Legacy of the Carrera S - is it still relevant in today’s model line-up? Porsche has always championed an ‘S’ in its line-up, yet it is since the turn of the millennium where the model has developed most. looks at the development and heritage of the water-cooled Carrera ‘S’. Photography by Ali Cusick.
Legacy of the Porsche 911 Carrera S
Among a burgeoning model line-up, is the C2S still relevant today? Drive-My assesses the 997, 991 and 992.
Look back almost as far as the very dawn of the 911 and you’ll find an ‘S’ model sitting above it as a desirable upgrade. Arriving in 1967 as a 911S, Porsche has kept the ‘Super’ 911 within its range pretty much ever since, though these days the S nomenclature is partnered alongside another famous noun from the Porsche lexicon in ‘Carrera’. The subsequent ‘Carrera S’ has witnessed an acceleration in technology like no other automotive model within the same time frame. However, while technology has flourished, so has the 911’s model line-up, which has led some to ask whether or not Porsche’s Carrera S is deemed as relevant as it once was. So does the Carrera S badge still make sense?
The S in 1967 was intended to cement the 911’s superiority, bringing more power – the 2.0-litre flat six boasted 160hp, an increase of 30hp – and innovation; it was the first model to get a rear antiroll bar, adjustable Koni dampers and ventilated disc brakes, not to mention those lovely Fuchs alloys.
Engine capacity and power would both increase over the years, culminating in the 193hp 2.4S of 1973, but by the G-series cars the S had been relegated, sitting beneath the Carrera that, along with the later Turbo, would finally topple it from the pinnacle of the 911 range. Down on power and performance, it was a shadow of its former self, not to mention something of a disappointment to the Porsche faithful expecting better. Perhaps it was for the best that it would disappear for good in 1977, and it would be almost 20 years until a normally aspirated S became available – initially in four-wheel-drive 993 C4S form. Then in 1997 came the rear-wheel-drive 993 Carrera S, finally returning the badge to the prominence it deserved.
Immediately popular thanks to the wide-body styling, it ditched the four-wheel hardware and big brakes made for a purer driving experience, while the modest power increase provided ample straight-line shove. Added to the mix was relative rarity: just 3,714 were sold compared to almost twice that number for the C4S and more than 38,000 for the regular Carrera. But despite its obvious appeal Porsche would drop the model again for the water-cooled 996, giving buyers an S only in conjunction with four-wheel drive. A mistake? Not really, as the Turbo-look body and uprated suspension and brakes meant around 23,000 examples found buyers, but it could still be considered something of a missed opportunity for such a game-changing 911. It certainly makes Porsche’s decision to offer a much broader range for the 997 era a welcome one. While the Carrera was a fine car in its own right, turning up the wick for the S turned it into a very alluring proposition. Available in both two- and four-wheel-drive forms, it’s the former we are interested in here, and it’s a model that set the template for the C2S variants that followed. In first-generation form the 997 C2S vastly out-sold the entry-level car, and makes just as much sense for buyers some 15 years after its debut.