2020 Porsche 911 Carrera: Everything You Need to Know

The 992 is here. We talked to the people who created it to learn everything about it.

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Richard Pardon/Porsche

Eight years after the 991 arrived on the scene, there's a new Porsche 911, the 992. It made its debut this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Carrera S and Carrera 4S form and it's a big deal. After all, it's only the eighth new 911 in 55 years.

Since the 911 is one of the world's most important sports cars, you probably have a lot of questions about it. We talked to August Achleitner, the chief engineer for the 911, Michael Mauer, head designer at Porsche, and Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, head of Porsche Motorsport, to get answers.

So this is the new 911?

It is indeed!

How much of it is really new?

Not quite all of it. The basic platform is from the previous generation 911, the 991, and both cars share a 96.5-inch wheelbase, though the 992 is slightly longer overall thanks to larger overhangs. Achleitner estimates that around 20 percent of the parts from the 991 have been carried over into the 992, and a good amount of those are in the engine.

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Porsche

What's the story with that engine? Still a flat-six, right?

Yes. Both the 992 Carrera and Carrera S models use the same basic 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six found in their predecessors. Porsche hasn't shown off the base Carrera yet, and US-market specs aren't finalized, but Achleitner says we should expect it to make around 385 horsepower thanks to new turbochargers and some programming changes.

The motor for the Carrera S gets some more significant changes to bring horsepower from 420 to 443 and torque rises from 368 to 390 lb-ft. It gets new turbochargers, too, but there's also a new intercooler system which sees the intercoolers move from directly behind the rear wheels in the 991 to be more towards the center of the rear end. Achelitner says this helps reduce pressure losses and intake temperatures.

The combustion chamber sees some improvements, too, including piezo fuel injectors that offer more precise control, and intake valves that have different amounts of lift to help encourage better tumble characteristics. This helps the fuel combust more efficiently at low revs—reducing emissions—and helps generate more power at mid-to-high RPMs.

Porsche also moved the engine mounts 20mm further forward in the chassis, increasing rigidity and shifting the weight balance a little bit forward. If you get your 911 with the Sport Chrono package, those engine mounts are adaptive, too.

Many 992s will have a gasoline particulate filter in the exhaust system, which is required by law in many countries. It's not in the US, so our cars should sound better.

Cool. Let's move forward. What about the transmission?

Porsche showed off the 992 with a new eight-speed version of its dual-clutch gearbox, better known as PDK. That's one more forward gear than before, but eighth is geared like seventh in the previous version of PDK. The extra gear is basically like having another gear stacked between sixth and seventh on the old version of PDK.

Please tell me Porsche kept the manual?

It did, though we probably won't see it for a few more months. It's carried over from the 991, and besides offering more driver engagement, the stick brings around 55 pounds in weight savings.

Really? Why is PDK so heavy?

A dual-clutch gearbox is always going to be heavier than a manual, but there's something else to know about this version of PDK. If you take it apart, Achleitner says you'll find a big empty space. That's for an electric motor.

Electric motor? Wait. Is Porsche finally building a hybrid 911?

Not quite yet, but it engineered the 992 to accommodate a hybrid drivetrain if there's either significant market demand or a need for Porsche to reduce CO2 emissions across all its cars. So far there's neither, and even if there was, we wouldn't see a hybrid 911 until at least four years from now.

"We could offer it today, of course, [it would] run quite good, but not quite good for us," Achleitner said. With today's technology, a hybrid system would add significant weight to the 911, since it'd require a big heavy battery. This would blunt the car's dynamics significantly.

So with the 992, Porsche is prepared to create a 911 hybrid, but it's not ready to sell one.

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Porsche

What about the chassis?

A lot of that is carried over from the 991, too, and you'll still be able to get active anti-roll bars and rear-wheel steering, if that's what you're into. The lower wishbones on the front axle are a little longer than before, though, which Dr. Walliser told me was requested by his department.

All 992s will come with adaptive dampers, and they're super trick. Achleitner explained that with the old version of Porsche's adaptive dampers, the compression and rebound characteristics could only be adjusted when the wheel wasn't moving up or down. Now, they can be changed at any point in the wheel travel.

"They're a little bit more complicated, they cost more money, but for us, they bring a real improvement in [ride quality]," Achleitner said. A product planner for the 911 told me these dampers can react around 100 times faster than before. Their design also sees no reduction in cornering performance.

Cornering! That thing the 911 is so famous for.

Achleitner says the 911 should do that better than ever, thanks to some pretty key changes. The track width is 45mm wider at the front and 44mm wider at the rear, and for the first time, it's the same for both rear- and all-wheel drive 911 Carrera models. Those big fenders now house staggered tires measuring 20 inches up front, and 21 inches in the rear.

