2020 Porsche 911: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRe-forging an Icon
It is likely the most recognizable sports car on the planet. The Porsche 911 has carried the same basic shape since the first generation premiered at the Frankfurt Motor Show more than 50 years ago, and folks at Porsche remain locked on that same look even when entries from other brands alter perceptions of what an exotic sports car should look like. Now for 2020, the 911 moves into its eighth generation with the latest technology, more power, better performance and a more muscular look — at the same time remaining as familiar as that first-generation car.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceEighth Generation
“The eighth generation of the 911 is even more powerful, even more emotional, and even more efficient than its predecessor — and also offers extensive digital features,” said Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche AG. “And in spite of all the innovations, the 911 is still just what it has always been: a puristic sports car and the pulsing heart of Porsche — our icon.”

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUpdated Styling
Known as the 992, the latest-generation 911 gets updated styling that is wider and more aggressive. The front is about 1.7 inches wider, while the newly-developed headlights are inset into the fenders. And even though the headlights slope with the shape of the car, when viewed head-on they evoke the appearance of the upright, round headlights found on the original 911.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOne Car, Two Wheel Sizes
Wide fender flares are now a feature on both rear- and all-wheel-drive variants, and for the first time the 911 has different wheel sizes at each axle: 20 inches in front, 21 inches at the rear. Door handles remain flush with the exterior bodywork until the vehicle is unlocked; handles then electronically pop from the door panels. Mirrors have been redesigned to minimize wind noise.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear View
At the rear is a variable-position spoiler and a light bar that stretches the width of the vehicle. The vertical louvers at the base of the rear window draw air into the engine and also distinguish between the S and 4S — rear-wheel drive 911s have black louvers, while all-wheel-drive variants get chrome trim. The third brake light is nicely integrated with a vertical design that matches the louvers. Quad exhaust outlets are standard; the sport exhaust employs two larger outlets. The three-dimensional Porsche logo adds a nice classic touch.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The new Porsche 911 will initially be available as the Carrera S and Carrera 4S coupes. A sneak peek of the convertible version has already been teased; the car should be coming soon. Expect the base Carrera to arrive before the end of the year, with more powerful variants arriving soon after.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience911 Carrera S
The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S has a base price of $113,300. Standard equipment is extensive and includes leather-trimmed sport seats, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, a rearview camera, GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a 150-watt Bose sound system with eight speakers, and two cupholders.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience911 Carrera 4S
With a starting price of $120,600, the 911 Carrera 4S gets the same equipment as the rear-wheel-drive 911, with the addition of Porsche Traction Management with variable torque distribution between the front and rear axles. The new all-wheel-drive system can send more power to the front axle than previous generations, aiding both low-traction situations as well as improving overall performance.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSport Chrono Package
For added performance and control, Porsche offers the Sport Chrono Package, which includes dynamic engine mounts, a stopwatch and — most importantly — a drive mode switch with a Sport Response button. Easily accessible on the steering wheel, the drive mode dial allows selection of Normal, Sport, Sport Plus or Wet Mode (more on this later). The selections adjust throttle response and shift patterns as well as stability control — for example, in Sport Plus the driver has more liberty and leeway before the stability management system kicks in. A button in the center activates Sport Response, which immediately resets engine and transmission variables to maximum performance for 20 seconds.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAdditional Features
Porsche offers an extensive level of customization for the new 911, ranging from performance upgrades to safety features to trim materials. Customers may even choose seat belt color. For those ordering a new 911, it can be easy to get carried away — the price has the potential to quickly double for a fully loaded model.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
Like many new vehicles, the last few generations of 911 have adopted a vertical center stack for controls and displays. For 2020, the new 911 returns to its roots with a wider, cleaner dashboard similar to the original car. Unlike the original, the 2020 911 possesses a nicely-integrated 10.9-inch touchscreen display. Directly below the screen are five hard buttons for quick access to regularly-used functions. Two of the buttons are also programmable.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHigh Tech with a Classic Look
The instrument panel features a single analog tachometer in the center with digital displays on either side — again a tribute to the original 911’s gauge cluster. As with all previous 911s, the ignition is to the left of the steering column — handy for drivers who plan to make quick LeMans-style getaways. Since all 911s now have keyless-go, a switch starts the engine rather than a key.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNew Seats
Porsche also fits the new 911 with updated sport seats that feature a lightweight construction; while the cushion is thinner, the seats remain comfortable and supportive. And even though the new seats are not constricting, the side-bolster support becomes very effective during spirited driving on road or track. The cabin also feels roomy — not claustrophobic, which can be typical of many sports cars.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seating?
Rear seats have never been all that useful in previous generations of the 911, and this doesn’t change for the new 992. The seatbacks are quite upright and — not unexpectedly — space is limited. This area still works better as a parcel shelf stowing additional cargo rather than people.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Space
