In a way, Porsche’s latest high-tech 911 is very old school.
Whereas its American analog, the Chevrolet Corvette, has adopted a drastically different mid-engine layout for 2020, the 911 continues on with the same engine placement it’s had since 1964. That engine still features six cylinders in a boxer layout. For the last 30 years, you’ve been able to buy the 911 with either rear- or all-wheel drive, and a choice of automatic and manual transmissions. Check and check.
Some have decried the 911’s relentless focus on its own well-trodden path. But Porsche’s half-century-plus evolution of the model has refined it to a frankly startling level. In Carrera 4S form, the 911 remains a hugely rewarding drive, while offering the level of livability that can convince even the toughest skeptics that maybe a high-end sports car really can be a daily driver.
Meet the 992 generation
Porsche introduced the latest 911 generation for the 2019 model year. Known as the 992, it follows the industry tradition of being slightly larger in every direction than the car it replaces. The C4S is still pleasantly compact compared to most anything else on the market these days though. The look is steady evolution, with that pebble-smooth profile and iconic round headlights making this unmistakably 911. The extra length and width—both rear- and all-wheel drive models use the same shell now, as wide as the last-gen Turbo—add a level of grace to the 911’s compact form.
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The biggest detail change is around back, with a thin LED light strip stretching clear across the rear. Porsche badging stands proud of the bodywork, like the Cayman and Taycan, looking super modern in the process. I’m not entirely sold on two exterior details, however. I appreciate Porsche’s minimalist approach with the high-mount brake light blending into the air intakes, but it seems fussy to me. Same goes with the front trunk’s shut line sitting ever so slightly ahead of the rest of the bumper’s line. On the other hand, sitting on the massive RS Spyder wheels (20-inch fronts, 21-inch rears), the C4S might have the best stance of any new car on the market. In my tester’s tasteful Aventurine Green, it’s even low-key enough to blend in with early summer Toronto traffic.
With great power … you know the rest
The 911 ceases to be low-key as soon as I get my first chance to crack open the throttle. With the optional sport exhaust system set to grin-inducing, the 3.0-liter flat-six announces its presence to everyone on the block. Despite being turbocharged, that characteristic breathy boxer sound is still front and center. Lift off and it clears its throat with a crackle. Porsche has massaged the six-pot since it showed up in the last-generation 911, boosting outputs to 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft. Tellingly, that’s slightly more horsepower and slightly less torque than the Macan Turbo’s 2.9-liter V6. Even more of a hint is the 911’s 7500 rpm redline. In other words, it likes to rev.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo Review
Luckily the eight-speed PDK transmission is up to the task. Leave the drive mode dial in Normal and the shifter in auto and it will hold gears for exactly as long as you need. It will also shuffle through them like a Vegas dealer while trundling through traffic, keeping the boxer barely above idle. Twist the wheel-mounted dial to Sport or Sport Plus, select manual mode, and the paddle shifters knock out telepathically quick shifts. The 911 picks you up and hurls you down the road: with launch control, Porsche quotes a 0–60 mph time of just 3.2 seconds for the C4S. It honestly feels faster.
Grip, grip, and more grip
Porsche’s icon has always been about more than drag racing though. My tester features the PASM sport suspension, dropping the whole car 10 mm (0.4 inches) closer to terra firma. Combined with the optional rear-wheel steering, the 911 is preternaturally agile. It blinks through on-ramps, remaining resolutely flat in its stance no matter the drive mode. There isn’t much of that classic 911 light-front-end feel in the C4S these days; there’s still the sense that the engine and all its weight is some ways behind you however. Truth be told there’s more grip here than you’ll ever need on the road, especially in all-wheel drive form. The steering always has your back: it’s crisp and clean, with the right amount of weight. As powerful as the engine is, the standard steel brakes always feel capable of reigning the 911 in without fade.
The suspension is unsurprisingly firm even in Normal, but not jarring. Even driving over the city’s streetcar tracks in Sport mode is on the right side of acceptable. The optional axle lift system raises the nose by 30 mm (1.2 inches) at the press of a button, making short work of construction zones and underground car parks.
The toggle to lift and drop the nose is one of the many tactile delights in the 992’s cabin. Porsche has tidied up the previous 911’s interior, ditching some buttons but—mercifully—not all. Screens are in, with a 10.9-inch unit in the center running Porsche’s latest PCM system. I like it here just as much as I did in the Macan; it’s quick to load, responsive, and its native navigation doesn’t vomit 20 different colors at your eyeballs. Wireless Apple CarPlay is present too, though I find it strangely less likely to continue music when returning to the car than other, wired setups. Sorry Android users: your phones aren’t supported, cord or no cord.
SEE ALSO: 4 Reasons the Mercedes-AMG GT Replaced the 911 on my Lottery List
The Truffle Brown Club Leather option isn’t cheap at six grand Canadian ($5,340), but it complements the soft green exterior perfectly. The dark wood inserts look great too. An early summer heat wave makes the (optional) ventilated seats a must-have, and their 18-way adjustable nature (also optional) makes it easy to get comfortable. The back row remains the domain of people 12 years old and younger, preferably under five feet. Use it for storage instead; it never gets old loading groceries into the frunk, but it’s only good for a carry-on and a laptop bag.
I’m a fan of the smaller-diameter GT Sports steering wheel. It’s the right thickness, though it does slightly block the other digital displays in the 911: the two flanking the central tachometer. These configurable setups allow the driver to scroll through multiple pages, including music, car vitals, and navigation. The latter cleverly works around the wheel blockage: it places your position slightly left of center.
There are a few small nits I have to pick with the 992 interior. The most aggravating is that little stub of a shifter. It looks like a scaled-down Gillette for … well, maybe not ants, but certainly not regular-sized humans. Less problematic, but a blemish nonetheless, literally, is the piano black trim. This extends to the door-mounted lock switches, which lack the satisfying heft and click of nearly every other control.
Porsche doesn’t bundle a lot of driver safety assists into the 911 as standard: just automated emergency braking and parking sensors. My tester comes with many of the optional ones, like blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. The latter works in conjunction with lane keep assist to melt away high-traffic highway miles.
I was impressed with the clarity of the upgraded Burmester sound system, but truth be told I spent most of my time driving the 911 without any music. Can you blame me?
Verdict: 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
This steady evolution into the ultimate dual-purpose GT/sports car doesn’t come cheap. A C4S starts at $123,750 ($141,000 Canadian), including destination. My Canadian-spec tester piled on some 48,000 loonies’ worth of options too, or $168,660 in the US. At that price you can have any BMW M car, though none will match the 911’s cachet, nor its dynamics. The AMG GT and Aston Martin Vantage both hove into view too: they share the same AMG turbo V8, producing anywhere from 503 hp (Vantage) to 577 hp (GT R). They’re rear-drive only and should be a match dynamically—or sharper in the case of the GT R. But the livability is another question.
Yet I can’t deny the appeal of the 911. There’s a reason it’s constantly used as the benchmark for all high-end sports cars—and why none have succeeded in taking it down. It’s as fast as it is friendly, as compelling as it is composed. Porsche has once again improved the 911 breed.