2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Is MotorTrend ’s 2019 Best Driver’s Car
Once more, with feeling: Porsche takes the BDC trophy. Again.
The wizards of Weissach have done it again.
The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S is MotorTrend ’s 2019 Best Driver’s Car. It’s the fifth Porsche to win the award since 2007 and the fourth 911—the Cayman S drove off with the trophy back in 2009.
The 911 may seem immortal, eternal even, but it’s always been a work in progress. Generations of engineers have spent their careers buried in the bowels of Porsche’s R&D headquarters, polishing, honing, refining, reimagining the car that for more than half a century has been the marque’s lodestar.
This year’s victory proves the point: The 992-series 911 looks familiar, feels familiar, sounds familiar. But there isn’t a part or component that hasn’t been touched, tweaked, or totally renewed. And made better.
“The Porsche blitzes the competition in terms of creating a cohesive, beautifully resolved driver’s car,” Head 2 Head co-host Jethro Bovingdon gushed after he spent some time behind the wheel of the 911 on the back roads of Southern and Central California, on our demanding closed-course road test on State Route 198, and on WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. “It melds every control and input until the experience feels seamless and utterly intuitive, polished to such an extent that every other car appears rough around the edges. It’s easy to drive yet rewarding to push and prod, fluid but keyed right into the road surface. It’s another bloody brilliant 911.”
Champion driver Randy Pobst—a man with tens of thousands of miles’ experience behind the wheel of 911s at the bleeding limit—agreed: “It takes the 911 experience another step forward.”
Weissach’s wizardry starts with a new body wrapped entirely in aluminum panels. The 992’s structure is just 30 percent steel, compared with its predecessor’s 63 percent, yet rigidity has been improved by 5 percent. Aerodynamic upgrades include a flip-up rear spoiler with a 45 percent larger aerodynamically effective area, continuously variable flaps in the cooling vents at the front of the car that close between 40 mph and 90 mph to reduce drag and fuel consumption, and door handles that cinch down flush with the bodywork.
Under the shapely rump, the twin-turbo flat-six engine, code-named 9A2 Evo, shares its crankcase, cylinder heads, oil system, and valvetrain with the turbocharged engine that made its debut in the 911’s previous generation. The engine is connected to the frame rails by short, stiff mounts bolted to the cylinder heads, rather than by a crossbeam bolted to the crankcase, as in previous 911s. This change helps reduce throttle-induced engine motions that can subtly alter the handling balance.
The 9A2 Evo’s turbochargers have grown, with 1.9-inch turbine and 2.2-inch compressor wheels, bespoke housings for the left- and right-side units that ensure equal-length intakes, and electronically controlled wastegates. The intercoolers have been moved from behind the rear wheels to under the intake vent on the engine cover to improve cooling airflow.
That’s a lot of evolution for an engine unveiled less than four years ago. But, along with other minor changes, it has resulted in 443 hp at 6,500 rpm and 390 lb-ft from 2,150 to 5,000 rpm, jumps of 5 and 6 percent over the previous Carrera S.
The larger turbochargers mean peak torque arrives 400 rpm later than before, but that’s offset by the restacked ratios and faster shift times of the new eight-speed PDK transmission. First gear is shorter than in the previous car’s seven-speed PDK, and seventh and eighth gears are overdrive ratios, which, combined with a longer final drive ratio, help reduce noise and fuel consumption at cruising speeds. The Carrera S hits its 191-mph top speed in sixth gear.
Along with a wider track, the 992 has mixed wheel sizes, with 20-inch wheels fitted up front and 21-inchers at the rear, shod with specially developed 245/35ZR20 and 305/30ZR21 tires. A smaller 14.2-inch steering wheel is connected to an electric power steering system, which has been recalibrated to be quicker and more responsive. The spring rates have increased by 15 percent at the front and 14 percent at the rear, and new Bilstein TDX shocks allow continuously variable damping.
For $114,650, the base Carrera S is an exquisite drive. Our tester, however, was fitted with a number of options specifically designed to sharpen the car’s performance, options serious 911 drivers would consider essential. The $5,460 Sport package added the sport exhaust system, the Sport Chrono package, and, most important, the PASM sport suspension, which lowers the ride height 0.4 inch and has spring rates 18 percent and 28 percent stiffer than the previous base Carrera S. It was also fitted with the rear-axle steering system ($2,090) for sharper turn-in and better high-speed stability, along with the $3,170 PDCC active roll system. Our most expensive option was the $8,970 PCCB carbon-ceramic brake package. That might seem pricey, but we know from experience there’s arguably no finer road car performance brake package for the money. These and other options brought our as-tested tab to $143,350.
