Driven: 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S - Something Old, Something New
Having now landed in the real world, the 2020 Porsche 911 is the eighth of its name. The engine hangs over the rear axle, as it has since 1963, but the 992-generation Carrera S launch model promises to juggle Grand Tourer features with tricks borrowed from GT Neunelfers. Hey, you know what? I'd better leave the kids introduce it, so I'll see you folks after the video below.
As you've noticed in the clip, there was one little boy who loved the 911 more than everybody else - even while the kids were rushed by their teacher to carry on with their daily program, our hero resisted and took multiple photos of the car. In fact, you'll get to hear him explaining how he caught the steering wheel on camera at the end of the video (given the location of the adventure, though, you might want to ask Count Dracula for a Romanian-to-English translation). So yes, the tiny fellow knows what's up.
So, what is actually up with the 992? Well, the newcomer rides on a redefined version of its predecessor's platform, featuring the same wheelbase, while the twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six unit is still here, updates and all, but there are plenty of differences to talk about.
The 2020 Neunelfer is wider and gaining 45 mm up front means the Carrera S is now on par with the ex-generation GT3. However, the hips of the newcomer are the ones that grab the beholder's attention. Note that the narrow body of the old Carrera (S) is gone, as the RWD model gets a 39 mm wider rear track to match that of the AWD Carrera 4S. Of course, there will be specials with even more generous posteriors, such as the Turbo (more on this later on)
The Zuffenuhausen machine is now officially characterized by an aluminum monocoque (all the body panels except the bumpers are now made of the lightweight metal, roof beams included), which helps save about 26 lbs (12 kg).
Alas, the end result is about 121 lbs (55 kg) heavier. If you're looking for the culprits, you can talk about the following trio: the Otto Particulate Filter that helps new cars comply with the ever-stricter emission standards, the eight-speed PDK (one extra gear, remember?) and the updated crash structures.
Once again following the recipe of GT cars, the 992 Carrera S comes with staggered wheel sizes, using 20-inch rollers with 245-section tires up front and 21-inch rims wrapped in 305-section rubber at the back.
Those fat rear tires are used to put the power down following a trip to the gym. Thanks to new intercoolers sitting just under the rear deck, larger turbos (yeah!), piezoelectric injectors and an uneven intake valve lift at partial loads, the upgraded 3.0-liter boxer gains 30 hp and just as many Nm of torque. The numbers you'll have to memorize for the bar chat are 450 hp and 530 Nm (391 lb-ft) of twist.
The new eight-speed PDK has a shorter first gear compared to the seven-speed unit it replaces, while the seventh and eight ratios stand for overdrive. The engineers turned to this trick to be able to use a longer final drive, all in search of superior efficiency.
Once again following the GT car cookbook, the Sport Plus and manual mode upshifts see the transmission entering beast mode to please the one behind the wheel, all thanks to hardware changes.
And while the confirmed hybrid 911 isn't here yet, the newcomer relies more on electric power than the car it replaces. For instance, the wastegates for those larger turbos, as well as the exhaust valves rely on stepper motors for more precise control. Keep in mind the 991 introduced electric power for the handbrake and steering and the 992 also includes the brake booster on this list.
The electric door handles must also be mentioned, even though using them feels odd, as the process simply isn't direct enough. Perhaps Porsche will address this for the next model year.
Looks like fun
When I look at the 2020 Porsche 911, I see traces of the last airbender (think: the 993, which was the final air-cooled model in the Neunelfer family tree), while that massive active rear spoiler somehow reminds me of the 959's fixed tail. So I'll upvote the new design.
And while the generously-size active air intakes that serve as the mouth of the car have brought split opinions, I have yet to meet somebody who doesn't enjoy that pumped-up posterior look accentuated by the staggered wheels.
In the traditional Porsche fashion, you'll have to take a day off to browse through all the optional extras the company offers for the 911. Heck, there are four roof versions for the Coupe (factor in the Cabriolet, as well as the upcoming Targa and you'll need more than one hand's fingers just to count the top options on the newcomer).
