The 2020 Porsche 992 911 is finally here. It continues a relatively gradual evolution since 1963 into a car that’s heavier than the one it replaces, and still turbocharged pretty much across its whole range. The good news is that it remains brilliant to drive, though. Did you expect any less?
The 911 is indisputably one of the most iconic cars ever made, so it’d be stupid if Porsche tried to execute the new Carrera without things like the classic rear-engine setup and familiar shape. But now there’s more technology, gears and horsepower than ever on board now.
Porsche 911s, especially modern ones, are praised for how well they can do it all. Track days, fun canyon roads and commutes. More grand tourer than tiny ramshackle sports car. And in that regard, the brand-new one doesn’t disappoint.
(Full disclosure: Porsche wanted us to drive the 2020 911 Carrera S so badly that it flew me to Valencia, Spain, put me up in a hotel, fed me a lot of food and rented out the Circuit Ricardo Tormo for a whole day.)
The 992 911 is the eighth-generation 911. It’s 121 pounds heavier than the outgoing 991.2 Carrera S model, 1.7 inches wider and 1.1 inches longer, though its wheelbase remains the same. Both the 4S and Carrera S models use a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo flat-six engine, good for 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. As before, nearly all 911s are turbocharged now, save for the odd GT3 and such.
The motor’s hooked up an a new, eight-speed PDK dual-clutch paddle shift transmission, though a Porsche spokesperson confirmed that the seven-speed manual will be available in the U.S. in about six months. Now, the PDK’s seventh and eighth gears are both overdrive gears, while the lower ones are optimized for an extremely spirited feel. Alas, the new transmission now also adds about 44 pounds to the overall weight of the car.
The new 911’s claimed zero to 60 mph time (with the Sport Chromo, launch control and PDK) is now 3.3 seconds for the Carrera S and 3.2 seconds for the 4S. This honestly blows my mind. Those figures are close to the Ferrari Enzo’s benchmark time of 3.1 seconds to 60 from not too long ago. Indeed, the last 911 Turbo S Cabriolet we drove did that dash in 2.8 seconds, so the relatively humble Carrera S and 4S aren’t too far off that.
They’re now basically supercar killers, just ones you can comfortably daily drive and take to Costco, too. What a time to be alive.
Updated camshafts, intercoolers and turbochargers mean that the car is more powerful than ever—and more efficient. Things like cold-start have been improved and it has new (to the 911) safety features like an optional 360-degree camera, infrared night view and Wet Mode .
It’s also the first 911 to have a largely aluminum construction; older models used more steel. The 992’s the roof beams and body panels are now aluminum. This helps the car save about 26.5 pounds. Additionally, it has staggered wheel sizes—20 inches in the front and 21 inches in the back for the S models—new on a Carrera. This is supposedly for increasing grip while maintaining cabin comfort.
Under normal, daily driving on country roads, which in Spain are curvy but terrifyingly narrow, the 911 really shined. The steering, though electronically assisted, feeds road information beautifully into your fingertips. It’s weighted almost as progressively as a hydraulically assisted unit and there is little to zero play. Even the littlest movement in the wheel translates to an acknowledging twitch in the front wheels.
But the sensitive steering didn’t fool me into thinking the 911 was smaller than it is; the car is wide. Glance in the wing mirrors and you can’t miss its expansive hips. It’s not just the Carrera 4 and 4S models, either; now all 911 models will come with the wide-body style.
Road noise in the cabin has been muted significantly since the last generation, which is even more evidence that the 911 is now a grand-touring car rather than a raw sports car. Don’t believe me? The spindly arm-cupholders are gone. In their place is a proper pop-out one for the front passenger and there’s a hole in the center console for another. This is unabashedly GT car now. And that’s perfectly fine, because the 911 is wonderful at doing GT things.
In Normal mode, it’s quiet and civilized to drive. The suspension doesn’t shake your bones loose, but they do a wonderful job of laying out the the road’s features straight to your ass, feeling planted and solid over bumps.
