Porsche’s 911 is unequivocally one of the most desirable performance cars on the road.
The 911’s unmistakable styling is second to only cult classics like the Volkswagen Beetle and MINI Cooper, instantly recognizable as a Porsche. The rear-engine and rear-drive layout (with available all-wheel-drive) hasn’t changed in years, and the 911 is lusted after by purists of all ages. This year marks the debut of the latest generation, codenamed the “992”. We spent a week behind the wheel of a high-spec 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S in coupé form, to determine for ourselves whether it would be the new benchmark.
In previous years, the 911 Carrera was available in multiple widths, with all-wheel-drive “Carrera 4S” models getting birthing hips. Though it wasn’t quite as wide as the 911 Turbo and GT3 RS variants, the 4S was perhaps the best execution of the Carrera’s proportions. Now, the 911 and 4S models get the same body, and it’s lovely. It’s grown over the years, but the size is well in line with major competitors today, and it still looks exactly like what you expect a 911 to be. A new LED lightbar goes across the rear end and is one of the most beautiful elements of this car. Unfortunately, the third brake light looks like a bit of an afterthought and disrupts the otherwise-stunning rear end.
The 992, like all 911s before it, is a monster out on the road. A twin-turbocharged and intercooled 3.0-liter flat six-cylinder engine lives behind the rear axle. It pushes 443 horsepower at 6,500RPM and 390 lb-ft. of torque at 2,300RPM. Equipped with the PDK dual-clutch transmission (a manual is still available!) that handily surpasses every competitor’s transmission tuning, the 911 4S gets a bulletproof launch control system and can snap off a 100km/h sprint in 3.6 seconds. That’s right, we’re now at a point where 11-second quarter mile times are possible without having to step up to the Turbo or Turbo S variants.
It still doesn’t sound as pure without the symphony of the naturally aspirated flat-six, but the boosted six does what it needs to quite well. Some turbo lag is observed, but it’s one of the better examples of forced injection. Our test vehicle was equipped with a sport exhaust as part of the $6,230 Sport Package, which also adds the Sport Chrono Package and Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management (PASM). The exhaust emits a little bit of extra sound, but the latter two features are what really bring the package together nicely. Ride quality is extremely firm even in the “Normal” setting, and becomes downright racecar-like in Sport and Sport Plus. This isn’t a bad thing, especially for those complaining that today’s cars have become too soft.
The real magic of the 992 can’t be described using the power numbers though. Where the new 911 Carrera really comes alive is in how eagerly and compliantly it corners. The steering, while electrically assisted, still communicates a decent amount of feel to the driver’s fingertips and the car annihilates on-ramps, curves, and corners. Our test vehicle’s Rear Axle Steering is barely noticeable if you look for it, but makes a visible impact with a very tight turning circle and eagerness to rotate. The Carrera 4S has an all-wheel-drive system that uses an electronically controlled clutch pack, and will help in inclement weather by shifting up to 40% of torque to the front wheels.
No matter how you look at it, this car is one that very easily becomes an extension of the driver. Regardless of the road environment, it fits right in, and those with aggressive driveway entrances will be pleased to use the fast-acting nose lift system equipped here. The 911 responds quickly to all inputs with its quick reflexes, and makes every drive an event, whether it’s just a sprint to pick up dinner or a long commute into the office. Canadians will find value in the all-wheel-drive system of the 4S, but we must still strongly recommend a good set of winter tires to make the most of the experience.
Inside, our test vehicle was spec’d with scrumptious Club Leather upholstery in Truffle Brown, with a lovely combination of matte wood and aluminum finishes. There are no cheap bits to be found anywhere, and while there is some piano black around some of the controls, it’s not nearly as bad as it could be. The PCM infotainment system is easy to use, compatible with wireless Apple CarPlay, and sound quality from the Burmester sound system is simply marvelous. There are rear seats, but they’re for emergencies or small children only. As expected, the driving position with the 18-way power-adjustable sport seats is just about perfect.
Porsche Cars Canada prices the 911 Carrera 4S at $137,400 to start, over the $113,000 base Carrera. Our test vehicle had a series of options including Club Leather in Truffle Brown, Rear Axle Steering, 20-inch RS Spyder Design wheels, adaptive sport seats, Sport Package, a sunroof, Premium Package, Front Axle Lift system, Burmester audio, LED-Matrix headlights, and a few more doodads. The sticker of $186,300 is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s worth keeping in mind that this is for a very heavily optioned car. If buyers aren’t too trigger-happy on the options, it’s entirely possible to have a well-equipped 4S in the $150,000 range.
At the as-tested price point, the 911 goes up against some stiff competition. Audi’s R8 (reviewed here) starts at $188,400, and the Aston Martin Vantage is right in the same ballpark as well. For purists, there really is no substitute, but both major rivals are seriously good machines that have effectively broken the “exotic” barrier. The 911 will set a better lap time every day of the week, and likely be lighter on long-term maintenance, but it doesn’t sound quite as good as the V10 of the R8 or even the Vantage. Regardless of how you look at it, the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S has taken the existing benchmark of the 911, and turned the dial of progression up a few notches.