How do you define new? At Porsche, where they’ve been cranking out 911 sports cars for more than 50 years, they’re calling the 2020 version ‘new,’ even giving it a new internal designation of 992.
Like most transitions in the 911’s history, this is more evolutionary than revolutionary, but the changes have kept the venerable sports car icon up to date in terms of performance, luxury and technology. The look is distinctly 911, with a few new styling cues, such as the indentation in the hood reminiscent of the 1980s when it was there for fresh air intake. A light bar running across the rear also is a nod to the past, but it’s now a modern, thin LED light instead of a wide reflector. Though it no longer has a traditional key, the engine switch remains to the left of the steering wheel in homage to the running Le Mans start.
Once settled behind the wheel in a well-bolstered seat, you notice that the tachometer remains front and center and is an old school analog gauge, although it has a digital speedometer at the bottom. Everything else is video display so it can be configured to show the information you want, from engine and system monitoring to audio displays and more. A large screen in the center of the dash provides modern touch controls for navigation, audio, car controls/settings and apps, like on a cell phone. Fortunately, there are a number of buttons and knobs for the audio control, and the dual automatic climate control has hard buttons to control the digital readouts.
The real pleasure of a 911 is driving it, and this new model continues as one of the best sports cars to drive at any price. Currently, only an automatic transmission is offered, but a true stick is coming this spring (hurray!). The eight-speed PDK auto is managed by a somewhat small lever in the center console. Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel allow you to choose your own gears, but compared to a real stick, it’s like kissing your sister. Acceleration is neck-snapping with a zero to 60 time of only 3.2 seconds with the sport chrono package, and turbo lag is practically nonexistent. That’s supercar territory, especially with the 4S version, which pushes power to all four wheels.
Another treat is the great sound from the engine, particularly on deceleration. Steering is nice and tight and very communicative through a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel. You just have to think about changing the car’s direction, and it responds. Cornering really does feel like it’s on rails, and the brakes feel like they could stop time. Tossing it around on the streets was fun, but to truly explore the limits of performance, you’d have to get it on the track, where I’m sure it would truly shine. Despite its stiff suspension, the ride is not twitchy or overly rough, and the 911 can be driven like a ‘regular’ car around town.
As is typical in the automotive world, the 911 seems to get bigger and heavier with each new iteration. The new 911 is no longer a truly small car, and the additional weight can be felt as well, but the changes have made it a much more functional daily driver. Increases in engine power have outpaced the weight gain to make the new 911 the fastest one yet. Amenities include cruise control, an available sunroof, and safety features such as lane change and keep assist, park assist with cameras, and autonomous emergency braking. Four drive mode settings include normal, sport, sport plus and wet. A deep front trunk can hold a large suitcase and the rear seats can be folded down to form a useful parcel shelf. The car’s price also has grown to well over six figures.
According to Casey Eldridge, sales manager at Porsche St. Louis, “The only car better than the old 911 is the new 911. The handling, the power, the brakes; it just does everything 20% better. It has the power and ability to compete with any sports car in the world, yet also can be extremely comfortable on your trip to get coffee or groceries.”
technicals » porsche 911 carrera 4S
▶ Base: $122,000, including delivery
▶ As driven with options: $148,300
▶ 18 city
▶ 23 highway
▶ Rear engine; all-wheel drive
▶ 3.0-liter, twin turbo, 6-cylinder engine; 443 horsepower
▶ 8-speed automatic transmission
Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.