So while the basic metallic roof is still here, you can also go for a metallic sunroof, a glass sunroof (this option was fitted to the car I sampled), and even a carbon roof, just like the ones found on Weissach Package for the 991.2 GT2 RS and GT3 RS, as well as the... new Cayenne Coupe.
Please, do come in
The dashboard of the 992 is a cleaner act. I feel the designers have done a brilliant job, bringing the looks back to the aspect of the air-cooled models rather than continuing to work with the overlaid instruments that reigned from the 996, the first watercooled model, to the outgoing 991.
While most digital dashboards give me nightmares, I enjoyed using the analog central tacho and the configurable screens that flank it, retaining its traditional five-instrument cluster. Speaking of the rev counter, you can still order this in a custom color, but instead of the hue being spread across the whole dial, it covers a smaller section, which makes for better color-coding overall and avoids polarizing configurations.
Sure, the cabin isn't without its controversy, with critics getting emotional about the overall layout of the dash being similar to that of the Lexus LC and the electric razor look of the PDK shifter.
Nowadays, it's almost impossible to come up with an approach that's truly unique without sacrificing practicality and since the 911 is a daily driver by definition (more on this below), I'll ignore the first complain.
As for the second, I can agree to disagree with Porsche designers who chose the kind of finish that works well on Bentleys for the top of the PDK gear lever. And that's because this finish, together with the uber-compact size of the shifter does remind one of the daily fancying-up duties. A larger controller, or perhaps a set of buttons, would've worked better and I'm looking forward to seeing how the upcoming seven-speed manual transforms the appearance of the center console.
Even more so than before, the chronograph sitting atop of the dashboard does a lot to preserve the analog feel of the interior, so this is just one reason to go for the optional Sport Chrono Package. The others involves the racing-like driving mode switch on the steering wheel, the 0.2s reduction in acceleration time and the active engine mounts.
When it comes to the downsides of the interior, I'll mention the rear seats. Sure, the space is limited, so only children can fully use these seats, while medium-sized adults may only turn to them for short trips. But some extra padding would've saved the day. Oh, and why aren't luggage nets provided to keep one's backpack from flying around when the seat backs are folded?
Since I'm listing requirements, it would be nice to have an on/off feature that could see the front seats sliding forward automatically - the current setup means you have to keep your hand on the front seat controller when rear seat access is required. And since children riding in the back of the 911 are a more important matter than one might expect, this potential feature should be taken seriously.
Driving Mindfulness, A Little Meditation Routine
The airy feeling of the 2020 Neunelfer's interior has inspired me to come up with a little meditation routine. Wait, what?
You see, guided meditation is popular these days and, thanks to our smartphones, we're just a few taps away from an app that reminds one of the daily mindfulness exercise. Laugh all you want, naysayers, but relaxing one's mind is an Autobahn to hitting those all-important goals each one of us has.
And before anybody reminds me of the deep material roots involved in this tale, I need to point out this is an exercise destined for improving the connection between the driver and the machine, which is always a good thing.
As famous (but obviously not not flawless) American motivational speaker Tony Robbins enjoys pointing out, I am not your guru.
In fact, I know next to nothing about meditation routines, which is why I'm inviting you to check out the professional ones and adapt them for this exercise. Improvise!
So, without further ado, I'm encouraging you to find a garage or a parking lot that offers enough privacy and sit down in your 911 (or a car you adore, for that matter).
Close your eyes and start by focusing on the breath. Let go of all the other thoughts and keep count of the inhaling and exhaling, up to ten. The goal here is to clear your mind of any thoughts, so you can be able to focus on the car around you.
Now you can slowly spread your arms forward and let your hands feel the grip while holding the steering wheel. Feel the texture of the material covering the wheel as your hands wonder over it. Take your time with this step and focus solely on the sensations it delivers, as with the other steps in this exercise.
You can do the same with the paddles, as well as with the various areas of the cabin that are within your comfortable reach, such as the buttons on the center console or the headliner.
Once again, the idea is to become aware of all the little pices that make up the automobile you're interacting with.
