as a seal) virtually eliminating lift at high speed.
Instead of a fixed wing, the rear spoiler raised automatically at 50 mph (80 km/h); otherwise it cunningly recessed into the engine lid and acted as ventilation for the engine. Unseen, new brakes and new (Macpherson strut) suspension worked in effective and highly responsive symbiosis with the 3.6 litre engine — itself so crammed with ‘modifications’ it got a new name, the M64 series.
Its advanced Motronic programme and high compression ratio dealt playfully with the 964’s increased weight and strict emissions controls: performance went far beyond compensation. The Porsche 964 Carrera 4 was a revolution, not an evolution. The 911 needed radical fixing — call it anything you like.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Germany
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1989 (until 1993)
ENGINE: 3,602 cc Flat Six
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 163 mph (262 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: The 964 Carrera 4’s combination of performance and practicality beats out all the turbo, GT and RS editions of the Porsche 911. European Car stated emphatically: ‘At its worst, this is the best Porsche ever. At its best, it is one of the most thoroughly competent road-going cars in the world —comfortable, easy to drive and practical enough to undertake even the most mundane motoring tasks.’