Rebirth of the everyday supercar

By Mark Hacking

Valencia, Spain — The Globe and Mail

Published February 1, 2019

“We all have a desire to create something that will show we were here. That we did something of value. To create something timeless.”

— Ferdinand Anton (Ferry) Porsche

The fifth-generation Porsche 911, produced from 1998 to 2005, is notoriously unloved compared to all other 911s. The first 911 to abandon the air-cooled boxer engine prompted an immediate uproar among purists and secured residual values for all four previous generations. Code-named 996, that 911 shared parts with the Boxster, the manufacturer’s de facto entry-level sports car. One of the most notable examples — the classic round headlights of the 911 encased in Boxster-style teardrop glass covers — was, for some, even more galling than the water-cooling decision.

Still, some 20 years ago, the 1998 Porsche 911 became a revelation to a nascent car reviewer. The title of the article devoted to the experience, “Rebirth of the Supermodel,” referred more to the car’s outward appearance than its outright speed. But, to me, without the benefit of prior knowledge, the performance of the 996 was mind-blowing.

Two decades of testing cars later, I wasn’t prepared to have my mind blown by the long-anticipated, eighth-generation of this iconic model — the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera.

But it happened.

1998 Porsche 911 2020 Porsche Carrera S

The 1998 Porsche 911(left) compared to the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera (right).

Courtesy Porsche

There are many reasons why this version, dubbed the 992, represents a big leap in performance over the outgoing model. Let’s start with the engine. The near wholesale move to turbocharged boxer engines for the 911 model line kicked in a few years back. Here, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat six-cylinder is entirely new, fitted with larger turbochargers and compressors, equipped with a new fuel injection system and reconfigured for improved cooling.

The results are notable.

The engine in the Carrera S and 4S (the first versions of the 2020 car to be released) produces 443 horsepower, a gain of 23 markers over the previous model, while engine torque is up by 22 lb-ft. These improvements are, literally, given even more traction via two additional changes: a new eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission that shifts more quickly and, for the 4S, an all-wheel drive system with a new front-axle drive that puts the power to the ground more efficiently.

Porsche Carrera on the streets of Valencia Porsche Carrera on the streets of Valencia
Porsche Carrera on the streets of Valencia Porsche Carrera on the streets of Valencia

The Porsche 911 Carrera 4S on the streets of Valencia, Spain.

Courtesy Porsche

More numbers, if you please: When fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Package, the Carrera S scampers to 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds and the Carrera 4S does the trick in 3.4 seconds. Why this is important: Past versions of the 911 [like the Turbo, the GT3 and the GT2] were certainly supercars — now, all versions of the new 911 arguably achieve this lofty designation.

“The engine is completely new from the packaging on down,” says Thomas Brandl, manager of development for boxer engines. “It has more horsepower, more torque, better cooling, better efficiency and better CO2 emissions. It’s a big step forward.”

Once more, but with feelings: For some time now, the Porsche 911 has been an incredibly easy car to drive near its limits. It’s also been a car that can transition from the racetrack to the open road seamlessly. In both regards, the eighth-generation sets new standards.

On the track, it can be whipped around like a play toy with such confidence. With the drive mode selector dialed into Sport Plus, the driver aids on the 911 allow for just enough freedom to make mistakes. But the car also maintains a watchful eye for those times when you exceed the high levels of grip. As an added bonus, drivers can select a new wet mode that creates an even bigger buffer between the driver and his or her own worst instincts: A softer accelerator pedal and increased downforce from the rear wing are two of the tricks at work here.

Aside from the greater power and improved acceleration, the new 911 models gain an oversized rear tire for added grip, new suspension system and new steering system. These changes are welcome on the track, but are equally suited to the open road, where conditions are less controlled. On the tiny lanes surrounding the racetrack, the steering, a perennial strength of past models, is remarkably precise. And the suspension system gives the car the ability to handle bumps and cracks in the road without needing to slow down much at all. It’s a revelation.

Audi e-tron environmental portrait

Courtesy Porsche

“The car is, for sure, an everyday supercar,” says Michael Rösler, integration manager of sportscars for Porsche. He’s responsible for ensuring everything of a technological nature, from the navigation system to the driver aids, works seamlessly with the mechanical bits.

He describes a wager with his wife: If he could fit everything needed for a weekend skiing into the 911, they would take the car into the mountains. He won the bet. “You just put snow tires on the car and you go - easy.”

The notion of the “everyday supercar” has been around for some time now. People use it to label anything that’s fast and has a stability control system. But the new Porsche 911 leaves everything else in its wake and is, for this reviewer, the only true everyday supercar on the road today.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

Porsche Carrera 4S

Porsche Carrera 4S

Tech Specs

2020 Porsche Carrera S / 2020 Porsche Carrera 4S

Base Price: $129,100 / $137,400

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre boxer six-cylinder

Transmission/Drive: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic/ Rear-wheel(S) or all-wheel (4S)

Fuel economy (litres/100 km; city/hwy combined): 8.9/9.0

Alternatives: Audi R8, BMW M4, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-AMG GT, Nissan GT-R

Porsche Carrera S

Porsche Carrera S


Looks: The new 911 is slightly larger than the outgoing model, but it wears the increased size well. The wider wheels in the back (21 inches versus 20 in the front) and recessed, electrically activated door handles give the car a fantastically uninterrupted, shapely silhouette. The new front fascia looks as-yet unresolved, like it’s leaving the door open for extra flourishes on more expensive versions to follow. The completely revised back end, which differentiates this model the most from last year’s 911, features an uninterrupted taillight strip, different rear wing and louvers with central brake light strips.

Interior: TThe digital instrument panel with five circular gauges places an analogue tachometer in the centre, echoing earlier generations of the 911. The 10.9-inch touchscreen above the centre console works well and removes the need for stacks of switches — a single row of five toggles to access most commonly used functions is immediately below the screen. The steering wheel is classic Porsche with perfect ergonomics. Purists will not like the dinky gear selector [a manual transmission version is on the way] or the keyless ignition system, which means you no longer place a key in the classic left-side ignition.

Performance: From the way the new 911 performs on the track to the way it tackles more mundane driving situations, this is as close to faultless as you can get.

Technology: There’s plenty of motorsport-derived tech at work in the new 911. One of the tastier items is the onboard data recording system, standard on all models fitted with the optional sport chrono package. Just hook up your phone or your GoPro to record video and the Porsche Track Precision app will record everything for posterity and, if applicable, future bragging rights. The app also provides track maps for hundreds of circuits and basic advice for getting the most from your track time.

The verdict: 9.5 /10: An everyday supercar that’s rewarding to drive at speed and easy to drive at the speed limit.

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Credits: Writing by Mark Hacking; Photography courtesy Porsche, Editing by Tom Maloney, Design and development by Stephanie Chan

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