Looking back over our lives, there have been a number of constants throughout. Something that, whenever you look, it’s always there, just doing its thing. The Rolling Stones for one, Robert de Niro another. And then there’s the Porsche 911. While the Rolling Stones and Mr. de Niro are still working with v1, from 2020 Porsche will be moving on to their eighth (yes, really, eighth) generation of the enduring 911. Where’s it going to stand in the list of all-time 911s? How much better is it than the 911 you’re driving? We packed our bags and headed to Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain to find out.
A measured response to a 911 is difficult to achieve – when did you last look at one and not feel your pulse beat a little faster? However, we’ve become accustomed to seeing a new Porsche and waiting for its looks to grow on us. Not in the case of the 992 (Porsche’s internal reference for the latest-gen 911). The lines of the new model are bang on. Aesthetically, it’s one of the most complete designs on the road today.
How come? The exterior design is familiar and yet undoubtedly new. The eighth-generation 911 is wider, more assertive, and more advanced. Wider wings arch over the large 20-inch wheels at the front and 21-inch wheels at the rear. The rear-wheel-drive models now match the bodywork width of the existing all-wheel models. The rear axle is 44 mm larger here.
The front end – generally 45 mm wider – revives a traditional feature of earlier 911 generations: a forward-extended bonnet with a distinctive recess in front of the windscreen. Both elements lengthen the front of the vehicle and give it a dynamic look.
Every perspective of the 992 delivers a great view. The rear of all models is dominated by the significantly wider, variable-position spoiler and the seamless, elegant light bar.
The interior is distinctive, with clear, straight lines and recessed instruments defining the dashboard. 911 models from the 1970s provided the inspiration here, with the new dashboard spanning the entire width between two horizontal wing levels, just as it did in the original 911. It’s fresh, it’s uncluttered, it works.
There’s a new feel to buttons and switches. If you’re a modern traditionalist, you’ll love the clicks and the feel.
Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche AG: “The eighth generation of the 911 is even more powerful, even more emotional, and even more efficient than its predecessor – and also offers extensive digital features. And in spite of all the innovations, the 911 is still just what it has always been: a puristic sports car and the pulsing heart of Porsche – our icon.”
He’s not wrong. This is an automobile bursting with tech, but instead of taking away from the driving experience, they’re adding to it.
What’s hot? The new 911 is the first in the world to feature an innovative system for recognizing significant wetness on the road, including the Wet driving programme that can be manually selected at any time.
This program has been specially developed to support the driver in wet conditions. The system uses acoustic sensors in the front wheel housings to recognize sprayed-up splash water, and in this way can detect wetness on the road. This makes it fundamentally different from windscreen wiper rain sensors, which only react optically to water droplets on the windscreen, independently of the road conditions. The response behavior of the PSM and PTM systems is preconditioned if a road is recognized as wet. The system informs the driver of the detected wetness and recommends manually switching to Wet mode.
If the driver activates this mode, the Porsche Stability Management (PSM), Porsche Traction Management (PTM), aerodynamics, optional Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) Plus, and drive responsiveness are adapted to the conditions in such a way as to guarantee the best possible driving stability. From 90km/h, the rear spoiler is adjusted to maximum downforce, the cooling air flaps open, the accelerator pedal characteristic is flatter, and PSM Off or Sport mode can no longer be activated.
We pushed it to the limit on a hosed-down and very wet Circuit Ricardo Tormo. While the standard systems worked more than adequately in keeping us on the soggy tarmac, in wet mode we pushed harder and found ourselves snapped-back into line whenever the electronics felt things were going a little too sideways. We drove the same circuit with and without wet mode engaged. Without was certainly too hairy than we’d care to make a habit of. Engaged, and we’re still driving the car, senses on alert, but things were far more manageable. Even more tellingly, observing other drivers fighting the car without wet mode, and flowing neatly in wet mode, it is clearly the fastest way to proceed. We’re surprised that engaging wet mode is an option – it makes a great deal of sense to take the system’s advice and switch it on when invited. For sure, wet mode is as much a leap forward in road safety as was the introduction of ABS many years ago. Keep an eye open for it – soon you’ll see versions of it everywhere.
The new 911 also brings a new generation of turbocharged flat-six engines. Advanced development has been primarily focused on further enhancing performance, alongside meeting the latest emissions standards by including a gasoline particulate filter (GPF). New, larger turbochargers with symmetrical layout and electrically controlled wastegate valves, a completely redesigned charge air cooling system, increased compression, as well as the newly implemented piezo injectors combine to attain engine improvements in all relevant areas: responsiveness, power, torque characteristic, efficiency, and maneuverability. In addition to the 22 kW (30 PS) increase in power to 331 kW (450 PS) at 6,500/min, the engine offers 30 Nm higher torque, at 530 Nm between 2,300 rpm and 5,000 rpm.
The 911 Carrera S and 911 Carrera 4S are being launched exclusively with the first eight-speed dual-clutch transmission (PDK) for Porsche sports cars. Shifting is super-fast. You already know how good the seven-speed PDK was… well imagine that, and then add some.
Compared with the seven-speed transmission of the previous models, the new PDK offers a host of improvements. The driver can directly feel the enhanced combination of comfort, performance, and efficiency. All gears have new ratios: first gear is now shorter and eighth gear longer than before. This has made it possible to implement a longer final-drive ratio, thereby further reducing engine speeds in the upper gears.
And the drive? Efficient and proficient – just as you’d expect from any contemporary Porsche. But, somehow, they’ve added to their typically Teutonic class with several bucket loads of somewhat surprising flair and ebullience.
Check the March issue of Men’s Passion where we’ll examine the 2020 Porsche 911’s driving credentials – on road and track.