There’s a little bit of turbo lag, which is especially noticeable when you combine it with surprising the transmission with unexpected stabs to the throttle pedal. There’s a small pause, the PDK figures out what you want, clicks down a gear or two, the revs jump and then the car surges forward.
Porsche didn’t change the engine very much since the 991.2 version, so it still carries fabulous low-end grunt and a high redline that the engine sings all the way up to meet. In Sport and Sport Plus mode, the suspension stiffens up and the throttle response becomes sharper. The transmission hangs out in a lower gear than it’s supposed to, so it’s more at the ready. It is, of course, perfectly possible to do all your normal driving in this mode, but it’s just exhausting. Things are far too “on.”
And there’s Wet Mode, which is a new feature. Automatic wet sensors can tell when the road is wet or not and manage the traction control as needed at all times. But the driver can physically choose to put the car into Wet Mode, which additionally raises the rear spoiler for maximum downforce and deadens the throttle response.
Once that happens, it’s almost impossible to oversteer. I know this, because Porsche had me try to spin the car out on a drenched track and it staunchly refused to do so in wet mode. It’s not exactly a sport feature, it’s a safety feature. I didn’t previously know that 911s needed additional assistance in the rain, but it’s there.
And the back seats are horrific for any adult over 5’2”, but they are great for luggage or groceries.
All of those tactile reminders that the car is turbocharged vanish when it’s brought to the track. The only remaining hint are the whooshing noises. The lightning-fast PDK works epically with the high-revving flat-six, downshifting quicker than your brain has time to process it as you rocket out of corners. There is an incredible amount of grip, even when you brake late into the turns or hammer on the throttle before the front wheels are fully straightened out. The car glues itself maniacally to the tarmac and it truly feels like the only way you could get it to involuntarily separate is if you flipped the whole damn world upside-down.
But with that being said, it’s still controllable, predictable—even tossable. You can either be perfect with your movements (hitting apexes neatly, braking in all the right places) or you can be a little looser about things. When that happens, you will get the rear to step out a bit, but it never happens in such a terrifying way that you won’t be able to catch it. Not without a little practice, anyway.
Through tight corners, chicanes and sweepers, everything about the 911 conveyed the sense of being tight and buttoned down. Zero flex in the chassis, zero body roll. It was always in the right gear, power always at the ready. It’s so, so utterly good that I felt like I was disappointing it. It’s certainly a better driver than me. And probably you, too.
The only real criticism that I feel like I can aim at it (that will probably stick) is that the 911 definitely feels heavy. You notice its mass when it takes a turn, when it roars down a straight. But I suppose that’s part of the reason why it feels so planted. The weight is not unwieldy, necessarily. It’s just there. Obviously, that mass is also concentrated in the rear of the car and gives the overwhelming sensation of swinging a large weight ’round back when turning. But the rest of the car and all its on-board systems are so well calibrated to handle this phenomenon that this hardly matters.
Maybe it did once, but not anymore.
The only things I got hung up on were, funnily enough, silly little annoyances. Things like how the redesigned shift lever is too small and inadequate, how the five-gauge instrument cluster is now digital, how the flimsy but lovable T-Rex arm cupholders are gone and how the streamlined door handles are rather dumb to use. These are petty complaints that would not stop anyone serious.
That’s the thing about refining the same specific formula over and over again for nearly 60 years, adding the best technology as you go. It’s hard to get stuff wrong after a while.
One of the things you go into knowing when you drive a modern 911 is that it’ll be good. They all are. They’re star athletes and they’re also incredible commuter cars. They are that popular, smart and athletic kid you hated but were secretly jealous of in high school.
But all of that perfection leaves no room for silliness. Even if you did step the rear out a bit, it never truly feels silly—it just feels like another thing that the car has learned to do perfectly.
Can absolute perfection in itself be a flaw? I’m still figuring that one out.