The eighth-generation 992 from Zuffenhausen is the most all-rounded yet, but has the latest Porsche 911 lost any of its spark? Yes and no… We’ve test driven the car on road and track (and the autobahn) to get the full verdict
You know you’ve got a lot of car on your hands when you need 21-inch wheels to fill out the arches. This is the first time Porsche’s used a staggered setup on the 911, so up front the 20-inch wheels aren’t shy either. It’s not that the car really needs massive wheels for the sake of performance – it’s that the new 992 eighth-generation of the 911 has grown enough in size to require the meat, just to balance the proportions. Sitting on anything smaller, it doesn’t look right.
From behind the wheel the designer’s tricks work to an extent – you can’t rest your arm on the window sill because it’s so high up, and to make it worse they’ve dropped the seat in the new 911 too. Of course this change does give you a better driving position when you close the windows and focus. The windscreen is still upright and the dash shallow, like you expect in a 911, and you can place the car anywhere with the trademark fender peaks referencing every inch of the road. On the move, the 992 pulls the old shrinking sports car magic trick. It’s only when you park it before walking away and inevitably turn for one last look that you realise, man, it’s a big car.
Longer and wider than the outgoing 991, the new 992 is also actually a tiny bit lower, but there are no differences in track widths this time around between rear and all wheel drive cars. Staying on trend, the 992 is also heavier than the car it replaces, but Porsche will argue that you get more equipment in this latest generation.
And that sums up the 992 nicely – it’s about more of the same. In the 911 Carrera S (or 4S, available in both open and closed body styles), the 3.0-litre turbocharged engine develops 30bhp and 30Nm more than the old 991, and there are new assistance systems to help you along the way. Our loaded test cars we drove around Germany also featured optional carbon ceramic brakes and rear steering, plus track-rated Goodyear rubber.
During a short track stint around Leipzig, one of Porsche’s two development circuits, the 992 pulls hard in any gear and revs to 7,500rpm. Without any nonsense like speakers channeling in engine sounds, the car sounds good on its own even though that has to be taken in the context of turbocharged rivals. It’s still nothing like the shrill of a naturally aspirated 911 GT3 racing for 9,000rpm. The new electronic brake booster makes stopping easy and the improved electronic steering system features a noticeable lack of slack in the centre. This goes a long way in making the car a bit lively whether on road or track, because the quick response from the wheel gives it an impression of urgency.
On the whole though the 992 is a more rounded 911 than ever before, and that’s more noticeable. The general feeling is of a GT, 90 percent of the time, and a driver has to push towards ridiculous speeds on public roads to get any sense of a challenge at all. The 992 takes most drives in its stride, and seems to pull off any move you ask of it. This only leaves less opportunity to ever overwhelm the machine, instead of the other way around. Most times it’s as simple as driving around in a Golf, and the hugely flexible engine loses something in its forward progress. With eight gears, you only need six when driving spiritedly because the final two ratios are for cruising – top speed of 308km/h is reached in sixth. Porsche’s underrating is evident on the autobahn leg of our test drive however, where the 992 keeps going past 310km/h if traffic allows.
This package however doesn’t captivate enough to become more involved, to make you want to snap at your own gears. Leaving it in D is fine, and you might end up constrained with one or two gears anyway. The torque is all over the place so why shift, and there is none of that urgency you used to get in the naturally aspirated 911s. It’s all a bit more muted. Watching other journalists speed by from the pits, it’s like hearing the sound of a distant jet hit you and you have no idea where it came from.
Sitting inside you get the sense Porsche is concerning itself with luxury a bit too much, because the 992 looks and feels like some kind of executive special you’d expect to come with an alphanumerical badge on the back. The S600 or 760Li kinds. I like my 911 a bit more utilitarian than this, a bit more pure. Preferably they wouldn’t even have a tunnel console, but the 992 is basically a Panamera for two. Plus two. There are all kinds of textures and materials in there, including natural wood grain if you want, and everything is either a touchscreen or a display. The new toggle switches in the centre are a nice touch, because they clear up previous clutter around the gear shifter, and it seems suitable to have a TC switch up on the dash anyway. Speaking of the shifter, I think Porsche missed a point here because you either have one or you don’t, however they chose a middle ground here and the middle ground is a frail looking little lever. My only other complaint concerns the door pockets, which are now fixed whereas before they used to tilt open. I got rather used to them, and no amount of tugging in the 992 got the door cards to loosen for my water bottle, so I guess at least it’s built well.
On the road, the prodigious grip means you’ll never lose the rear end particularly with the rear-steering tucking you in, and if you switch everything off it’s as lairy as you expect a rear-engined car to be. The prodigious Goodyear rubber grips hard though, so it’s a fine line between tracking straight and true or winding on all the opposite lock you can gather. Call it a narrow window of opportunity.
I don’t know when manufacturers started believing that all cars have to be all things to all men, but they did, and even the 911 can’t remain immune to progress – customers asked for exactly such a 911, a more rounded, GT sort of 911. And that’s exactly what they got. We all expect Weissach to take care of the hardcore enthusiasts with a free-revving GT range of cars, but until then, the 911 has never been less intimidating or easier to drive.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S
3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six | eight-speed dual clutch transmission, rear-wheel drive | 450bhp at 6,500rpm and 530Nm from 2,300rpm | zero to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds and a top of 308km/h | AED474,600