993 Car­rera S

Could the Turbo-look 993 Car­rera S be one of the finest mod­ern clas­sics?

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Joe Wil­liams Pho­tog­ra­phy by Daniel Pullen

Turbo wide­body, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine, rear-wheel drive. Is this the most de­sir­able mod­ern clas­sic Car­rera?

Porsche has a rich his­tory of build­ing dec­o­rated Turbo-look cars. It be­gan, of course, with the Turbo it­self: al­most im­me­di­ately from its re­lease in 1975, cus­tomers de­sired those wide hips on a 911 of their own, even if they could never af­ford the mon­u­men­tal $26,750 for the real thing.

In­de­pen­dent coach builders saw an op­por­tu­nity, of­fer­ing to con­vert cus­tomers’ nar­row-bod­ied Car­reras and, later on, SCS, to 930-spec. Some of­fered to do so via fi­bre­glass so­lu­tions, but steel arches, as per the fac­tory Turbo spec­i­fi­ca­tion, were the only real way to get the proper look with an authen­tic and con­sis­tent arch line. Porsche it­self didn’t of­fer a gen­uine Turbo-look op­tion un­til 1985 with the ar­rival of the 3.2 Car­rera SSE (Su­pers­port Equip­ment). This mated the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 3,164cc flat six from the Car­rera to the body and run­ning gear of the 930 3.3, avail­able in Coupe, Cabri­o­let and even Targa body styles. Op­tion M491 greatly im­proved han­dling, even if its wider stance meant a sac­ri­fice in top-end speed.

It was a fine blue­print, though. The pop­u­lar­ity of the SSE’S ag­gres­sive stance was such that Porsche again repli­cated the look for the 964 gen­er­a­tion with the 964 WTL and Turbo-look Cabri­o­let. The slight change was that Porsche had by now de­cided to ap­ply the Car­rera’s ac­tive rear wing to the Turbo wide­body, al­low­ing for a key de­vi­a­tion which vis­ually pro­tected the rear while also main­tain­ing the cleaner lines of the at­mo­spheric-en­gined Car­reras.

When it came to sign­ing off the sub­se­quent 993 gen­er­a­tion and, in­deed, the era of air-cooled 911s by the late 1990s, Zuf­fen­hausen knew ex­actly what would ap­peal. The 993 Car­rera 4S ar­rived first for the 1997 model year, again of­fer­ing the nat­u­rally

as­pi­rated flat six en­gine from the Car­rera with the body and chas­sis of the Turbo, which was all-wheel drive for the first time. This meant the C4S was of­fered only with a man­ual gear­box.

On paper, it should have been a thrilling 911, the sure-foot­ed­ness of the Turbo chas­sis matched with the pu­rity of the Car­rera’s en­gine. Cus­tomers cer­tainly ex­pected as much, with the wider-hipped 4S out­selling its Car­rera 4 sis­ter two to one. How­ever, for some, it’s a dis­ap­point­ing 911 to drive: pre­vi­ous tests in this mag­a­zine have high­lighted the C4S’S portly 1,520kg weight which, with­out the punch of twin tur­bocharg­ers, means the car’s per­for­mance is slug­gish at best. A sheep in wolf’s cloth­ing, dy­nam­i­cally it’s left want­ing too, that AWD sys­tem dulling the mes­sages from the front wheels.

Porsche had an an­swer for that, ar­riv­ing the fol­low­ing model year. The 993 Car­rera S once again boasted the vis­ual ap­peal of Tony Hat­ter’s de­sign in Turbo-spec wide­body form, mated to a Var­i­o­ram en­gine from the Car­rera. How­ever, from here the Car­rera S de­vi­ated from the 4S, ditch­ing its Tur­bospec sus­pen­sion and ‘Big Red’ brakes as well as, quite ob­vi­ously, its all-wheel-drive sys­tem. The 993 Car­rera S was there­fore a rear-driven, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 911 in a pur­pose­ful wide body, which has gar­nered a keen fol­low­ing among Porsche en­thu­si­asts ever since.

It’s also a rare com­mod­ity: only 3,714 were made, which is roughly half of the Car­rera 4S build num­ber and just over 5 per cent of over­all rear-driven 993 Car­rera pro­duc­tion. Its rar­ity and unique spec may be as­sured, but there’s one more crit­i­cal ques­tion which needs to be an­swered: in driver’s terms, is it a marked im­prove­ment over the 4S?

