The 911. Legend. A benchmark amongst drivers’ cars. The car that hardcore enthusiasts aspire to owning. The poster car on millions of kids’ bedroom walls and screensavers. An instantly recognisable car (even by your grandmother), and into its eighth generation it just gets more competent, more captivating, and no less magical…
Ol’ Father Time has been kind to the 911, despite the insistence of Porsche to stick to an engineering package that many experts tried to dismiss decades ago.
Instead it survives and thrives, defying a certain logic suggesting there should be dynamic limits to a layout that persists with that horizontally opposed power plant hanging over the rear axle line. Yessir, clever boffins and smart electronics constantly and cleverly bring new and improved solutions to keep successive 911s relevant in the ferociously fought supercar firmament.
Porsche has been doing it since the 1960s, making every new 911 better than the one before. Ah, perhaps with the one exception of the transition from air-cooled to water-cooled engines with the unloved 996.
Today, the 911 remains the aspirational sports car for those who demand characterful performance, tough-as-nails reliability, and a level of effortless versatility. That allows the owner to use it to commute to work, go on an interstate cruise, or duck out to a racetrack for a few hours of boisterous fun – and no need to change a thing.
Following the steady evolutionary engineering and design path, Porsche has done it again with a faster, safer, slightly longer and wider, and certainly more visually appealing, 992. With all the character you demand of a 911.
As is Porsche custom, the entry-model Carrera Coupe follows the Carrera S (launched here last April) to market. The 911 Turbo and Turbo S will be along later this year, which likely means we’ll welcome the more special GTS and GT3 in 2021.
The new Carrera Coupe (launched concurrently with the more powerful, pricier Carrera S Cabriolet) generates 283kW and 450Nm from its 3.0-litre, six-cylinder boxer engine with bi-turbocharging.
The search for more performance is relentless at Porsche. The Carrera offers 11kW more power than its predecessor. It’s a given that each successive model will offer a handy leap forward in output. Typically, the base 911 Carrera comes up with about the same power as the previous-gen Carrera S – it’s a given.
The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe's pricing starts at $229,500 (plus on-road costs), so the price of admission to the glam world of new Porsche ownership is not cheap. Consider, too, that Porsches are rarely if ever sold without a swag of options. Buyers love personalising and differentiating.
Not to be recommended, mind you, but you could be blindfolded and still know you are driving a Porsche 911. Any generation, in fact, right up to this new one known as the 992 series.
You drop your backside a long way down into seats that wrap and hold in a pleasing driver-centric way. Seat and steering wheel adjustment will give you the ideal driving position, and perhaps even if you’re a jockey or a basketballer.
The steering wheel these days is just the right rim thickness and size (in the old pre-power-steering era, in the interest of better leverage, the wheel was the size of a ship’s helm). As usual with the 911, the wheel is more vertical than most, irrespective of the reach and vertical adjustment.
And there’s that roar when you fire up the flat six stuffed in the tail. This latest twin-turbo is slightly muted in the way that turbos tend to be, but it still has that urgent ‘turn-me-loose’ sound via the twin pipes (and later we’ll get into the choices the driver may make to turn up the volume).
Remove the blindfold and you’ll notice the completely new landmark interior, with Porsche answering the call to dispatch the analog instrument array in favour of modern electronics. A stylish dash showing off clean and straight lines between the A-pillars is dominated mid fascia by a new 10.9-inch central touchscreen replacing the old quaintly compact seven-incher.
Recessed instruments and a general decluttering are evident, too. Beneath the screen is a compact switch unit with five buttons for direct access to important vehicle functions. Getting the navigation and phone connectivity to operate smoothly takes some adjusting, but owners will fairly swiftly get to grips with the important stuff.
The central rev counter – typical for Porsche – and adjacent free-form display gauges are presented in simple and legible white on black.
The console, in a shiny piano-black material, is all new, too, with reduced clutter and a simple compact gear lever (reverse, neutral, drive) behind two buttons for park and manual. A drum roll, too, for the new cupholder in the console. There is still a flimsy one that retracts into the dash on the passenger’s side, but the driver gets a proper one that doesn’t jump about.
Like seats and trim, the standard multi-functional steering wheel is in smooth leather, though the car we tested had the optional heated GT sports tiller, a $1140 hit. I’d prefer Alcantara.
The lower and lighter pews of the Carrera are brilliant, especially in the case of the optional $2850 18-way electric adaptive sports seats plus (with memory package). Here you achieve a level of coziness and support rarely reached in sporty machines. Moreover, they are not ridiculously awkward to climb in and out of, even for folks of a certain vintage.
The design changes continue outside, too. It’s all new, with the well-appreciated muscular styling cues seen in the Carrera S – the 45mm-wider front, with new LED headlamps. That squared-off grin is the only obvious polarising style feature.
The rear is dominated by the significantly wider, variable-position rear spoiler and the elegant light bar that starts and finishes in the tail-lights. New door handles and mirrors are part of the picture, too. Apart from the front and rear sections, the entire outer skin is now made from aluminium.
There is now only one body style with the 992, because all models are now wide-body. One size fits all.
The standard 911 Carrera is distinguished by modestly dimensioned wheels and tyres – 235/40ZR19 fronts and 295/35ZR20 rears. Our optioned-up test Carrera got the 20-21-inch exclusive-design wheels adding $7230 to the RRP.
