Not just another 911: The latest Porsche icon is a 2020 Car of the Year finalist
- Flexible, responsive powertrain
- Precise, communicative chassis
- Superbly executed design
- Video-game shifter
- Shiny black plastic on console
- Pricey, with expensive options
Familiarity breeds contempt: It’s easy to dismiss the 2020 Porsche 911 as … just another 911. But look closer. This is as beautifully rendered a 911 as has ever been built.
The exterior design—its surfacing and detailing and proportion—is simply sublime. “I couldn’t have done it better,” said former Jaguar design chief and guest judge Ian Callum, a man no stranger to designing beautiful sports cars. The interior can look a bit dour unless you spend some money, but the focus is the driver. And the drive experience is tighter, tauter, and more communicative than ever.
The philosophy behind the design and development of this eighth-generation Porsche 911 was simple, R&D chief Michael Steiner said: “We ignored short-term trends and focused on things we could improve.” The 992-series 911 is longer, wider, and more powerful than the car it replaces. It also unveils a revised engine and suspension, plus a new transmission, new interior, and new driver assistance technologies.
That’s a lot of improvement.
It starts with body. The structure is just 30 percent steel, compared with its predecessor’s 63 percent, yet rigidity has been improved by 5 percent. The front fenders are 1.8 inches wider to accommodate a wider front track and make room for the forthcoming 911 hybrid’s battery cooling system. The wide rear fenders previously reserved for the Carrera 4S are standard on all Carreras, and overall length has increased 0.8 inch, all at the front of the car to meet pedestrian protection regulations. The 96.5-inch wheelbase is unchanged, but chassis upgrades include the adoption of 20-inch front wheels and 21-inch rears. The EPS has been recalibrated to be more responsive, and spring rates have been stiffened.
The 3.0-liter turbo engine shares crankcase, cylinder heads, oil system, and valvetrain with the previous 911’s powerplant. Compression ratio has been upped, more precise injectors fitted, and the variable valve control system now opens one intake valve farther than the other under partial load to reduce emissions and improve smoothness. Larger turbochargers have electronically controlled wastegates and unique housings for the left- and right-side units that ensure equal-length intakes.
It all comes together beautifully on the road. There’s more precision in the chassis than ever, a more direct connection between the road and the driver. The steering is delicate and precise, the transmission smooth and alert, and there’s a lovely nuanced feel through brake pedal.
“I feel a part of the car, not apart from the car,” road test editor Chris Walton said. “As if by intuition, I know exactly how much brake to apply, how much steering to dial in, when the right moment is to apply throttle, and at what rate. I’m struggling to compare it to another car in this way, and I’m not sure there’s one as good as the 911.”
Perfection? Close to it. But some will find the ride very firm, even with the shocks in the softest setting, and there’s always lots of road noise. The shiny black plastic on the center console reflects sun in your eyes. The stubby little gear-selection lever polarizes opinion: “It’s for e-gamers, not serious drivers,” executive editor Mark Rechtin said.
Oh, and it’s expensive, with few standard goodies for the money. “I get making radar cruise control an option,” technical director Frank Markus said, “but I find it obnoxious that Porsche wants me to pay extra for keyless entry.”
For decades, the Porsche 911 has been the unrivalled king of affordable, everyday supercars. But with launch of the accomplished—and much less expensive—mid-engine C8 Corvette, uneasy rests the crown.
|2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S|
|Base Price/As Tested||$114,650/$122,640|
|Power (SAE net)||443 hp @ 6,500 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||390 lb-ft @ 2,300 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||2.9 sec|
|Quarter Mile||11.2 sec @ 124.3 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||96 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||1.09 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||22.7 sec @ 0.94 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||18/24/20 mpg|