And while we're feeling the texture of the interior bits, we can also allow the aural side of the car thrill us. Become aware of the little clicks the buttons make, from the mode switch dial on the steering wheel to the gear lever.
You can extend the exercise by bringing the engine to life. The startup sound is soothing for an aficionado and, if you are in the 992, you'll feel the idling boxer giving you a bit of a back massage through the seat, even with those active engine mounts working their magic.
I'll stop here and remind you once again that improvisation is key, so you must find out what part of this static experience works best for you. In my case, going though this little routine before the actual drive was soothing.
Not that the driver of a Porsche 911 would need any assistance before a drive, as getting behind the wheel and setting off in the 992 feels as natural as possible. In fact, I was just talking to my SO after the review about this. She doesn't have a driving license yet and I was telling her the new 911 could easily be used for driving lessons.
Whenever a car company comes up with a rival for the Porsche 911, the automaker seems to forget two aspects that make this German tool a segment leader: the extra pair of seats in the back and the said daily driver attitude of the vehicle.
Well, the now-standard PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) leaves behind the occasional agitation of the 991. From speed bumps to open road irregularities and those pesky potholes, the 992 managed to deal with all these suspension challenges and provide the kind of ride a true Grand Tourer requires.
I was afraid the stiffer spring and anti-roll bars would affect this part of the experience, but the rear-engined toy gave me a confident au contraire. Not even a poorly maintained cobblestone road was able to trick the suspension into shaking me too badly.
And the eight-speed PDK seemed more prepared for stop-and-go city traffic than before, as I noticed while picking up and delivering the test car via the unavoidable rush hour traffic jams.
The steering is 11 percent quicker on the standard car and 6 percent swifter with the optional rear-axle system, a feature present on the test vehicle. But this only allows one to place the 911 with more precision when a gap in traffic shows up.
And the also-optional Power Steering Plus means you can make quick work out of parking the Porsche, especially if you also opt for the rear-view camera - while the infotainment display comes with a much better resolution, the camera could've been sharper.
There was no time to assess the real-world fuel efficiency of the new 911, but I can put on my Captain Obvious hat and tell you this much: don't try to achieve the official figures.
On a side note, I have two candidates for the programable button on the central part of the dash: the Sports Exhaust (the test vehicle had this option) and the engine start-stop deactivation.
You see, even with the soundtrack of the TT flat-six not being all that serious, it still feels unfit to witness the engine being put to sleep and resurrected while attempting to enjoy a city drive. Perhaps the upcoming hybrid model(s) will change this by allowing the driver to focus on the energy flow game while in heavy traffic.
Here are a few numbers for you: the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S can play the 0-100 km/h (62 mph) sprint in as little as 3.5 seconds, which means it can leave a Carrera GT trailing in its wake, for instance, while its 307 km/h (191 mph) top speed also places it in supercar territory.
Then there's the Green Hell number of the bad boy - get this, the Carrera S, which sits in the first quarter of the model range we'll eventually get, can blitz the infamous German track in as little as 7:25. Now that's Ferrari Enzo or Lamborghini Aventador (the original LP700-4) performance.
And while I couldn't take the rear-engined machine to a track to try and replicate such numbers, I can tell you the highway and winding road driving experience delivered by the car totally backs them up.
The Carrera S could hit 155 mph (250 km/h) like it's nothing. In fact, here are a few sprinting samples involving more reasonable speeds. You'll be looking at iPhone-captured Launch Control stunts: the first brings the classic outside view, the second delivers a slow-mo twist, while the third takes one into the cabin for a POV experience.
Keep in mind that Porsche's LC feature is brutally simple: put the car in Sport Plus, work the brake/throttle and you're good to go. Oh and if the car comes with the Porsche crest on the headrest (the tester had this option), you might get a temporary tatoo, or a partial hairstyle.
Getting used to the compact operating window of the Neunelfer's stopping hardware is done quickly and the car rewards you with impressive, consistent performance.
This brings us to PCCB, one of the costliest acronyms in the Zuffenhause catalog - gifting your 2020 Carrera S with yellow calipers, which, of course, signal the presence of carbon ceramic brakes, will set you back almost $9,000. And you have more reasons not to tick this box than you might expect.