Matt Kenyon has given us the op­por­tu­nity to find out, which is why we find our­selves stand­ing next to a Glacier white ex­am­ple, the 23,000 miles dis­played on its odome­ter ver­i­fied by the car’s pris­tine con­di­tion through­out. This 911 ac­tu­ally be­longs to Matt’s fa­ther, but is cur­rently up for sale – for the right price – through Makel­los Clas­sics.

Sit­ting pretty un­der its Turbo shell, it doesn’t look as awk­ward from the front as a stan­dard 993 Car­rera, whose overly soft looks are a valid crit­i­cism de­spite the over­all pop­u­lar­ity of the base 993 gen­er­a­tion. The Car­rera S’s Turbo front bumper with deeper spoiler sees to that, the car also leav­ing the fac­tory some 20mm lower too. In fact, gaz­ing at the whole car, it’s hard not to be smit­ten by the pro­file of the C2S. Its front end just looks more com­plete, flow­ing neatly to the rear of the car and the bulging con­tours of those rear hips. That sub­tle boost in brawn means the lines just work bet­ter, in my view. At the rear of the car you’ll find the Car­rera S’s pièce de ré­sis­tance in de­sign. It’s a flat­back with an ac­tive wing match­ing the pro­file of stan­dard Car­reras, though its con­fig­u­ra­tion is unique, the deck­lid slats be­ing split into two halves. Fixed Turbo spoil­ers were a pop­u­lar op­tion, al­beit a su­per­flu­ous one… with­out those ‘Big Red’ brakes or Turbo sus­pen­sion you were never likely to fool any­one.

Be­neath all that you’ll usu­ally find ‘Turbo Twist’ wheels rolling un­der those wider arches, though this ex­am­ple has op­tional 17-inch fac­tory Cup 2 wheels plus a lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial in­cluded in its reper­toire. It looks the part, but we want to find out how it drives, so we’d bet­ter get go­ing.

Tak­ing our spot be­hind the wheel is a real treat. The rich, black leather adorn­ing the in­te­rior smells like new; the seats, hav­ing barely been worn in, still de­void of any sheen to their base or bol­sters. The steer­ing wheel ahead, which looks like it’s barely been touched in its 22 years, is of the nor­mal four­spoke va­ri­ety taken from the Car­rera, it los­ing the bulk­i­ness of the 964’s four-spoked, air-bagged ef­fort, though I wouldn’t put it down as an award win­ner for aes­thet­ics. Be­hind it the 911’s five-strong as­sort­ment of di­als have been neatly dressed in alu­minium bezels unique to the Car­rera S, the shifter and hand­brake lever below get­ting the same deft treat­ment.

Twist­ing the key in its ig­ni­tion, the Glacier white 911 fires har­mo­niously to life, a mel­low thrum emit­ted from the 993’s dual ex­haust pipes. The 993’s more up­right wind­screen, thin A-pil­lars and nar­row

dash­board are an ev­er­last­ing hall­mark of the clas­sic 911, yet its creep towards moder­nity is ev­i­dent in how fa­mously easy it is to drive. We get go­ing with lit­tle in­ci­dent, ven­tur­ing out in search of So­cal’s finest black­top in the last air-cooled, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 911.

With­out the harsh­ness of that Turbo sus­pen­sion be­queathed on the C4S, the C2S’S ride is abun­dantly palat­able, most sur­face im­pu­ri­ties be­neath us be­ing dealt with lit­tle fuss. The long gear­ing as­so­ci­ated with the 993 gen­er­a­tion re­mains ev­i­dent here, though its gear changes are glo­ri­ously pol­ished com­pared to, say, a 964, ex­em­pli­fied by the light­ness of the shifter and deft­ness of its move­ment. It’s near-on the per­fect set-up: un­mis­tak­ably di­rect and glo­ri­ously weight­less with­out be­ing su­per­fi­cially so, a shorter throw would, how­ever, bring a wel­come layer of in­ten­sity.

