2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S

David Gluckman

The Porsche 911 is a lot like a Coke bottle. (Follow me on this one, please.) Think about it: Both have shapely, wider-at-the-hips figures. Both have evolved over the years for purposes of weight savings and to stay fresh. And, when opened up, both provide a distinctive sensory experience.

That Coke-bottle shape is nowhere more evident than on the Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S, the all-wheel-drive variants of Porsche's iconic sports car. We recently spent some time with both models in the middle of a heat wave in Germany. We cracked open multiple bottles of the sweet brown stuff to help keep cool. And, as luck would have it, Porsche handed us the keys to a convertible.

A timeless design.

You won't mistake the newest 911 for anything but a rear-engine Porsche, but there have been some styling changes to help differentiate the revised 997-series 911 from the 2005-2007 models. Headlights are now bi-xenon units and are complemented by LED daytime running lights that sit below them in the front fascia. The taillights make use of LEDs as well and dip down further into the rear fascia. Carrera 4 and 4S cars also get a red reflective band that spans the gap between the taillights - this is supposed to highlight their 1.73-inch-wider rear and is the only way to quickly discern the new all-wheel-drive cars from the old, or from any other 911 on the road for that matter.

It's got gadgets and gizmos aplenty.

The latest version of Porsche Communication Management loses some hard buttons in favor of a larger, touchscreen display. It adds all-important iPod connectivity and can also talk to USB devices or accept an analog signal through its auxiliary jack. The menu structure is logical and easy to use - there's no special new-generation interface and controller to learn as with systems from the other German manufacturers. We like having the ability to scroll quickly through a long list of albums or artists with the swipe of a finger instead of twirling a knob repeatedly to reach the end of the alphabet. Voice control allows the driver to speak commands for the stereo as well as the optional navigation system and phone modules.

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