As far as the pros go, the PCCBs reduce unsprung weight, which brings both handling and ride advantages, they offer superior fading resistance, look cooler to geeks and don't leave brake dust on those sleek rims.
However, the downsides include more squeaks (this is arguable) and the kind of acquisition and especially maintenance costs that can cause a headache. You see, Porsche recently labeled carbon-ceramics as being the best choice for those who don't like cleaning their wheels. So while PCCBs were previously presented as the track junkie's choice, the kind of overly aggressive heat cycles experienced during club events can degrade the carbon fibers in the rotors, with the company acknowledging this.
Of course, this matter doesn't only concern Porsche, as, for instance, an YouTube search will easily reveal Lamborghini owners handling their own carbon-ceramic brake disc change to reduce maintenance costs. And while you can't choose iron discs on an Aventador, this is the standard feature on a Neunelfer. In fact, Porsche forums chat reveals owners of cars with ceramic discs sometimes store their stoppers for resale and do the driving on steel units meanwhile.
Alas, deserstricted sections of the German Autobahn only connect a small number of cities in the world. But if you can't find yourself high-speed cruising behind the wheel of the 2020 Porsche 911, you should know there's an environment that sees the machine performing even better, namely a back road sprinkled with bends.
When you're out there exploring the curves in third gear, the Carrera S feels at its best. During impromptu testing in a straight line, or at city speeds, the feedback of the electromechanical steering isn't memorable. However, when you're pushing the car hard through the bends, the gaming controller programming invested into the system pays off - with the front wheels of the Carrera S free of the traction burden, working the steering wheel is a dream. And the rear-axle steer ensures the agility will put a huge smile on your face.
The handling balance of the car is splendid, with or without the optional PDCC active stabilizer bars on the vehicle I tested - the latter are still hydraulic, unlike the electromechanical system the Cayenne Turbo now uses. However, as is the case with the PTV Plus (electronically-controlled limited slip diff), this option is only needed if you go past, say, eight tenths.
When abused, the 992 feels analog, as much as the current era allows, and this makes an enthusiast come alive.
As for the tamer driving, the Carrera S starts working it's go-time charm on the driver from around 90 km/h (55 mph).
There's still a slight turbo lag, while the PDK takes a few brief moments to handle the downshifts when you surprise it with a kickdown during normal driving, but this isn't the kind of stuff that requires a bad letter to those at home. Hopefully, though, the GT car PDK implementations, and even that on the soon-to-be-revealed 992 Turbo, will pack sharper moves, especially in terms of downshifts.
Mistreat that throttle and the car will instantly reward you with tail-out moves, which are contained by one of the most sophisticated traction and stability control systems that have ever kept me in a straight line.
The RWD Carrera S is uber-lively (after all, the engine is still adorning the posterior) when provoked, but proves extremely stable at high speeds. So the AWD 4S model, which tips the scales at around 110 lbs/50 kg higher, is only justified for rough weather scenarios - Porsche's Tequipment arm even offers snow chains for the rear axle, by the way.
However, given the positioning of the engine, you'll have to remember to drive simulation- rather than arcade-style (think: Gran Turismo over NFS). So maneuvers such as, say, suddenly punching the gas all the way in while applying steering input to navigate your way throgh traffic are best avoided or at least left for the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S.
The aural side of the experience
Ask my ears and they'll tell you that the best place to listen to the 2020 911 is inside its cabin, not least thanks to the dual-channel sound sympozer, which brings engine noise into the vehicle. And unlike sound system-based features, this one, which sits behind the rear trim panel, really works.
Oh, and the conclusion stands even when the car is fitted with the Sport Exhaust, as it was the case with the test car. Note that you'll recognize this thanks to the two generously-sized oval pipes.
Suddenly back off the gas and you'll hear the extra boost being released with a nice little "woosh", while the exhaust also enjoys the occasional burble - the latter is a built-in feature, since there are so many pops-and-crackles fans these days.