Trunk space (or “frunk” space, since the 911 remains true to its rear-engine heritage with historically-minimal storage space up front) in the new 911 is larger than expected. Although the area is not exactly cavernous, it will fit a few small pieces of luggage or bags of groceries.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
Positioned at the rear of the 911 — where it has always has been, and where it belongs — the turbocharged flat-six engine is more powerful than ever before. The 3.0-liter unit produces 443 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. Not only is this updated engine more powerful than the outgoing model, it produces fewer emissions while achieving better fuel economy.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNew 8-Speed PDK
All 911 Carrera S and 4S variants are equipped with a new 8-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox — a manual transmission is no longer offered. Although many driving enthusiasts would have enjoyed shifting gears manually in the new 911, the PDK gearbox is simply impressive with quick, smooth shifts and downshifts that happen right when expected.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceReady for Electrification?
When designing the new 8-speed gearbox for the 992, engineers specifically left space for the eventual addition of an electric motor. Although no announcements have been made about the Porsche 911 becoming a hybrid tomorrow, it seems inevitable that this sports car will possess some level of electrification in the future.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceQuick
Even though a Porsche 911 is about much more than straightline speed, inevitably this stat is the one all 911s get measured against — and they measure up well. The new 911 Carrera S sprints to 60 mph in as little as 3.3 seconds, reaching 124 mph in 12.1 seconds. Top speed is listed at 191 mph. With the added grip of all-wheel drive, the 4S gets to 60 mph a tenth of a second faster, but the AWD system adds about 110 pounds of weight, which reins in the eighth-gen 911 to a top speed of merely 190 mph.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBig Brakes
With great power comes great need for solid brakes, and the 911 possesses them. Massive 13.8-inch vented and cross-drilled discs front and rear with 6-piston front / 4-piston rear all-aluminum monobloc calipers provide the needed stopping power. Calipers are painted red with the standard brakes — optional Ceramic brakes with carbon-fiber reinforced discs get yellow calipers.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
Porsche invited a gaggle of auto journalists to Valencia, Spain, to spend a day with the new 911. There’s no denying we had high expectations for the eighth-gen 911, since it is the latest version of one of the best sports cars on the road. Happily, expectations were met and exceeded. Acceleration is effortless with plenty of power on tap — full throttle pins occupants back in their seats, accompanied by a throaty exhaust note. Shifts are quick and smooth — out of bravado and a bit of nostalgia we tried using the paddle shifters for a while, but found the gearbox shifted better on its own.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNice Cruiser
Cruising on highways in the 2020 Porsche 911 is easy and relaxed. The ride is comfortable, and even with the ever-satisfying exhaust note emanating from the engine bay the 911 is quiet when scooting along at a low rpm. With a comfortable seating position and intuitive controls, the new 911 begs to be employed as a fine road-tripping machine.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceExciting Drive
Where the 911 really comes alive is when the road gets winding, which we experienced a lot in Eastern Spain. The extremely narrow roads — in some cases the two-way roads were barely one lane wide — required the extreme precision that the 911 delivers. Steering is excellent and the gearbox provides quick downshifts at precisely the right moments to keep optimal power on tap. These winding ribbons are what the 911 was built for, and the new car certainly deserves its time-honored reputation.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAt the Track
We also had the opportunity to explore the limits of the 2020 Porsche 911 with a few laps around Circuit Ricardo Tormo, located on the outskirts of Valencia. It seems almost impossible to upset this new Porsche — even after multiple laps drivers experienced no brake fade. The car stays perfectly flat in high-speed corners, and even when going into a bend a bit too quickly, the 911’s stability management system makes necessary corrections without being intrusive. As jaded auto journos we would never claim that a vehicle was perfect — but the new Porsche 911 certainly comes close on the track.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceWet Mode
For this new generation of 911, Porsche adds a wet-driving mode to aid when the conditions become — well, wet. The system detects moisture on the roadway by recognizing the sounds of sprayed and splashed water, and then warns the driver with a suggestion about selecting Wet Mode. Once selected, the throttle response is flattened, stability control can no longer be turned off and the rear spoiler is adjusted to provide maximum downforce. The Carrera 4S will also add more power to the front wheels for improved traction.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceStaying On Track
With a wet circuit prepared for attending journalists, we tested the rear-wheel drive 911 with Wet Mode and compared it to the most aggressive Sport Plus mode. It was difficult to get the car to understeer or oversteer in Wet Mode, even when pushing hard into corners. However with Sport Plus mode and PASM on we discovered there wasn’t much difference in the result — the car slid a bit more before righting itself. At higher speeds there may be a more noticeable difference, and for drivers with less experience in wet conditions the higher level of control would certainly be welcome.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
As a proper sports car, the Porsche 911 is clearly not for everyone. A price tag that can approach $200,000 when fully loaded might also send a few interested parties away. But if the goal remains obtaining a sexy-looking vehicle with a comfortable interior, outstanding performance and everyday drivability, it’s hard to find a vehicle that can compete with a 911. And this new eighth generation is easily the best 911 yet.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9.0
Pros: New yet familiar look; outstanding performance; easy to drive every day.
Cons: Rear seat unusable for passengers; drive mode resets every restart; 911 gets expensive.
Bottom Line: Porsche takes a great sports car and makes it even better.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHistory of the Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceEight Generations of Porsche 911

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911 with 1963 Porsche 911

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