A longer stretch of road al­lows for a first test of the Car­rera S’s ac­cel­er­a­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties, throw­ing up some in­ter­est­ing re­sults. An added punch of torque be­fore the mid-range is ev­i­dent, this a re­sult of the Var­i­o­ram sys­tem in­tro­duced for the 993 RS and fit­ted to all 993s from 1995 – look for the al­loy plenum atop the flat six if you’re not sure. How­ever, Var­i­o­ram Car­reras – in­clud­ing the 2S and 4S – have only a 13hp in­crease over­all over pre-1995 cars, and be­ing some 80 kilo­grams heav­ier than the or­di­nary 993 Car­rera, the 2S is sim­ply not as quick in a straight line as its nar­row-bod­ied stable­mate. How­ever, this wide-bod­ied 911 makes up for its deficit in out­right pace in the cor­ners, and it doesn’t take long to find some twist­ing tar­mac to prove my point. Launch­ing en­thu­si­as­ti­cally into the first sweep­ing left-hand turn, a lit­tle weight­ing up of the front end is needed to get the nose to dive, but after that the car is largely un­flus­tered through the mid-cor­ner. There’s still no­tice­able body roll, but whereas a nar­row-bod­ied Car­rera might have flus­tered, the wider track and su­pe­rior grip af­forded by the larger foot­print of the 2S’s tyres means the car re­mains pretty much stable. In faster, more flow­ing cor­ners such as these it is a su­pe­rior car, en­sur­ing a smoother af­fair when stitch­ing a suc­ces­sion of snaking cor­ners to­gether like this. Push­ing a lit­tle more into a tighter righthander, the nose starts to give way first, but it hap­pens at a much later stage than a 4S, for ex­am­ple, would have man­aged, and is con­trol­lable with just a lit­tle pedal mod­er­a­tion.

The steer­ing, too, is sub­lime: bril­liantly weighted and far richer with its feed­back than the 4S, its clar­ity gives con­fi­dence, its speed only adding to the sen­sa­tion of the 2S’s abil­ity to pivot more seam­lessly from its nose.

In fact, the Car­rera S is abun­dantly more ag­ile than the Car­rera 4S full stop. Un­like the 4S the

C2S’S weight doesn’t feel like it’s overly pe­nal­is­ing the car through the twisty stuff, a 70kg weight sav­ing pro­vid­ing an ob­vi­ous pay-off on straighter sprints too. Sure, crit­ics will point to the lack of Turbo sus­pen­sion and brakes as ob­vi­ous holes in the Car­rera S’s ar­mour, but the truth is it doesn’t need ei­ther; the multi-link sus­pen­sion has proven to be more than up to the task, and with­out the heavy AWD sys­tem of the 4S the brakes sim­ply don’t have to con­tend with as much mass to stop.

Re­turn­ing to the deal­er­ship at Makel­los, I park the car and hop out with a glee­ful smile. ‘What a bril­liant mod­ern clas­sic 911’, I think to my­self, steal­ing a fi­nal look back at those gor­geous wide hips as I walk away.

The 993 Car­rera S is unique in many ways. Not only is it a run-out spe­cial of the 993 and a fit­ting hur­rah for the air-cooled gen­er­a­tion at large, it’s a model which, in terms of spec­i­fi­ca­tion, hasn’t re­ally been re­peated since. Porsche only re­leased a C4S for the fol­low­ing 996 gen­er­a­tion, and both 997.1 and 997.2 C2S’S were nar­row bod­ied. In fact, the 997 C2 GTS of 2010 was the next vari­ant to come close to the 993 C2S’S spec, it­self a car that’s never re­ally fallen below list price and highly re­garded among the pan­theon of Porsche 911s. Con­sid­er­ing the swelling of the model line-up in the wa­ter-cooled era, that re­ally is tes­ta­ment to how spe­cial the 993 Car­rera S’s cre­den­tials are.

Yet, as we’ve seen, the car has an abun­dance of style over sub­stance too. Markedly bet­ter than the 4S, I’d also have one over a nar­row-bod­ied Var­i­o­ram Car­rera – hell, in terms of driv­ing re­ward, it might even come close to a Turbo. The 993 Car­rera S is in­deed a fine mod­ern clas­sic Porsche, but could it re­ally stake a claim as the ul­ti­mate wide-bod­ied 993? You can find out next is­sue…

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