2020 Porsche 911 Carrera First Review
- Better than ever at sprinting, cornering and stopping
- Twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-6 rolls out 443 horsepower
- All-new, whisper-quiet premium-luxury interior
- Prices start at $114,250 (including destination charges)
- Stay tuned for a hybrid version
Porsche introduced its new 2020 911 Carrera S at the 2018 Los Angeles auto show. As predicted, the highly anticipated 8th-generation sports car didn’t depart far from the iconic shape that has defined the rear-engine vehicle since its introduction in 1963 — hardly a passerby will mistake the new coupe for anything but a 911.
Notwithstanding its familiar appearance, the 2020 911 is very different than its predecessor. The new coupe arrives with aluminum-intensive construction, an enhanced powertrain, new innovative technology, and more luxury appointments than any previous 911 in history. Consumer demands are changing, and Porsche realized that it had to evolve to keep its best-selling sports car at the top of the competitive segment.
Is the 2020 Porsche 911 an all-new model?
Despite carrying a new “Type 992” internal designation, it is not an all-new model. Instead, the 2020 Porsche 911 is a heavily reworked – and extensively updated – version of the automaker’s “Type 991” platform that was first introduced in 2011. In a significant departure from the past, Porsche has dropped the “narrow body” variant and will only offer the 2020 model with the wider platform – previously reserved for the all-wheel drive models. The additional room will allow the platform to accommodate future hybrid technology.
While the basic platform is carried forward, rigidity has been improved with additional structural bracing and Porsche has focused on reducing mass – nearly every exterior body panel, except for the front and rear fascias, are now constructed from lightweight aluminum alloy. Other physical improvements include enhanced aerodynamics in the form of a larger active rear wing, and engineers have transitioned to a staggered wheel size — for the first time in the 911’s history — to further refine handling.
In terms of appearance, Porsche has completely redesigned the 911’s front and rear fascias, the sculpted bodywork has a few more subtle creases, and the door handles are now electric — they automatically retract near-flush with the door panels when locked. The overall greenhouse, and side windows, are virtually identical to the outgoing model.
Interior improvements elevate the 911 to premium luxury status
The cabin of the 2020 Porsche 911 benefits from a complete overhaul. The new layout, which remains driver-centric, features a chronograph-like tachometer in the center of the primary instrument cluster that is flanked by high-resolution digital screens. Digitized analog dials, maps, or infotainment information may be displayed on those multi-function screens. Another large multi-function screen, a full 10.9 inches across, adorns the top of the center console. Carrying forward the theme introduced with the Porsche Panamera a few years ago, there is a tall center console between the two front passengers — small buttons run down each side, with the transmission lever in the center.
Unmistakably 911, yet upscale, modern and premium — the cockpit is clutter-free and functional, although the thick sport steering wheel does obstruct the outer inches of the primary instrument cluster. Porsche offers countless upgrades and enhancements that allow owners to specify colored leather (even the dash vents may be wrapped in hides), carbon-fiber, painted trim, or real wood appointments within the cabin.
In addition to a choice between various premium sound systems, the 2020 911 arrives with a standard suite of driver assistance features that include camera-assisted warnings and an automatic emergency braking system. Available adaptive cruise control now features an advanced stop-and-go feature. Other available technology includes lane-keeping assist, lane-change assist, night-vision assist, park assist, and the ability for the driver to remotely control many features and functions with Porsche Connect app for Apple- and Android-powered smartphones.
An upgraded engine and powertrain deliver GTS-levels of power and performance
Yes, the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-6 — a horizontally opposed engine has powered the 911 since its introduction — returns for 2020, but with several enhancements that improve its power delivery and efficiency. First, Porsche has fitted it with larger turbochargers that increase the volume of air pushed into the engine. The turbochargers are now mirrored on each side of the engine, not identical, meaning air travels equidistant to the intakes (improving responsiveness) and the wastegate valves are now electronically powered. This not only makes their actuation more accurate, but quicker to improve responsiveness. In another major change, Porsche has moved the intercoolers inboard, to improve airflow. The larger intercoolers — tasked with lowering the temperature of the pressurized air — help generate more power across the rev range. Porsche rates the improved engine in the Carrera S at 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque — those are near-GTS levels of power, when compared to last year’s model.
Porsche also upgraded the 911’s transmission, replacing the 7-speed “PDK” dual-clutch gearbox with an 8-speed unit. While its physical stature is larger, and it is heavier – there is now room to house a future electric module – new lower ratios improve off-the-line acceleration and taller ratios deliver better fuel economy (top speed, about 190 mph, is reached in 6th gear). The console-mounted digital shifter takes some getting used to, as it returns to center after each activation (there is no muscle memory position for drive or reverse), but the shifts themselves are quicker with the new gearbox and buttery smooth when compared to the older 7-speed PDK.
A wider track and faster steering refine handling and driving dynamics.
