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2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S First Drive

More Weight, More PowerThe 2020 911 is first available as the rear-wheel-drive Carrera S or all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S — the S designates the second rung on the 911 ladder. A less expensive non-S Carrera enters production later in 2019. You can expect the usual onslaught of ever-faster GTS, Turbo and GT3 versions to follow after that.

Regardless of drive wheels, the 911 Carrera S comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six engine that makes 443 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Those figures represent modest improvements of 23 hp and 22 lb-ft of torque compared to last year.

A new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (PDK in Porsche-speak) comes standard. The addition of an eighth gear permits a wider spread of ratios, improving both acceleration and fuel economy. Gears six through eight are overdrive, and top speed is attained in sixth. A seven-speed manual transmission will be available later this year.

True, you can get dramatically more power from less expensive American sports cars. But the 911 has always been a car that somehow punches above its weight class. Porsche claims that, with the automatic and launch control, the new 911 rips from 0 to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and clears the quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds for rear-drive models. Considering that the previous-generation 911 was quicker than that in our testing, we expect even better numbers when we get our hands on this 911 for a full test.

What's It Like to Drive?

The one area that hasn't changed is the driving experience. Engage launch control and the 911 tears away from a stop with greater acceleration than its power figures suggest. The shifts are immediate and smooth, and the entire car relays an immediate and easy sense of control through the first series of corners.

The engine revs cleanly to redline, offering a strong pull that doesn't relent until you're in the limiter. You can hear the turbochargers build boost when you romp on the gas pedal, but there's also a strong mix of engine and exhaust noise. The whistle and howl make for a pleasing combination.

Regular 911 models have always balanced sporty handling with comfortable road behavior, and that merger remains true here.
Standard adaptive suspension dampers and available adaptive anti-roll bars provide flat and sure-footed handling but not to the detriment of ride quality. Available rear steering enables both nimble low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability.

A few laps around a racetrack reveal that little has changed with the 911's dynamic abilities. This car is easy to drive fast. It pivots quickly into corners, and it has ample traction and power to exit with authority. As with all recent 911 generations, the car's balance remains on the stable side, but skilled drivers can extract plenty of adjustability.
What's the Interior Like?
The easiest way to tell a new 911 apart is by looking inside. The familiar themes remain but with an embrace of modern design and function. The ignition, for example, still sits to the left of the steering wheel. But instead of a button, it's a permanently installed key you twist to start the car.

The gauge cluster hosts a gorgeous analog tachometer that resembles a watch face. It's flanked by two digital displays that can show neat tricks such as navigation or night vision (if optioned). The default display mimics the five-dial gauge cluster the 911 has had since its introduction. It all looks great, but the steering wheel blocks the outer portion of each screen, requiring head movement to see your fuel level.

The gear selector is new, and it looks like a small electric shaver. Instead of grasping it, you sort of pinch it at the top and pull or push it through clearly defined detents. A beefy shifter it's not. But it works, and there's enough feedback to know whether you've selected Drive or Neutral.

Porsche has added a bigger infotainment display (10.9 inches) and moved it up to the top of the dash. The relocation is meant to make it easier to look at the screen while driving. Beneath it are five switches whose functions change depending on options. There's been a clear effort to reduce the number of buttons on the instrument panel, so some functions require diving into a submenu. Performing a 911 pre-flight checklist — setting the exhaust to loud, turning off stop-start, and so on — becomes a nuisance unless you save your ideal settings under the one customizable drive mode.
Every 911 comes with Apple CarPlay standard, though Android Auto remains unavailable. Porsche says the 911 is ready for it, but that negotiations remain ongoing with Google.

Interior storage options are tight, with just enough room to accommodate a large phone in the center console and a few small personal items. We appreciate the addition of a real cupholder behind the gear selector, especially how you can remove it for a bigger cubby underneath.

On the downside, the piano black on the instrument panel collects scuffs and smears quickly, and the hard surface on the left side of the center console can hurt your right knee if you use it as a brace while driving quickly.

What's New With Safety Technology?
Along with the usual array of adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and the aforementioned night vision, the 911 also has a trick system for the rain. A Wet drive mode adjusts parameters for the stability control, antilock braking, throttle and other systems to provide better safety on soaked roads. Acoustic sensors in the wheelwells can detect a certain threshold of water spray, and the 911 uses that info to adjust the stability control and anti-lock brakes as well as recommend activating this mode when needed.

The effects of the system were noticeable on a wet handling course. We tried to spin the 911 out, and the system cut back the power wheelspin to keep the car stable. The real-world benefits are less clear. You have to activate Wet mode (thankfully) manually, and you won't notice its effects if you drive responsibly in the rain. On the other hand, it's hard to argue with the largely invisible adjustments to the stability systems this technology makes. Worst case? Ignore it and drive responsibly.

2020 Porsche 911 Pricing and Release Date
Unless you're looking at the interior, the new 911 doesn't immediately display the changes that one expects with a new generation. And starting at $114,550, including destination, it carries an $8,000 price increase over the equivalent model from the last generation. Porsche points to more standard features, such as the automatic transmission, heated seats and auto-dimming mirrors, as part of the reason for the increase. Our fully loaded test car totaled $160,850.

After shelling out that kind of coin, you might find it strange having to explain to your friends that the Porsche in your driveway is, indeed, the new 911. There's also the fact to consider that the 911 always improves, at times significantly, through the lifecycle of a generation. A carefully sourced previous-generation 911 could provide more value for selective shoppers.

But if you don't care about bragging to your friends, the new 911 is quicker, more luxurious and nicer to drive than ever before. The interior upgrade in terms of look and feel might be worth it alone. So for those seeking the latest and greatest, these attributes make it an easy pick.

The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S reaches dealerships in the summer of this year.

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