It’s widely accepted that the Porsche 911 is the world’s most admired and accessible sports car. Turning heads since 1963, the road-hugging coupe with curves in all the right places has pretty much remained its same iconic self on the outside, despite countless variations.

Then there’s the mechanical pedigree: the peerless handling, the innovative powertrains, the chart-topping 0-60 mph times, the 2+2 seating arrangement in a flat six-cylinder rear-mounted engine.

There’s something else. Something more, that in our week with the 911 Carrera 4S, base price $110,300, made friends and strangers alike express awe, admiration and sharply worded jealousy.

The most common comment was about the light gray-blue color of the test model, a chameleonic hue that appeared bluish in sun and gray in shade.

Porsche calls it graphite blue metallic. It’s yet another one of those subtle but striking differences that makes the 911 stand out.

Before we get into the differences for the second iteration of the seventh generation 911, and since there are more variations of it than other models made by Porsche (pronounced PORSH-uh) here’s some context.

Since 1963, each generation has carried a different internal designation. The last generation was known by Porsche and Porschephiles as the 997; the 2017 model is the second iteration of the 991, which was fully redesigned in 2011. So this 911 is the 991 II, or 991.2.

More telling is the alphanumeric code that follows the 911 badge.

The Carrera is essentially the base model Porsche 911. Add a 4 and it means all-wheel drive; add an S and it means Sport, or faster.

Changes to the Carrera 4S (C4S) include a lighter, faster engine, a new all-wheel drive system, a new sport package and new tech.

The surface changes are subtle: new four-point daytime running lights square off the oval headlights to make the 911 more distinct from the front, the light strip between the rear lights is sharper to make it more distinct from the rear, and the all-wheel drive, or 4, has a wider rear end with flared wheel arches that house wider, grippier 11.5-inch wheels.

If you like rear ends, you’ll love the C4S. The test model came with optional, rounded twin-exhaust pipes mounted in the middle, much like its racing-oriented siblings.

And how sweet the sound emanating from those pipes. In normal mode at low speed it’s refined inside and out, so I didn’t feel like a fool dropping off the kids at school. In sport mode with the baffles opened, that enticing warble sounds like a pot full of miniature hounds from hell kept under a lid until the throttle blows it open.

Underscoring this wild growl is the zip-line whir of the twin turbocharger. It’s this dynamism, from refined to wild, civilized to nasty, that is so damn endearing about the 911.

The 4S uses a new, lightweight twin-turbocharged 3-liter flat six-cylinder, or boxer, engine that makes 420 horsepower, or 20 horsepower more than the outgoing engine. Twin turbocharging makes all 368 pound-feet of torque available between 1,700 and 5,000 rpm, which is a long wide band to get your speed fix anywhere, from on ramps to highway passing moves, to jumping out of tricky turn No. 6 at the track.

Pair all this power to the superlative PDK transmission, and the 911 C4S hits 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, which is a staggering 0.3 second faster than the outgoing, naturally aspirated C4S PDK.

We did not reach the new top speed of 188 mph, which is 4 mph faster than the old one.

Also new to the 911 C4S is an all-wheel-drive system lifted from its racing siblings. Sports coupe purists might scoff at an AWD with an automatic transmission, but they would be wrong.

AWD is 0.1 second quicker to 60 mph than RWD and there is so much electronic wizardry delivering torque to the appropriate wheels – and safety to those ungrounded wheels – that AWD is an automotive unicorn, faster, better and safer.

For the first time, the C4S comes with a button to raise the suspension 1.5 inches to avoid scraping the splitter when driving over the curb into the driveway.

It also comes available with rear axle steering as part of the $6,810 sport package: The rear axle steers independently of the front wheels. At low speeds, under 31 mph to be exact, the rear wheels turn opposite the front wheels for better agility.

Essentially, it shortens the wheelbase, making a U-turn into that parking space a whole lot easier. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front, essentially stretching the wheelbase for better stability, so you can turn at higher speeds and ride that line.

If you really, really need to drift, you can always shut off Porsche Stability Management, or let Sport Plus mode disable the most limiting parts.

We felt no need to switch it off during our track day.

The Sport Chrono package on the test model included the GT steering wheel, which is unfettered except for the drive mode switch derived from the 918 Spyder supercar. Drivers can toggle between Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual Mode, which is a customized blend of inputs.

We played around with the paddle shifters and the manual function of the gearbox, but the automatically shifting PDK seven-speed transmission simply was a smarter, better shifter.

It let me focus on hitting the apexes and following the line of least resistance to stay at speed. PDK reads the inputs and responds appropriately, so if you slam the throttle, it could stay in second gear until near 70 mph; conversely, on the highway, it can stay in seventh gear even as you slow down to coasting in the mid-50 mph range. To call its shifting seamless would be an understatement.


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