The Hockenheimring in Germany has been a staple on the Formula 1 circuit since August 2, 1970. It has also long been on my bucket list of places to visit and who knows, maybe even drive on someday. To my delight, Porsche read my mind and decided to unveil the all-new 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S and 4S models at the track, offering the next best thing to allowing a small group of journalists to take the wheel and instead ride in the passenger seat as professional race car drivers circled the track at speed and sometimes fully sideways.
Driving would have been the best, but sitting next to a four-time participant in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring as he put the new 911 Carrera S through its paces was equally compelling. You know it is going to be fun when a professional driver tells you this is the last session on these tires, so why don’t we put whatever is left on them to good use- traction control off, of course.
For those keeping track of Porsche 911 lineage, this model is officially referred to as the 992, next in line after the previous 991. Lest you think the next model is certain to be referred to as the 993, think again.
Porschephile’s know that designation has already been used to define the last air-cooled 911 sold from January 1994 until early in 1998. It’s best to leave the nomenclature up to Porsche and agree with whatever they come up with next. Just know that the newest 911 is a superb sports car and further secures the Porsche legacy for years to come.
Except for the obvious 911 silhouette, everything is new. Proof of this takes approximately 3.7 seconds (3.5 seconds with Sport Chrono package added) as we launch out of the pits and hit the first straight accelerating past 100 km/h as if it were an afterthought.
New turbochargers with larger turbines and compressor wheels improve top end performance. The engine’s intercoolers are relocated to the rear tail to reduce turbo lag. Engine mounts have been moved forward and outward to reduce vibration and body flex under hard acceleration. One journalist was overheard saying it won’t be long until the 911 is considered a mid-engine car; Porsche assures that is not the plan with their revered marque.
The new dual-clutch PDK transmission blurs 8-speeds into one rapid succession of spine-tingling excitement. It’s as if the car and asphalt are one, the new transmission is so smooth it’s almost unfair to the competition. Upshifts are immediate, with a simple flick of the paddle-shifter we surge ahead to the next corner and let the good times keep rolling.
Downshifts cause my head and body to sway forward and back as G-forces kick in. These are definitely some of the nicest seats to be found in the 911 to date as I settle in. Upshifts are a punch to the gut, like the best rollercoaster ride, you don’t want it to stop. Porsche states the new 911 lapped the Nürburgring in 7 minutes and 25 seconds. That’s five seconds faster than the last model and the smile on my pilot’s face is enough to convince me they are telling the truth.
Power numbers for the 2020 911 Carrera S and 4S models are impressive on paper as well as with my seat belt securely fastened. A 3.0L twin-turbocharged flat-six engine produces 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. This is an increase of 23 horsepower and 22 lb-ft of torque over the previous model. Top speed is listed at 308 km/h.
Four laps later my first taste of the new 911 is over, or so it seems. Instead of heading in for a passenger change, I am informed its time to get a little wet. This sounds interesting. As part of the new 911, Porsche introduces Wet Mode, an ingenious system designed to recognize significant wetness on the road, encouraging the driver to manually select the added assistance using the steering-wheel-mounted knob.
Acoustic sensors are positioned in the front wheel arches behind the tires. As rain sprays up from the road, the PSM (Porsche Stability Management) and PTM (Porsche Traction Management) adjust to wet conditions making easy work of slippery road surfaces, standing water and even ice. Several laps around the wet track set up by the onsite team is proof positive it works as even under hard acceleration and braking, the 911 Carrera S feels confident and poised.
Big changes have also taken place with the tires. For the first time, tires sizes are different front to back. 20-inch wheels feature 245/35ZR20 tires up front, while the back highlights 305/30ZR21. A total of four unique wheel designs are also a first for the 911.
Inside, the entire driving experience has been simplified and the resulting minimalist design theme really works well. The classic five dial gauge package is easy to read at a glance with two 7-inch outer screens featuring digital gauges while the center tachometer remains analogue. Sightlines are near perfect, but this has been a staple of the 911 since it birth in 1963. A 10.9-inch center touchscreen provides easy access to PCM (Porsche Communication Management) controlling the audio, navigation and communication systems.
In a bit of a surprise move, the gear lever is significantly downsized almost to the point of being irrelevant. Porsche has found that few drivers actually shift with the lever, but rather engage the PDK transmission using the wheel-mounted paddle-shifters, so why not reduce it in size and put the space to better use. It is a stark contrast to what I am used to, but after sitting the car for a few hot laps, I can’t say I actually miss the previous lever. The center console is clean and well designed.
Four laps riding shotgun on the famed Hockenheimring in Germany is not enough to fully judge the 2020 Porsche Carrera 911 S and 911 4S, but it does provide a taste of what the next-gen sports car from Zuffenhausen is all about. On the surface, it looks great, powers through corners and straightaways with athletic aplomb and should continue to build on the solid reputation established by the previous models.
Of course, the real evaluation will come when I can actually take the wheel and drive it for myself. On that note, it is likely my overall positive impressions are certain to increase, but we’ll have to wait and see. For now, the new 911 appears ready to assume the mantle and carry on the tradition of exceptional rear-engine sports cars from Porsche.
2020 Porsche Carrera 911
Carrera S: $129,100.00
Carrera 4S: $137,400.00
Configuration: rear engine, rear-wheel drive/AWD
Engine: 3.0-L twin-turbo Boxer 6-cylinder
Transmission: 8-spd PDK
Power/torque: 443 hp/390 lb-ft
Fuel economy ratings: TBD
Warranties: 4 years/80,000 km (comprehensive)
Competitors: BMW 8-Series, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-TYPE, Lexus LC, Nissan GT-R
- New technology designed for the driver
- Styling is elegant, celebrating the past and present
- Powerful engine matched to an equally impressive suspension
- Rear seat room will always be an issue for the 911
- Expensive, but then greatness typically is