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Porsche

Whoa. Big wheels.

Yeah. The 991 GT3 RS and GT2 RS used big staggered wheels successfully, so Porsche's Motorsport department convinced the engineers of the 992 to adopt it across the board. For the base Carrera, those wheels will measure 19 inches up front, and 20 inches in the back.

So what's the effect of the increase in wheel size and track width.

I'll let Achleitner explain:

When you widen the track in the front and in the rear...you can transmit rolling forces a little bit more with just the spring and damper, and then you can soften the stabilizers. When you soften the stabilizers, you get better traction out of the car, [which] makes the car faster.
We have a bigger rear wheel, and that's the first time in the history of the 911 Carrera, that the rear wheel is a diameter bigger than the front one...From this, we get a better, bigger [ patch] not only by width, but also by length. And with the enlargement of the tire, we were also able to reduce the tire pressure a little bit.
This makes the car, on the one hand faster, and on the other hand, more comfortable.

Got it. But with a wider, taller patch, won't the 992 be tricky to drive when it's wet?

It shouldn't be, thanks to a new Wet mode. On the 992, there are sensors in the front wheel arches that can measure how much water is on the road. When they detect a certain amount, the driver will be prompted to select Wet mode, which alters traction and stability control systems, ABS, throttle mapping, and in all-wheel drive cars, the amount of torque sent to the front axle. Even the spoiler—which is now wider than before—extends to provide maximum downforce on the rear axle.

That sounds useful.

And cool. The way the sensors work is fascinating, too. They're basically radar parking sensors.

"We found out during pre-development investigations that the noise of the road and the surface, causes different frequencies in the wheelhouse," Achleitner said. "We can detect very well how much water is on the road."

When the radar sensors detect certain frequencies indicating a very wet road surface, the car tells the driver to switch into Wet mode. Neat stuff.

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Porsche

And the steering?

Still electric power assist as before, but it's now 10 percent quicker. Achleitner says this'll provide a more direct feel.

What about those brakes?

They're carried over from the 991, except now you can get your calipers painted black! Steel and Ceramic rotors are both available, but the brake booster is now electric rather than hydraulic. This is another measure Porsche took to prepare the 992 for electrification, since a hydraulic brake booster won't work when the internal-combustion engine isn't running, and thus, not generating vacuum.

A Porsche product planner also told me Porsche's Surface Coated Brakes—which use a tungsten-carbide coating to eliminate brake dust—will probably appear on the 992 Turbo. You'll be able to spot those with their mirror finish on the rotors and white calipers.

Let's talk numbers.

When equipped with the Sport Chrono Package—which brings launch control to the mix—the 911 Carrera S does 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds, while the Carrera 4S does it in 3.2. Top speeds are 191 and 190 mph, respectively, while skipping Sport Chrono adds 0.2 seconds to the 0-60 run.

Achleitner also told me the 992 is about five seconds faster on the Nürburgring than the outgoing 991. By our reckoning, that means a 992 Carrera S should run around the famous circuit in around seven minutes, 25 seconds. That's fast.

Weight is unfortunately up, though. Despite bodywork that's now made entirely from aluminum, the 992 weighs around 120 to 160 pounds more than an equivalent 991.2 depending on what measurements you're citing. Porsche Cars North America quotes a 3382-pound curb weight for the Carrera S and 3487 for the Carrera 4S. A lot of that weight is the PDK gearbox. And even though the 992 is a little heavier than its predecessor, it's still light among sports cars in its class.

The price rises, too. MSRP for the Carrera S is $113,300 while the Carrera 4S is $120,600, though PDK now comes standard, where it was previously a $3210 option. The manual will be a no-cost option and it's bundled with the Sport Chrono package.

And there's going to be a ton of model variants, too, right?

Of course. That's one of the many things the 911 is famous for. The Cabriolet should appear early next year, while designer Michael Mauer told me a new Targa in the near future is a pretty safe bet, too. Next year we'll also get the base Carrera, stick-shift models, and possibly the Turbo. At some point, we'll get a new purist-special Carrera T, too, a smattering of Carrera GTSes .

Dr. Walliser said that Andreas Preuninger and Porsche Motorsport are ramping up work on a new GT3, too. And, thankfully, it should keep the 991.2 GT3's amazing 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six. Undoubtedly a GT3 RS and possibly a GT2 of some sort will follow, though Walliser said there won't be another 911 R.

