Driven: The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
Get it because you need all-wheel drive, or because you don’t.
ANN ARBOR, Michigan—No Porsche 911 hurts for traction accelerating away from a stop. The engine hangs over the rear axle, pushing the rear tires into the pavement and ensuring the wide-hipped sports car just up and goes. Want your 911 to sink its claws into the ground like a scared cat without amputated front legs? Porsche will sell you an all-wheel-drive 911, in Carrera 4, Carrera 4S, and (much wilder) Turbo and Turbo S forms. We spent a week in the middle representative of this group, the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Test: But, Seriously, You Do You Need It?
We are not saying don't buy the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. Quite the opposite. But after our latest test, we struggle to identify a strong practical impetus for choosing it over its rear-drive Carrera S sibling. For starters, there is no massive performance difference in going with all-wheel drive. Our friends at MotorTrend tested the 4S against its rear-drive stablemates and found it just trails the lighter, rear-drive 911 Carrera S to 60 mph by 0.1-second and matches the S's incredible lateral grip (1.07 g!) while shading the rest of that model's capabilities.
Nor does the 4S's all-wheel-drive system land any noticeable ding on the 911's handling "purity," which is internet-stan double-speak for rear-drive heroics. The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S squirts out of corners like a rear-drive 911, eager to wag its tail with judicious throttle; but if you ease up just a bit, holding your right foot until a corner's apex before slamming it to the floor, the 4S seemingly rockets even harder out of turns as its four paws resurface the road underneath. Next to the motivational assistance of its front tires, a slightly more forward weight bias (still a rear-heavy 38/62 percent front-rear) and the line-tightening action of the $2,090 rear-wheel-steering function help its imperturbability on corner exits. And that's in the dry—remember, this value goes up as the road surface's mew goes down.
A quick aside: Some drivers may feel the rear-axle-steering setup working—our colleagues at MotorTrend noted that, when fitted to a 4S, the system took something away from the steering feedback in certain corners; we noticed no such weirdness, but individual drivers often come away with different opinions. The good news? That bit of tech is optional, and Porsche will just as happily sell you a 2020 Carrera 4S without it. We wouldn't skip the $5,460 Sport package, however, which adds a nifty stopwatch to the top of the dashboard (Sport Chrono!) along with the adaptive PASM sport suspension that's 0.4-inch lower than stock.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Test: OK, So It Is More Practical for Some
Go ahead, get the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S because you like its edge in grip combined with the S trim's 443-hp turbocharged flat-six engine. Or do it because you think adding the "4" ahead of the "S" on the script across the 911's tail reminds everyone you paid more than the guy without the "4" on his. (It does! The Carrera 4S starts at $121,950—$7,300 more than a two-wheel-drive Carrera S with the same 443 hp.) Or maybe you live in Chicago or Boston or Detroit and want a sports car that can noodle through snow, but we'll remind you that this line of thinking gets dangerously close to practical reasoning. Tell people instead that you'd prefer to bomb wantonly through winter in a low-slung sports car, rather than some lame SUV. There—rebellion!
Porsche took away the only other "obvious" reason for choosing the 4S in vain—its wider bodywork—when it updated the 911 range to the 992 generation; every 992 911 Carrera wears the same girthy sheet metal regardless of drivetrain. The number of people who might have noticed the previous Carrera 4 models' extra body width is probably confined to Porsche loyalists and super geeks, so we won't consider this once-AWD-exclusive 911 flourish to be "lost" on the new 4S.
The good news is that for everyone who forgot their calipers and measuring tape at home, the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S looks as stunning as any other 992-generation 911. It looks good even in fog and rain, the only notable weather we were able to test the car in. We had wished for snow—and our test vehicle even came shod in aftermarket winter tires—but alas, we just missed the season change. We weren't too beat up about it, though, because the latest 911 Carrera 4S is a pleasure even when not justifying its existence in unpleasant weather.
|2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Specifications|
|PRICE||$121,950/$140,830 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6/443 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 390 lb-ft @ 2,300 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2+2-passenger, rear-engine, AWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||178.4 x 72.9 x 50.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.0 sec|
|TOP SPEED||190 mph|