Review: 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
Here’s what it’s like to daily drive one of the world’s finest sports cars.
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s good: Sublime handling, power, and performance; easy to live with every day.
- What’s bad: Stiff ride; expensive.
During the 2-day technical presentation of the eight-generation 911, known internally and to fans as 992, Porsche offered journalists hot laps around Hockenheimring, home of the German Grand Prix.
In the hands of the Porsche engineer flogging it around the legendary circuit, the new 911 was breathtakingly fast.
Some months later, I had a go myself at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on the smaller driver development track. There, even with my limited skill, it felt natural. It felt at home. Not intimidating, but encouraging. Where a lot of fast cars punish ham-fistedness, the 911 will coach you through everything, working with rather than against you.
There aren’t many cars that will make you feel like Mark Weber, but a 911 will. And when it comes to instilling driver confidence Porsche is probably the best in the biz, and the 911 is its poster child.
But even with its motorsport pedigree, the most vigorous driving a 911 might encounter are laps around Bloomingdale’s parking lot.
A more fitting test for this 911, then, would be more mundane, everyday things like a commute to the office, or a longer jaunt to see friends, maybe even a late-night taco run. Clipping apexes? Not on the menu this time.
The good stuff.
Like any car you’d want to drive on a daily basis, there’s a certain set of criteria that needs to be met. Sure, you could probably daily a McLaren Senna but your spine would turn into powder after about a week. And there are probably greener ways of getting to work.
A daily driver must be comfortable, reliable, easy to drive, easy to see out of and easy to park. You should be able to carry a few things in it as well. We’re not talking strollers or Ikea furniture here but a grocery run shouldn’t be off the table either.
In that respect, the 2020 911 Carrera 4S might just be the perfect sports car. It’s got an airy greenhouse, a beautifully tailored retro-modern cabin, comfortable seats that are heated and ventilated, dual-zone climate control, and Apple Car Play.
Between its front trunk and rear parcel shelf you’ll be able to pack for a weekend with room to spare. You even get two seats in the back, though they aren’t very big; most adults wouldn’t fit but kids will. I even installed a child seat, which was much easier than I thought it would be, and took my toddler for a ride.
The engine isn’t very big—it only displaces three litres but that makes it efficient. Many mid-size family SUVs are thirstier. It still makes a lot of power, though. While 600 might be the new norm the 445 ponies and 390 lb-ft of torque produced from the 911’s twin-turbo flat-six can propel this Carrera 4S from rest to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 306 km/h.
So, yes, the 911 is a practical car. As a daily driver it works very well. And because this one was a 4S, it had 4WD, so that meant even though it was the middle of winter, this sports car didn’t have to be confined to a garage. Equipped with a set of winter rubber and an optional front-axle lifter this 911 was ready to take on winter’s worst.
A point proved when a freak snow squall was ineffective at stopping it on a mission to help me achieve full taco satisfaction. SUVs were eating my slush as this low-slung sports car stayed planted and sure-footed on the snow-covered roads and highways. The same confidence it gave me on the track in the middle of summer made it just as easy to trust in bad weather.
At one point it even suggested going into wet mode, a new driving mode useful in slippery conditions. It uses a sensor in the wheel well that listens for the sound of swirled up water, or in this case snow, and suggests using the mode. It tweaks the traction and stability control settings allowing them to intervene sooner. It does this without reducing the power or limiting top speed because, you know, this is a Porsche and all.
When it’s not snowing the 911 is an absolute joy to drive. The power builds linearly and never overwhelms the chassis, but plant the throttle from a dig and this 911 will knock your socks off. The 8-speed PDK dual-clutch is a mind reader and will crack off shifts like a machine gun emptying its clip. In the world of automatic transmissions, PDK is king.
Whether you’re putting around town, zipping down the highway, or just enjoying your favourite back road the 992 feels epic. The steering is quick, precise and offers up more feedback than you’d expect from an electric rack. Turn-in is weightless; no engine over the front axle makes it feel extra nimble. The 992 like the outgoing 991 feels unflappable, there’s so much grip you feel like you can do anything with it. Where some cars act like a collection of parts working together, the 911 feels like it’s been carved out of a piece of steel billet, reacting to every input as a singular unit.
Brakes are prodigious and rear discs have grown from 330 to 350 mm in diameter. The engineers swapped the pneumatic brake booster for an electric one and specified a shorter and lighter composite brake pedal. While that might seem like a small change, you get immediate braking response and better feedback through the pedal.
The not so good.
I’ve described the Porsche 911 in the past as a near-perfect automobile, and the 992 only improves upon that formula. It’s faster, more efficient, and handles even better. Even though it’s slightly larger and wider than before and crammed with more tech and safety gear, weight gain has been minimal at about 70 kilos, give or take.