No matter whether steel or carbon-ceramic brakes are fitted, the braking is controlled using an electric booster, and the brake pedal is made from an organic sheet composite consisting of steel, carbon fiber, and plastic. It weighs 41 percent less than the previous 911’s pedal. Detail stuff. But it’s such attention to detail that delivers a BDC champion.
Mooching through stop-and-go L.A. traffic, the 911 feels remarkably … at home. The engine pulls smoothly from near idle speeds, and left to its own devices, the eight-speed PDK transmission is smooth and concise. The ride is firm but not harsh, and even the race-face carbon-ceramic brakes have superbly linear feel and precision at near walking pace.
Get away from the freeways, out past the urban sprawl and into the hills, and you’ll discover the true genius of this 911. The standard cliché is to say it “comes alive.” It doesn’t. No, this 911 waits for you to stir from the numbness of daily-grind somnolence, for you to see an empty road curving ahead and tingle with anticipation. Then it simply does what you ask of it.
“There’s nothing this car won’t do with me, or for me,” road test editor Chris Walton raved after a storming run up and down Route 198. “The controls fall away from my consciousness, and I’m simply in motion, passing through the environment, watching the scenery go by through my sheer will.”
Already at the top of most judges’ lists after the drive up from Los Angeles on some of California’s most challenging back roads, the fast, poised, approachable Carrera S cemented its place as the car to beat in this year’s shootout on the lumpy curves and jittery kinks of Route 198. “If this car doesn’t win, I’ll eat my shoe,” features editor Scott Evans said as we prepared to head to Laguna Seca for Randy’s hot lap session. Nobody passed him the ketchup.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca can always be relied upon to throw a surprise during Best Driver’s Car. First time out, the 992 Carrera S was two-tenths of a second slower than the 2017 model we tested three years ago. There were puzzled frowns among the Porsche technicians and surprise from Randy, who thought the car felt very quick: “I don’t know the time, but I think it’s going to overachieve,” he said as he pulled off his helmet. “The power-down traction was fantastic.”
Turn 4 was the problem. Randy acknowledged that the quick right-hander felt slipperier than usual. Next time out, he took a tighter line, where he found more grip and more midcorner speed. On a fresh set of tires, the Carrera S ran a 1:35.52 lap, nearly a second quicker than its predecessor, more than 0.6 second quicker than the next fastest car, the 630-hp Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S, and a time bested only by the mighty million-dollar McLaren Senna.
“The handling balance was beautiful on street tires,” Randy said. “It has 911 character in that it has this little bit of entry oversteer, but it’s never, never threatening. I’m amazed at how it could attack a corner. It was perfect.”
As much as Randy loved it on the track, what makes the Carrera S special is that you don’t have to have the racer’s edge to experience it at its best. Two days earlier, on Route 198, features editor Christian Seabaugh climbed from behind the wheel and exclaimed: “This is a car that pushes you to be at your limits, and just when you reach that limit, it reveals a new layer for you to conquer— a new limit level.” And with that, he’d nailed the essence of this 911.
Is the 992 perfect? Not entirely. The flat-six’s engine note is, well, a bit flat. The stubby gearshift feels more suited to gaming. Certain interior bits carry a cost-down feel. And the piano-black center console reflects sunlight harshly. Just remember, this is all part of the progression of Porsche’s soul.
A car that allows any driver to comfortably and confidently approach their own limits and invites them to explore the edges of its dynamic envelope is the very definition of a MotorTrend Best Driver’s Car. Such is the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S.
|2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Rear-engine, RWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Twin-turbo flat-6, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||181.9 cu in/2,981cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||443 hp @ 6,500 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||390 lb-ft @ 2,300 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||7.7 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed twin-clutch auto|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F; R||16.1-in vented, drilled, 2-pc carbon-ceramic disc; 15.4-in vented, drilled, 2-pc carbon-ceramic disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F;R||8.5 x 20-in; 11.5 x 21-in, forged aluminum|
|TIRES, F;R||245/35R20 91Y; 305/30R21 100Y Pirelli P Zero NA1|
|TRACK, F/R||62.5/61.2 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||178.4 x 72.9 x 50.8 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||35.8 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,413 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||36/64%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||37.9/32.5 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||42.2/27.2 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||52.6/47.9 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||4.7 (trunk)/9.3 (rear parcel) cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||1.4|
|QUARTER MILE||11.2 sec @ 123.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||94 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.07 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||23.2 sec @ 0.89 g (avg)|
|2.2-MI ROAD COURSE LAP||95.52 sec|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,250 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$143,350|
|AIRBAGS||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||4 years/50,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||4 years/50,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||4 years/50,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||16.9 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||18/24/20 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||187/140 kW-hr/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.96 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium|
By: Angus MacKenzie Words Motor Trend StaffPhotos | Oct 24, 2019