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Porsche

We've talked a lot about specs, but nothing on the design. Of course it looks like a 911, but what are we really looking at here?

The 992 looks similar to the 991, but there are some key changes.

Michael Mauer and his team were presented with a car that would have wider track widths front and rear, but they were told to make the 911 look more compact and muscular. To do so, they decided to look to one specific 911 of the past—the original Turbo, also known as the 930.

"We realized that with the 930, they just took the cabin basically from the standard 911, but needed this much wider track," Mauer said. "They didn't blend in the wheel arches into the shape; it was more of an add-on thing, and we realized this helps really to let the car look more compact. That was really the inspiration. we said, 'We want to have these very exposed wheel arches.'"

Knowing their source of inspiration, Mauer picked out an early 930 from the Porsche Museum and had it moved into their studio.

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Porsche

Interesting. It does look smaller.

But it's not! Other than the increased width, the 992 is only about an inch longer than the 991 thanks to slightly larger overhangs. The 21-inch wheels at the rear also help visually shrink the car, too. Upping the rear-wheel size was an engineering-led decision, but Mauer said he's definitely "not unhappy" with it, as you'd expect from a car designer.

There's also the squared-off hood line.

Yep, that totally apes the G-Model 911 that was built from 1974 to 1989. Mauer and co. added two character lines on the hood that mimic the air vent seen on the hoods of air-cooled 911s. The headlights also sit a little more upright than before, which also helps evoke the much-loved 911s of the past.

What's going on at the sides?

There's not too much dramatically different here, though you'll probably notice the flush-mounted door handles. They present themselves when you press the unlock button on the keyfob, or if you order the Comfort Access option, as soon as you walk up to the car. They retract back into the bodywork once the door is closed, giving the car a sleeker look and reducing drag.

You also have a handful of new wheel designs, including the RS Spyder design wheels you see here, and a set of wheels designed to look like the Fuchs alloys fitted to early 911s, which are made by, amazingly, Fuchs.

And the back?

The most striking thing is the light bar, which extends across the entire length of the car. This design element has been reserved for all-wheel drive models, but now every 911 will get it. That brings the 992 closer to the current Macan, Cayenne, and Panamera, while also referencing the red reflector that connected the tail lights on all 911s from 1974 to 1997, and on models like the 996 C4S.

"The most amazing thing is when you see it at night, there's no split line, nothing. It's just one piece," Mauer said.

The 911 logo and Carrera script are also more stylized with a retro vibe reflecting the 992's 1970s influences, while new tailpipes evoke those of the 991 GT2 RS.

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How's the interior?

That's quite a bit different, with a new retro-styled analog tachometer flanked by two digital screens in the gauge cluster, and the new infotainment system from Porsche's four-doors. That 10.9-inch screen is recessed into the dash, kind of like how the 911s of the 1960s had heat and radio controls recessed on a wood panel. Except this is a huge screen.

The center console isn't filled with buttons as on the 991, giving it a much cleaner look, while a tiny little shift lever for the PDK, , evokes a Braun razor. This is probably the most controversial element of the interior, but I'm kind of partial to it because it resembles the gear selector on the Porsche 918.

There are also new sport-tex seats with a cloth checkerboard weave that have to be seen in person to be appreciated. The seat structures themselves have been redesigned, too, but the option to have very few–or very many–power controls remain.

So it looks nice, but how does it feel?

Really nice. The 991 might not've had the most stylish interior, but it was well built. The build quality on the 992s Porsche had on hand for us to poke around felt just as nicely put together. The seats are incredibly comfortable, too.

The view forward and seating position is very similar to that of a 991, which might be expected since the cars share a lot of DNA.

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Porsche

And there's a real cupholder now?

Yep! It's right in the middle of the center console, which will be an issue with manual-transmission cars, though it can be replaced with an ashtray or a blank panel. There's also a cupholder for the passenger just above the glovebox.

One other cool detail—there's a small umbrella holder in the passenger-side door sill, which one of the 911's product planners tells me is a feature that was found on some early 911s. Typically, I'm not a fan of wood in a 911, but the open-pore wood looks great.

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Porsche

When will it race?

Dr. Walliser told me the transition period from racing the 991 to the 992 should take around two years to complete, so you'll still see the old car on track for some time. There should even be a new iteration of the 991 race car arriving on the scene, too.

So the 991 isn't quite dead yet, at least on track?

Nope, and that's been the case with racing 911s of the past. You've got to get the street car done before you can start building the race car.

Cool.

Cool. Anything else you need to know?

I think you covered it.

Thought so. Of course, there'll be more when we drive the car in the coming months. Stay tuned.

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