When you spend 56 years perfecting the same product, results speak for themselves. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t complaints.
The steering wheel, which is otherwise the perfect size and thickness, partially blocks the two outer screens of the gauge cluster in a bit of an ergonomic faux pas, and the navigation system can come across as a bit complicated and difficult to use with its layers of menus and tiny touch points.
My Aventurine green tester was equipped with the optional PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) dampers. These electronically variable dampers drop the car 10 mm and have been re-engineered to offer a wider range between comfort and sport. The new hardware in combination with new software allows for less body roll and greater stability through corners but ride comfort is compromised.
The seats while supportive are also quite hard and this doesn’t help. On a smooth track you’ll notice none of this but when we went to visit some old friends who live a little further away I was wishing for a more compliant ride.
Then there’s the price, which has crept closer and closer to supercar territory with every new generation. A 911 Carerra 4S can be yours in exchange for $137,400 and that’s before you start adding options of which there are so, so many. As-tested, the 911 I drove around for a week had an eye-watering sticker price of $187,800 plus HST.
In its defense, the car is sublime and does offer supercar levels of performance. 911s also tend to hold their value better than other brands but still, nearly 200K for one sans turbo badge can be a difficult pill to swallow.
How does it stack up to the new Corvette?
That pill goes down even slower when you start to compare it to the brand new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette, a car that offers more performance and more grip than this 911 at less than half the price. Yes, you read that correctly. It offers more for much, much less.
So how can that be? And does this mean that you should run to your local Chevy dealer and buy the first Corvette you see? No, not exactly.
The Corvette is impressive and probably one of the best new car deals you’ll find today but there are few things to keep in mind. The C8 is a sports car built to a budget and it uses materials that are nice but just not in the same league as you’ll find in the Porsche.
All the buttons, all the pedals and controls, everything you touch in the 911 has a similar heft to it. You get in and nothing is loose, the stitching is arrow straight, and all the pieces fit and intertwine with each other perfectly. It all feels substantial.
In the Corvette, spend enough time looking and you’ll find questionable bits: trim that’s hasn’t adhered properly, flimsy feeling controls, the same infotainment system you’ll find on a $30,000 Equinox. You also don’t get those handy back seats.
Then there’s that confidence behind the wheel I talked about earlier, as great as I found the new Corvette on the track there was always that layer of fear that if I pushed any harder the car would murder me. In the 911 you never get that. With each successive lap you find yourself chasing tenths, looking for that bit of extra speed wherever you can find it. It’s a more polished experience.
How I’d spec my own (if I had the money)
I don’t think there’s another vehicle out there with more permutations than a 911. There are so many ways to configure one that you’ll rarely ever see two alike.
Porsche’s option list is notoriously lengthy and you can almost double the price of the car if you go crazy
Want the Porsche crests on the wheels in colour? That’ll be $220. How about if you want the wheels painted? Sure, just tack on another $1480. Sports exhaust? $3370. Carbon ceramic brakes? $10,230. Decorative interior stitching and coloured seat centres? $5120. I can go on all day.
While it’s nice to be able to customize to your heart’s content, tastes vary and so I haven’t gone through any of the interior/exterior colour choices and custom trim pieces and just added stuff to make the 911 perform and sound better.
As brilliant as the 8-speed PDK dual-clutch is, the 7-speed manual transmission would be my choice. Every. Single. Time. Yes, the PDK is faster, but the manual is more fun and will involve the driver much more. And for a car like this, that’s what you want. It’s also one of the few no-charge options you can get and speccing the manual gets you the Sport Chrono pack by default (driving modes, dynamic engine mounts, analogue/digital stopwatch).
To that I’d add the premium pack for $6130 (lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, comfort access, ventilated seats, Bose surround sound system); LED-matrix headlights ($2280); Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control ($3610); rear axle steering ($2390); sports exhaust ($3370); front axle lift system ($3150); PASM adaptive dampers ($1170); surround view camera ($1640); 18-way adaptive sport seats ($3960).
This plus the base price of a 992 Carerra 4S ($137,400) brings the grand total to $166,600.
It’s a lot of money but there’s nothing else like a 911. And if you wanted to drive a true sports car every day of the year, and have the money, this is the one to get.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
BODY STYLE: 2-door, 2+2 passenger premium sports car
CONFIGURATION: Rear-engine, All-wheel drive
ENGINE: 3.0-L twin-turbo flat-6 (Power: 443 hp @ 6500-rpm; Torque: 390 lb-ft @ 2300-5000 rpm)
TRANSMISSION : 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 132 litres
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium Gasoline in L/100 km) 13.1 city; 10.2 highway; 11.8 combined
OBSERVED ECONOMY: 10.5L/100km
PRICE: $137,400 (base); $187,800 (as-tested) includes $1500 delivery fee.
WEBSITE: 2020 Porsche 911