Our 400-horsepower, all-wheel-drive 2014 Porsche Carrera 4S, stuffed with nearly $40K worth of options, stickered at an eye-popping $145,305 MSRP. What's to say about the design? While the 911's basic shape (check out a '60s model) has changed little in its five decades, it has grown longer, wider and much more muscular through the years with bigger wheels and tires under beautifully flared fenders. And its details -- inside and out -- are regularly tweaked to fine-tune its iconic good looks and help 911 aficionados differentiate one year and model from another.
On twisty two-lanes, the Carrera 4S performs, corners and brakes as well as just about anything we've experienced. Its ride is reasonably smooth on rough surfaces (much stiffer in Sport and Sport Plus suspension modes), its PDK transmission shifts cleanly, quickly and sweetly, and that wonderful 3.8L 400-hp flat-six winds to its 7,400rpm redline with a lusty animal growl, made much louder with Sport Exhaust activated.
It can rocket from rest to 60 mph in just 3.9 sec. with the PDK and available Sport Chrono package, yet its EPA economy numbers are quite respectable at 19/26 MPG. We averaged 23.3 MPG over 370 miles of mixed local, freeway and aggressive two-lane driving. Unlike most serious sports cars, the 911 has always offered vestigial rear seats... unusable for real people but handy for small items that won't fit in the tiny (4.4 cu.ft.) front trunk.
Our 2014 911 Carrera 4S's interior was as purposeful as it was attractive, with a full set of gorgeous gauges (included oil temperature as well as pressure) and most every button and switch well marked and easy to find and operate. The big central tachometer is flanked by a slightly smaller speedometer to its left and an comprehensive selectable driver information screen to its right. Besides the usual trip, audio, navigation and phone information, it can display engine data, adaptive cruise control settings, tire pressures, front-to-rear torque split, Sport Chronometer (track lap and acceleration times) or even G forces. Your transmission gear is dead-center in the tachometer (whether or not you're shifting manually), and at the bottom is vehicle speed in big, easy-to-see numbers.
A lot of good stuff comes standard, including Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Torque Vectoring (PTV), Stability Management (PSM), huge (13.4-inch six-piston front and 13-inch four-piston rear) vented-disc brakes, heated and ventilated leather seats, a leather-covered steering wheel, variable-ratio electric power steering, dual-zone automatic climate control, load leveling Bi-Xenon headlamps, nine-speaker premium audio with Sirius/XM and HD radio, 6-disc CD/DVD changer, navigation, a remote entry alarm and a suite of eight airbags.
But a lot of still-better stuff doesn't. Most significant on our test Carrera S4's option list was an 800-watt 12-speaker Burmeister ultra-premium audio package ($5,010), a black/platinum grey leather interior ($4,120) and Porsche's terrific Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) automatically shifted seven-speed manual transmission ($4,080), Adaptive Sport Seats Plus ($3,465), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control ($3,160), Sport Exhaust System ($2,950), Adaptive Cruise Control ($2,490), Sport Chrono Package ($2,370), a Premium Package Plus with 18-way power seats, a power sunroof ($1,990), leather Sport Seats Plus ($1,870) and black-painted alloy wheels ($1,635).