Included with the entry Carrera are a host of logical features – mostly meeting safety and pampering expectations for a car of this positioning and price. Dual-control climate control, reversing camera, Bose surround sound, Apple CarPlay, digital radio, keyless go, comfort access, cruise control with speed limiter, two USBs and 12-volt outlet, stationary management hold function, and auto start/stop (to save a thimble of fuel) that can be mercifully overridden by choosing one of the sport modes.
Lane-change assist, tyre-pressure monitoring, daytime running lights, auto headlight activation, seat heating, auto-dimming mirrors and metallic paint are also included.
Big 330mm cross-drilled brake rotors with four-piston aluminium calipers amount to a reassuring braking package – unrelentingly capable on-road, and we sense, too, on-track.
The vast majority of 911 Carrera owners demand the efficient dual-clutch PDK, although there is a small, defiant niche of stalwarts who insist on doing their own shifting. They will be quenched when the Carrera Coupe manual arrives towards the end of year. Incidentally, the 911 GT3 attracts a greater weighting of manual ’box sporty fundamentalism, around 50-50.
The stubby new-style gear selector for the PDK ’box is simple to operate – neutral, reverse or drive. Into drive, you may relax or else let the paddles do the talking.
We welcome the big, 'M for manual' button near the small PDK lever; it locks the transmission in the ratio you choose with the paddle shifter. This is handy because the PDK gearbox software will otherwise automatically shift up or down, even in Sport Plus mode.
The new Carrera Coupe is all of 1505kg (unladen weight). With its regular generational growth and the predictable kilos it stacks on due to the engineering changes and greater equipment levels, this car is circa 50 per cent heavier than the original 911 of the mid 1960s.
In 2015, enthusiasts were jolted with the introduction of a bi-turbocharged Carrera of reduced 3.0-litre capacity. This same boxer engine, albeit with more performance, carries over to the eighth-gen Carrera.
Traditionalists may lament the end of the raucous atmo, and it is true that the turbo exhaust is a little softer. The trade-off is more grunt thanks to smaller wheel diameters of the turbines and compressors in the new turbochargers. There is also the generous 450Nm (the same torque level as the last Carrera).
The new dual-clutch PDK fires the Carrera from rest to 100km/h in a brisk 4.2 seconds, or half-a-second slower than the Carrera S that ushered in this eighth-generation range last year. The optional Sport Chrono shaves a further 0.2 seconds off this acceleration time.
Of course, the delivery of the engine performance is no less important than pure numbers. Porsche has nailed drivability and efficiency, and with the instant surge when you get serious. Turbo lag is simply non-existent. The flexibility of the twin-turbo boxer is revelatory when you are merely commuting or cruising. It is calm, effortless and comfortable.
The ride is so beautifully accommodating, especially straight after you’ve rigorously tested its real métier – which may involve brutalising the engine, transmission, brakes and handling. Accelerating hard between tight bends on a deserted piece of mountain road, in Sport or Sport Plus and paddle shifting between second-third-fourth. On the throttle, off the throttle, and braking, and all the time the power-down grip and thrust are keeping you grinning – and safe.
With the $5480 sports exhaust option fitted, the note in the sports modes is bold and barking crazy, gurgling pleasantly on trailing throttle. You won’t dislike it.
The PDK eight-speeder is just the dance partner for the torquey 3.0-litre, the mid ratios instantly filling the task of keeping the rig on script.
Braking firmly into low-speed corners, even those with some imperfections in the bitumen, the Carrera answers the precise, nicely weighted steering without the uneasy wriggle that typified 911s of a few generations ago.
In keeping with minimal pitch and roll on entry and through bends, the 992’s stability and front-end grip at turn-in mean the driver feels secure in getting back on the throttle early on exit. There’s barely a hint of understeer. Or oversteer. Even when provoked and with the stability control neutered, the rear end won’t react badly. On the sweepers it feels so predictable, so planted, the aero clearly pushing it into the road.
Fuel efficiency remains impressive for a car of this performance potential, a combined 9.4L/100km.
More aluminium and composite materials, and less steel, are used in the body, the shell now seven per cent lighter than the last 911. But with no loss of rigidity, stability or crash safety.
Even though the standard local spec of the 911 range is richer than the global average, Australian customers are renowned for still ticking plenty of option boxes.
The 911 Carrera typically gets about 20-grand's worth of extra goodies, the most popular being the $4890 Sport Chrono driver’s select system, which elevates the performance response to a choice of higher levels. Its functions enable a more sportier set-up for the chassis, engine and transmission, all at the twist of the mode switch on the wheel.
The latest Sport Chrono introduces a world-first Wet mode to join Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual picks. Here, sensors under the guards suggest the Wet mode if it detects the road surface is soggy. This adjusts the vehicle's set-up for increased driving stability in dodgy traction situations. But, typically Porsche, the driver has to select the Wet mode to activate the conservative setting. See our more complete Sport Chrono and app story here.
Compared to most other sports cars, especially mid-engined designs, the 911 has always had appeal as a dirty-weekend transport choice. The deep, surprisingly commodious front boot swallows 132L of luggage beyond the 264L of gear you can stow when you fold down the rear jump seats. We don’t recommend squeezing real people into the rear compartment.