2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner
We could say we’re surprised Porsche continues to build on perfection, but we’d by lying.
Chocolate and peanut butter, coffee and doughnuts, butter and toast, and of course, the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S and Automobile All-Stars. When assembling the initial roster of potential All-Stars test-drive contenders, the eighth-generation of the ever-venerable 911 was one of the no-brainer, zero-argument entries—along with the new Chevrolet Corvette and Toyota Supra. We're never one to turn down time spent in and around Stuttgart's perennial sports car, so you can imagine how excited we were to have the car-shaped key to a 911 Carrera S in Racing Yellow for a few days of track-time and on-road fun.
That's not to say we approached the test of this new 911 without mild trepidation. As is the case with the debut of each new Carrera every few years, we initially struggled to come to terms with a bigger, more complex, more digital version of what we already loved so dearly. Whenever this phoenix is reborn, there are plenty of fans who worry this is the Porsche 911 that loses the plot, the one that has gone more grand-tourer than sports car. Inevitably, we start to wonder how it can possibly carry the 911's irreproachable legacy without screwing something up?
Then, we drive it. Immediately, we realize it's the same 911 Carrera S we've cherished all these years, only better. "I expect Porsches to drive well but the 911 S somehow still transcended my expectations," quipped social media editor Billy Rehbock. "The evolutionary changes over the 991.2 were executed really well, down to the new door handles. Maybe it's dumb to say but it still feels like a 911, which I can only assume is what Porsche was going for when it developed the 992."
Thanks, Billy. But jokes aside, certainly the 992 is bigger, wider, more expensive, heavier, and more tech-forward than the 991-generation—but the trade-off is a more compelling package. The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S is chunkier, but it's also more powerful, quicker, faster, comfortable, and well-equipped than the 991, even if some improvements are incremental. "The 992 isn't exactly revelatory," said editor-in-chief Mac Morrison. "But it has the best bone-stock front-end grip and feel of any 911, the brakes are sensational, and it feels entirely unflappable. It's limits are so high, I can't imagine many real-world dynamic situations this car can't cope with."
Even with all the extra finery and new duds, the 911 Carrera S entered the All-Stars fray as somewhat of an underdog. We know, it's strange to think of a $143,000 Porsche as the plucky upstart. But when faced with a field that includes mid-engine exotica like the Ferrari F8 Tributo and Lamborghini Huracan Evo, packing twin-turbo V-8s and V-10s, it's hard to think any Porsche lacking "GT" on its rear decklid has a fighting chance at the All-Stars podium.
How wrong we were. All it took was a few on-road test drives and a few corners on the Streets of Willow for our senses to adjust. "From the moment I banked into Turn 1 on the circuit, I knew I was piloting something really, really special," raved contributor Arthur St. Antoine. "Nothing else in this competition felt so completely and unfailingly locked-down to the track. Now add the incredible engine. Now add a PDK dual-clutch transmission that I simply left in Drive and then watched in awe as it shifted up and down perfectly—almost as if reading my mind. Now add on-road behavior every bit as composed and exciting and rewarding as its track-focused self. This newest 911 never, ever feels anything less than utterly sublime. This is an automobile bordering on driving perfection."
Indeed, a large share of the sublimity goes to the Carrera S' brawny powertrain. That twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six punches way, way above both its size and officially claimed output. On paper, its rated at at 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque with a 0-60-mph time of 3.3 seconds, but with throttle pinned down Street's straight, it feels closer to both 500 hp and the sub-three-second mark. New for the 992 is also the Panamera-sourced eight-speed PDK gearbox, the first time the 911 packs more than seven forward gears. Porsche essentially wrote the rulebook on dual-clutch transmissions, so it's no surprise the revised 'box is still the best in the biz. "PDK remains the standard double-clutch gearbox," agreed pro-racer and contributor Andy Pilgrim.
Porsche's impeccable chassis tuning proves there must be something in Stuttgart's water. Most of the sketchy downsides to a rear-engine layout were burned off with the 993 generation from the mid-1990s, and the setup of each subsequent generation of 911 gradually shifted toward neutrality, though the 992 retains some of the better parts of the ass-heavy character that made the 911 so alluring to begin with.
"It really is pretty amazing, especially when you consider that Porsche starts out by kneecapping itself in its insistence on preserving the rear-engine layout," remarked senior editor Aaron Gold. "This is a car you can truly drive as fast as you want without worrying about the consequences. Every once in a great while, you will feel a little of its rear engine-ness trying to come out, but everything stays under control without much intervention from the electronics."
The Porsche 911 Carrera S' inclusion on the 2020 Automobile All-Stars roster was particularly auspicious, considering this was a perfect opportunity to drive it next to its eternal rival, the Chevrolet Corvette. Both are brand-spankin'-new models, and what was once a showdown between the cool, poised European and the rough-and-tumble American brawler has turned into a battle between two equally confident sports cars. Features editor Rory Jurnecka set out to compare and contrast the two automotive pillars, driving both extensively on the ragged, crumbly roads surrounding Lake Elizabeth, California, where the less-than-ideal surface revealed where the Porsche's priorities lie.
"It feels narrow and heavy and really powerful, but doesn't soak up the bumps like the Corvette does," he said. "Put them both on the road together and the 911 almost feels old in comparison. It doesn't ride as well, and it gets more upset by changes in the road surface."
Once you slow down and settle into a long-distance cruise, that aggression falls away. Inside, in typical Porsche fashion, the fit, finish, and quality-control is beyond reproach. Leather, metal, alcantara, and soft-touch plastic surfaces give way to large, ultra-crisp display screens for both the driver's gauges and center infotainment that Porsche pulled straight from the Panamera. It's sleek-'n-chic, with just the right amount of retro throwbacks—like the analogue tachometer—to balance out the modernity.
Congratulations, Stuttgart, you most definitely, somehow, did it again. Fifty-six years, eight generations, and more than 1-million units later, the Porsche 911 is still the icon we love to love, year after year. After listening to each All-Stars judge ramble and rave, and after reading the exultant notes in the car's logbook, it's easy to confirm the new 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S unanimously deserves its place as a 2020 Automobile All-Star.
|2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Specifications|
|PRICE||$114,650 (base)/$143,350 (as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-six/443 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 390 lb-ft @ 2,300-5,000 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, rear-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||17/25 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||177.9 x 72.9 x 51.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.3 sec (w/Sport Chrono)|
|TOP SPEED||191 mph|
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