The sound insulation of the Neunelfer must've been one of the trickiest aspects to set up, as this seems perfectly balanced for the GT-with-amazing-numbers experience that sums up the car.
Wet Mode - this is one of the gimmicks of the 2020 Porsche 911. Relying on ultrasonic sensors placed in the front wheel arches, the car can listen to water being sprayed and suggests to be placed in a dedicated driving mode than affects throttle response and wakes up all the electronic nannies.
Together with other automakers, Porsche has been working on such systems since the mid-90s as part of the Prometheus European research program. And since the 911 now appeals to a larger audience, it's only normal to have such a feature for those who wish to use it.
Other safety tech coming to the 911 for the first time includes options such as night vision, or the standard camera-assisted warning and brake assist system. There's still no head-up display, though.
While we're talking gadgets, I'll also include the rear wing. Note that we can't talk about actual downforce with the Carrera models - Porsche talks about "mininum lift" at the front axle (the intake flaps are fully opened above 170 km/h or 105 mph to keep the lift in check), while explaining that the raised Performance position of the active wing "completely compensates for the lift at the rear axle".
Of course, if you're into the spicy aero stuff, you can always order the Carrera Aerokit - we're looking at separate elements including the front and rear aprons, side skirts and a fixed wing. Launched earlier this year, the last has caused quite a stir among Porschephiles. While certain aficionados, myself included, enjoy the extra personalization options the new aero element brings, others believe such devices should be left for GT cars.
At the time when this article was published, the wing could only be included in the initial order, but this is expected to show up on the Tequipment list, which means you should be able to visit your dealer and have it installed after the 911 is already on your driveway. Meanwhile, here's a real-world sighting of the said wing, along with the presentation of the thing.
Oh, and in case any 911 GT3 fans out there are worried about the said aero element increasing the risk of cannibalization on a visual level, they should check out the RS-grade rear wing displayed by 992 GT3 prototypes.
The bottom line
The sportscars don't make money adage has been around as long as the genre itself. After all, paying a lot of money for something that can hardly be called rational is never an easy decision. And this is the reason why carmakers often have to share platforms when coming up with efforts of the kind. Fortunately, the Porsche 911 plays in a league of its own when it comes to the buying decision.
Compared to all its rivals, the Neunelfer comes more natural, being the most practical go-fast machine out there. Well, the 992 certainly didn't rest on these laurels, as it's even easier to live with than the car it replaces.
Then we have the astounding numbers of the Carrera S, which allow the thing to threaten supercars, thus catering to the needs of those drivers who push the vehicle to the limit.
Nevertheless, the 911 is more than the sum of its parts, so Nurburgring-blitzing and daily driver duties aside, the rear-engined machine feels alive, delivering an organic driving experience.
Oh yes, the character of the Neunelfer is present. Even though the weight of the 992 can't be camouflaged, thanks to six decades of refining the rear-engined formula, Porsche engineers have pulled off all the neat tricks mentioned above.
Now, if you own a 991 and are wondering whether you should trade it in for a 992, perhaps it's best to wait for the specials to show up - judging by the extra spice delivered by the Carrera S, the rest of the family should be quite a blast.
You'll need more than the meditation exercise mentioned in this story to accept the financial side of the 2020 Porsche 911, though. The Carrera S kicks off at $113,300 (€120,125 including 19% VAT on the German market), so we could expect the upcoming base Carrera to sit around the $100,000 mark.
As such, it can be quite easy to bring a Carrera S in the $150,000 range even without grabbing the most eccentric of options. So those supercar numbers come at a super-price. After all, Porsche has one of the highest profit margins in the car industry, as this sits in the five-digit area per car.
Choosing a model? The Carrera S is playful, planted and overly competent in the dry, so it leaves little room for the all-paw 4S derivative. In fact, with many V8-animated rivals roaring out there, the Porsche's playfulness card comes in handy, with this once again recommending the rear-only affair.
Since we're all preparing to summon autonomous vehicles with our smartphones, this is a brilliant time to live a little and enjoy a car that can be steered with the gas pedal.
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About the author: Andrei Tutu
In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.