Surprise, surprise—the all-new 992-generation 2020 Porsche 911 looks fairly similar to the outgoing 991/991.2. But while this sort of evolutionary aesthetic approach has been the case for generations of 911s now, a new iteration of Porsche’s icon almost always brings more comprehensive updates underneath the skin, and we just spent a few days in Stuttgart to dive deep into the technology and engineering that make the 992 special.
The 991 Is Dead, Long Live (Some of) the 991. Of course, 991 DNA can be found in the 992. Along with a shared wheelbase and general structural design, the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six carries over from the 991. Look back at the history of the 911, though, and these sort of parallels are nothing new: Since the late 1970s, 911 generations generally come in pairs. The 911 SC (1978–1983) and 3.2 Carrera (1984–1989) were similar, as were the 964 (1989–1994) and 993 (1994–1998) and the 996 (1999–2004) and 997 (2005–2012).
Where the 992 makes a major departure from the outgoing generation, though, is in its wealth of technological and production-related improvements, along with some clever forward-thinking engineering that preps the 911 for hybridization.
Bodybuilding. Unsurprisingly, the newer, safer, and more technologically complex 911 is heavier than its predecessor, the Carrera S by 163 pounds and the Carrera 4S by 158. Still, Porsche worked hard to minimize the bloat, cutting the use of steel from 63 percent to 15 percent. Advances in manufacturing resulted in more efficient and lightweight components, including a 26-pound weight savings in the aluminum exterior panels. This new material makeup is augmented by improved joining methods. In addition to the resistance-spot, MIG, and MAG welding; adhesive bonding; clinching; semi-tubular rivets; and flow-drilling screws found on the 991, the 992 incorporates solid punch welding, roller hemming, and friction welding. All this extra work and re-engineering results in a five percent increase in structural rigidity. That’s fairly substantial, considering how rock-solid the outgoing 991 is.
The Classiest of Chassis. Dimensionally, the 992 is only 0.8 inch longer than the older car while riding on the same 96.5-inch wheelbase. This similarity is offset by a modified track, now wider by 1.8 inches in the front and 1.5 inches out back, giving the 992 a larger footprint and bigger base. The 992 also marks the first use of staggered wheel diameters on a non-GT 911, with S and 4S models getting 20-inch wheels up front and 21-inchers out back. (Non-S Carrera cars, which will debut later, are said to utilize a 19- and 20-inch setup.) The biggest chassis change arrives with the revised Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers, which are now “infinitely” adjustable regardless of wheel position. Before, the dampers were adjusted only when the wheel wasn’t moving up or down. This results in a wider spread between the Comfort and Sport suspensions settings—in other words, Comfort is more comfortable and Sport is sportier than ever.
Spring rates are up, too, by 15 percent up front and 14 percent at the rear on the base suspension. Check the box next to the Sport chassis setup, and those numbers go up to 18 and 23 percent compared to the last-gen car’s suspension options. Porsche futzed with the engine mounts as well, moving them inboard by 6.6 inches and forward by 4.4. According to Porsche, the gains are wide-reaching, improving stiffness substantially between suspension and transmission, resulting in better load-transfer stiffness and thus sharper handling.
Pump the Brakes
With the exception of an additional 0.8 inch of diameter on the rear brakes (steel) and a switch to copper-free linings, both the steel and ceramic brake systems are the same as the 991’s. Stick with the stock steel setup, you get six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears pinching 13.8-inch rotors all around. Spring for the Porsche Carbon-Ceramic Brakes (PCCB) and the front discs grow to a whopping 16.1 inches and the rears to 15.3 inches.
Behind the scenes, this is the first 911 to incorporate an electronic brake booster. Pedal travel and braking pressure is improved, but this booster should primarily make the transition to hybridization easier. Beyond the electro-wizardry, the 992 also has a trick lightweight brake-pedal design yanked from the 918 Spyder, cutting weight by 41 percent and improving feedback and feel. If smashing the pedal isn’t slowing you down enough, the retractable rear spoiler now acts as an airbrake, providing aerodynamic resistance and aiding deceleration above a certain speed threshold. All of this work adds up to 3.2 feet shaved from the braking distance from 62 mph, and 7.4 feet from 186 mph.
The electrically boosted steering is 10 percent quicker as standard thanks to a modified ratio and a stiffer torsion bar; with the optional rear-wheel steering system fitted, and front steering is six percent quicker overall than before.
One of the 992’s biggest innovations is Porsche’s new Wet mode. While the driver can individually toggle the mode at any time, sensors embedded in the wheel wells detect rain splatter and work to determine the severity of road conditions. If certain parameters are met, the driver receives a warning requesting they switch over to the specialized wet-weather driving mode. Even so the stability and traction control are primed for wet conditions independent of driver intervention. Once Wet mode is fully engaged, the chassis and powertrain changes are exhaustive: engine torque is reduced through modified transmission shift points, the throttle mapping is flattened, the ABS threshold lowered, the rear spoiler adjusted to compensate for possible oversteer, and, on all-wheel-drive cars, more power is funneled to the front wheels.
The 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six engine now spits out 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque in the S models, almost matching the 991.2 GTS’s figures. This extra oompf primarily comes from new larger turbochargers, along with a heavily revised intercooling system. According to Porsche, the intercooler is 14 percent larger; it’s now located directly behind the engine instead of behind the rear wheels as on the 991.2, improving flow and further reducing temperatures. There are also new piezo fuel injectors with an improved range of spray control, along with updated intake valves that reduce low-RPM emissions.
Channeling this power to the wheels is a choice of a seven-speed manual transmission or a new eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission. Details on the manual aren’t yet available, but we’ve experienced the eight-speed before on the new Panamera. It adds an additional cog compared to the longstanding seven-speed PDK that launched with the 997.2 in 2009, but gearing isn’t drastically different, as the new gear is essentially added between six and seventh. As before in non-GT PDK-equipped 991s, sixth is the top-speed gear, with seventh and eighth acting as tall overdrives for highway cruising and improved fuel economy. While a hybrid 911 isn’t yet officially confirmed, Porsche admitted the eight-speed PDK was designed with future hybridization in mind. Its housing is the same size as the old one but the internals are shorter, which leaves room for an electric motor.
By the Numbers
With all this fancy go-fast hardware, it’s no surprise the 992 is faster than any non-GTS Carrera before. A 992 Carrera S with the PDK cracks off a zero-to-60-mph sprint in a mighty 3.3 seconds with the Sport Chrono package and its launch-control feature, or 3.5 seconds without. Spring for the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S with Sport Chrono, and the 60 time drops to 3.2 seconds. On the Nürburgring, the new 992 Carrera bested the 991.2 by five seconds, clocking in a time around the 7:25 mark. Top speed is 191 mph in the S, or 190 in the 4S.
Interior and Driver Assistance Tech
Even what many consider to be the ultimate driver’s car isn’t immune from technology creep. For the first time in Porsche’s history, the 911 now includes lane-keep assist, collision warning and avoidance, rear turn assist, and a night-vision camera. The collision-avoidance system works much like the one on the Panamera, incorporating visual and auditory warnings, along with brake jolts and, if needed, automatic braking to avoid a collision.
Inside, in addition to the two 7.0-inch TFT digital displays flanking the analog tachometer, a 10.9-inch center dash display relays navigation, entertainment, connectivity, and vehicle information. Down in the center console, a touch panel with haptic feedback is ripped straight from the Panamera and provides controls for vehicle functions.