The 996 has its detractors, but the C4S is an affordable route into wide-body ownership. It’s time for a more in-depth look…
Background to the 996 C4S
‘Turbo look’ is a familiar part of the Neunelfer enthusiast’s parlance, but you have to head back to 1984 for its first appearance. Back then, it meant the M491 option for the 3.2 Carrera, a car that featured familiar mechanicals clothed in the wider-hipped shell of the groundbreaking Turbo, and it soon became clear that Porsche had hit on a winning recipe.
Continuing with both the 964 and 993 generations, it debuted on the car you see here in the latter part of 2001, before going on sale the following year. Buyers were asked to pay around £65,000 for the privilege if they opted, as many did, for the optional Tiptronic gearbox – £25,000 less than the amount asked for the full-fat Turbo – but that didn’t stop more than 23,000 of them signing on the dotted line. Today, according to Paragon Porsche’s Jason Shepherd and RPM Technik’s Greig Daly, £27,000- £35,000 will secure a very nice Coupe.
Viewed in the context of the savage depreciation that afflicts many modern cars, that’s impressive for a 911 that’s a decade and a half old, and quite astonishing value given the looks, performance and desirability on offer. What attracted many original buyers were those more muscular looks that came courtesy of an additional 60mm of rear width and the front and rear bumpers from the Turbo. The front item was re-profiled to account for the fact that the blown model’s rear spoiler was missing, and there were no air intakes on the rear haunches, but the C4S did gain a full-width reflector strip between the rear lights, along with the same style of alloy wheel (although these featured solid rather than hollow spokes).
The new model also shared the Turbo’s 10mm lower suspension setup – albeit slightly retuned and softened – and the ‘Big Red’ brakes with 330mm discs. Otherwise, it was standard C4, which meant a viscous-coupled four-wheel drive system with Porsche Traction Management (PTM) and a 320bhp 3.6-litre flat six that could be paired with six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic transmissions. The extra width did bring a marginal performance penalty, adding 0.1 seconds to the 0-62mph sprint and lopping 3mph from the top speed (now 5.1 seconds and 174mph respectively) compared to the C4, but it was of no consequence in reality. A Cabriolet version was also offered, and reckoned to account for around a third of total sales, but the C4S would prove relatively short-lived as the 997 arrived in 2004.
What’s it like to drive?
The C4S is no stranger to the pages of this magazine. As recently as issue 152, Kyle Fortune pitted it against the pricier – and much quicker – 996 Turbo, and came away from the encounter more than a little impressed by what the C4S had to offer.
Yes, the Turbo was ferociously quick, but the C4S countered with a less daunting driving experience, one where you could maker fuller use of the power on offer. But it wasn’t just about speed, as he also relished the greater delicacy when it came to responses and feedback, commenting on the “enjoyable balance between the chassis and the way the flat six delivers its power”. Add in a slick manual gearbox and well-matched control weights, and it was, said Kyle, “So much more than the sum of its Turbo-look parts.”