The wide platform works wonders in terms of handling. The increased front and rear track give the 2020 911 a wider and more stable stance, which improves cornering grip. The steering is also quicker — nearly 11 percent, says the automaker. Porsche has carried the previous suspension geometry forward (technically, the lower wishbones are a bit longer), but the standard adaptive dampers now work in both rebound and compression — last year’s system only worked when the wheel wasn’t moving. As before, the 911 will be offered with optional rear-axle steering (up to two degrees of movement in either direction) for those who want to decrease turning radius, increase stability, and quicken turn-in. Active roll bars are also an option.
Of special note are the brakes, which are now controlled by an electric brake booster that replaces the pneumatic unit (this is another change that makes the transition to the yet-to-be-announced arrival of a hybrid gasoline-electric model more seamless). Standard brakes feature iron rotors with multi-piston calipers. The fade-resistant and lightweight Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) upgrade is on the options list. Porsche doesn’t skimp on the details, either, noting its engineers even went so far as to stiffen the brake pedal itself — now a composite of steel, carbon fiber and plastic – to shave mass and improve pedal feel.
New wet mode improves safety today and tomorrow
One innovative new piece of technology that Porsche is introducing is the 911’s “Wet Mode” setting. Ultrasonic sensors in the wheel wells note the acoustics of the tires on the pavement. When they sense water on the road — therefore a potential hydroplaning condition — a visible warning appears on the dashboard suggesting the driver move the driving mode dial to “Wet Mode.” When actuated, it increases the pitch on the rear wing to improve downforce and it recalibrates Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and Porsche Traction Management (PTM) for the slippery conditions. Throttle response is flattened and two PSM modes — OFF and PSM Sport — are locked-out. Rain Mode essentially reconfigures the 911 to improve safety when the roads are wet and slippery. And, according to Porsche, it works in the snow equally as well.
Enhanced driving dynamics on the street and track
Despite a meticulous focus on reducing weight, the new 2020 Porsche 911 tips the scales heavier than its predecessor — the math works out to about 160 pounds. Yet mash the throttle and that additional mass immediately disappears as the throaty turbocharged flat-6 roars to life. Based on the horsepower to weight ratio, and the slick PDK gearbox, the sprint to 60 mph should take just over three seconds — that’s blisteringly quick, especially for a Carrera S (the GTS, GT, Turbo and RS models will be even quicker).
On public highways and secondary roads, the new cabin is notably quieter, thanks to additional insulation in the wheel wells that help keep tire noise on the outside. There’s a bit of wind noise from the larger exterior mirrors, which provide an excellent view of the wider flanks, but casual conversation inside the cabin may be held at whisper levels. The steering is nicely weighed, with near-immediate turn-in and excellent ratios — it doesn’t feel over-boosted or hypersensitive — and the brakes feel near-perfect with linear modulation and excellent pedal feel.
Laps around a pristine racing circuit outside Valencia, Spain, confirmed what we know about every previous Porsche since 1963 — the 911 is equally skilled on a challenging track as it is on a desolate urban onramp. Driven at velocities far above those seen on public roads, the PDK shifts with a telepathic accuracy (Sport+ mode is near-flawless) and the turbocharged power comes on strong, even low on the tachometer.
Dive into a corner and the 911 exhibits impressive balance — notwithstanding its engine hung aft of the rear wheels. Understeer is minimal and the 911 remains a sports car that can be steered with the throttle, to the joy of driving enthusiasts. The Carrera S is fitted with staggered 20- and 21-inch wheels (wearing 245/35-20 and 305/30-21 tires, respectively), a contact patch that provides prodigious amounts of lateral grip — expect upwards of 1G with the high-performance Pirelli P Zero tires.
Is the 992 better than the 991?
The 2020 Porsche 911 is better than its predecessor in every objective measurement. It is more powerful – noticeably quicker and faster – yet more fuel efficient and cleaner for the environment than ever before (European models are fitted with particulate filter that won’t be on U.S. cars). The new 911 corners with more tenacity, brakes with more authority, and it laps the famed north loop of the Nürburgring in less time. And don’t think that Porsche left any stones unturned – the new 911 is quieter, more comfortable, and its options list now rivals a premium luxury sedan.
As mentioned, Porsche introduced the 911 in 1963. That air-cooled arrival (now a celebrated classic) was as engaging as a manual typewriter – it took skill, patience and talent to hustle the unconventional sports car around a corner. The arrival of the water-cooled 911 in 1999 was as innovative as the electric typewriter, refining and modernizing the unconventional rear-engine sports car – mostly taming its peculiarities. By 2011, the 911 had been cultured to word-processor levels – proficient in all four seasons as a competent daily driver – anyone, even those devoid of talent, could drive it at lawless speeds and keep the wide tires between the stripes.
The new 2020 Porsche 911 elevates the iconic sports car even further. The 992 expands the performance envelope outward in all directions, yet it pampers its occupants with unexpected innovation, technology, and luxury. Without question, nearly 57 years of continual refinement have polished the iconic 911 to a mirror-like finish. The new 911 is not just a very good sports car — it is one of today’s best.
How much does the 2020 Porsche 911 cost and when is it available?
The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S starts with base price of $114,250 (including $1,050 destination). The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, the all-wheel-drive variant, will start at $121,650 (including $1,050 destination). Both new 2020 Porsche 911 models are expected in showrooms in the summer of 2019.
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