Litchfield Porsche 911 Carrera 4 (992) 2023 review
Impressive engine and chassis upgrades, useful weight savings and a rortier exhaust give a welcome shot of character and precision to the 992
Is the standard 992 Carrera better than the Carrera S? There’s an argument that the base model’s 380bhp and circa 4sec 0-60 time is plenty and that the less potent engine is sweeter. The two models are powered by essentially the same 3-litre, twin-turbo flat-six, the only difference being that the 380bhp version’s turbos are slightly smaller on the compressor side, and you’ll find some owners who reckon that this gives better initial throttle response. Maybe.
There’s a much more compelling reason for choosing the entry-level Carrera, though. If, having saved the money on the 440bhp Carrera S (circa £13k), you then find yourself craving more power, Litchfield Motors has a very cost-effective solution. For the trifling sum of £1194 (£500 less than the Sport Chrono Package option) you can have its Stage 1 remap, which lifts power to 503bhp, leapfrogging the 444bhp of the S and even topping the 473bhp of the GTS. Torque swells too, from 332 to 430lb ft, which again tops even the GTS’s 420lb ft.
It’s not lacking a bit of punch then, this Carrera, yet it turns out that the engine upgrade is not this car’s most outstanding feature. Litchfield’s reputation for tuning chassis is nearly on a par with its reputation for tuning engines. However, on this occasion the suspension kit is provided off-the-shelf by Bilstein, the firm that supplies the 992’s original hardware. Its new ‘EVO SE’ kit of adaptive damper and spring units bolts on and plugs straight in, retaining all of the standard model’s damper and drive modes.
It costs £4286, fitted, including a full geometry set-up, which Litchfield offers to all 992 owners for just £106. ‘We’ve found the 992 quite different to the 991,’ says Iain Litchfield, ‘which has led to us developing new settings that give more positive on-centre steering and improve grip for any 992.’
Litchfield’s demonstrator is also fitted with some very lightweight, slender-spoked alloys, behind which the standard brakes look a bit puny. They’re a forged wheel from American company HRE and although they’re the same dimensions as the (optional) Carrera S-sized wheels this car came on (20-inch diameter front, 21-inch rear) they’re a substantial 2kg less per corner. They cost £2200.
Litchfield says the HRE FF11s are built slightly wider, which allows the standard-size tyres to sit better on the rim, and they also have a little more offset, which increases the wheel tracks by 12mm. The car has been set 30mm lower than standard – close to the lowest recommended by Bilstein – for some publicity shots, contributing to its fantastic, no-nonsense stance.
Many decent stretches of A- and B-road criss-cross the rolling landscape close to Litchfield’s base just south of Tewkesbury, and the Carrera absolutely devours them. There’s not much amiss with the standard car’s satisfying blend of comfort and handling, but this set-up takes the dynamics to another level and also introduces a bit of old-school 911 character along the way.
At first it feels a lot firmer than standard, the ride a little tough at times, but as the speed picks up and the miles accumulate, this impression gradually fades until the ride and handling balance feels like a very fair trade. Initially it feels stiff in roll and, if you make a few test inputs at low speeds, steering response doesn’t feel that bright, but that’s like older 911s too and, as with them, the steering comes good when you pick up the pace and throw in a few corners.
Those lightweight HREs are shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 Ss rather than the original Pirelli P Zeros because Litchfield reckons the French tyres enhance the steering and handling. They’re the standard size – 245/35 ZR20 front and 305/30 ZR21 rear – and grip is impressive, but once you’re whipping along it’s the car’s slack-free response and effortless accuracy that holds your attention.
On wide, well-sighted and fast flowing roads you can enjoy plotting efficient lines and finding them with a precision that feels almost like a sixth sense. Narrower roads with high hedgerows that demand you stay on your side of the white line can be negotiated with similar accuracy and confidence, which is impressive because the current 911 is a very wide car and, of all the standard examples I’ve driven, only a few have delivered this level of easy precision. The nose occasionally bobs like a stiff 911 of old too, which is also, literally, a nod to earlier generations.
The engine is every bit as muscular as the numbers suggest and while the top end is worth seeking out, you find yourself drawn to the more generous mid-range, from 3000 to 6000rpm. This solid bank of shove marries up well with the dynamics, delivering as much urge as you want almost the moment you demand it, without fuss, helping to keep this Carrera flowing while the superb, standard PDK gearbox takes the extra output in its stride, shifting smartly or seamlessly, dependent on the throttle demand.
This Carrera sounds better too, thanks to a titanium Akrapovic exhaust rear section, which it describes as ‘Slip-On Race Line’. It’s valved like the original and enhances what’s there, giving the flat-six a richer, still smooth note that also compliments this car’s overall character. At £3992 it’s quite an investment, but as well as enhancing the sound it saves a massive 8.4kg and adds another 13bhp – and 10lb ft – to the tally.
Litchfield’s demonstrator is a Carrera 4, so even with 440lb ft and stability and traction aids turned off, it’s not going to get leery in the dry. You might just manage to coax the rear out of line with a bootful, but it won’t stray very far because, almost as soon as the rear edges out, drive gets diverted to the front axle and the C4 pulls itself straight.
Some sharp impacts occasionally punch through and in these moments it feels a little like a car with suspension developed for German roads. Also, you’re occasionally aware of the Carrera’s mass, though less frequently than in the standard car, and with this chassis you’re much less frequently aware of its width, thanks to the precision of its steering and the ease with which you can carve your chosen line.
To answer the question posed at the beginning, namely ‘Is the 380bhp engine more responsive than the 440bhp version?’, Iain Litchfield has delved deep into both and says that on the 992 Carreras there is little in it. ‘You’d need to drive them back to back to notice the difference. On the last 991.2 it was slightly more pronounced but even this was a small difference. For the 992, Porsche have improved the manifolds and exhaust, added symmetrical turbos and repositioned intercoolers, and these incremental changes have all helped the transient boost response.’
On this conversion, the engine uplift to over 500bhp looked to be the star, and it does offer terrific performance and value, but it is trumped by the chassis, which is transformed. The essential character of the 911 has become harder to discern since the introduction of the 991, and while the stock 992 improves some aspects, only models such as the GT3 are rich with traditional 911 character. This conversion gives a large dose of it too, though it’s the way all the elements fuse neatly together that leaves the lasting impression.
The new Bilstein hardware with Litchfield’s own geometry restores some of that core 911 character in the directness and precision of its dynamics; the Akrapovic exhaust adds a welcome, rousing character, and while the 503bhp, twin-turbo flat-six’s delivery is nothing like the GT3’s 9000rpm, naturally aspirated 503bhp, there’s no question it delivers the urge to energise and test the chassis. It’s no GT3, then, but this conversion is a reminder of how satisfying even base 911s can be.
Litchfield Porsche 911 Carrera 4 (992) specs
|Engine||Flat-six, 2981cc, twin-turbo|
|Power||503bhp @ 6750rpm|
|Torque||430lb ft @ 3000-6000rpm|
|Basic price||See text|
This story was first feature in evo issue 303.