We ride along with Porsche’s engineering team as the next 911 is readied for launch. Written by Kyle Fortune. Photography by Porsche.
New 2020 992 911 revealed – Take your first look at the eighth generation of Porsche 911 as the 992 is revealed. Say hello to the eighth generation of Porsche 911: drive, tech and chassis changes uncovered.
“What’s clear is the new 992’s refinement, like the 991 before it”
We’re in San Francisco, California, in an underground parking garage of a hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s busy outside, the countless tourists distracted by the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and all the other amusements the City By The Bay offers. In the garage is a fleet of Porsche’s new 992, along with the odd Cayman and Boxster; Porsche’s engineers are in town, but they’re seeking a different kind of amusement. I’ll be with them for a day of testing, joining a convoy of four Carrera Ss undergoing some final checks prior to the board coming out for a final sign-off drive.
Porsche will launch the new 992 with the Carrera S and 4S Coupe in PDK form, with the Carrera and Carrera 4 following in 2019, its introduction also adding manual transmission to the entire line-up. The Cabriolet will join in 2019, while Porsche is also apace with its development of the GT and Turbo models. They’re not discussing those today, the team doing its best to distract attention from the prototype Turbo that’s lurking elsewhere here underground. As-yet- unconfirmed rumours suggest the Turbo S will deliver in excess of 650hp. The world’s gone mad.
Back to reality, though, the Carrera S I’ll be jumping in the passenger seat of will be heading out of the city to the mountain roads around San Francisco. This part of the US is used due to the sizeable elevation changes it offers, the predictable climate and, in Alex Ernst’s words: “The aggressive local driving.” That relates specifically to the abrupt stop-start traffic, the on-of-on the throttle nature of freeway driving and the terrible, combed concrete surfaces on those freeways. That Porsche sells a considerable number of its annual production in California is no bad thing, either.
Ernst is very familiar with all of it; being the team leader of testing he’s been involved in every 911 since the 996. Joining his usual team of engineers today will be Matthias Hofstetter, director, powertrain product lines 911/718; Andreas Pröbstle, project manager, complete vehicle model lines 718/911, and ‘Mr 911’ himself, August Achleitner, vice president, product lines 911/718. And Total 911, of course.
It’s no surprise that the 992 is instantly familiar, the disguise fooling nobody. Porsche isn’t about to mess with the winning formula. The detailing is different, the camouflage doing little to mask the cool recessed structure of the rear lights, a red strip spanning the entire rear of the Carrera. That’ll be a feature on all, and it’ll be the same width, Achleitner saying that all Carreras will feature a wide body.
Dimensionally the new Carrera and Carrera S will be the same width as the outgoing 991 GTS. They’ll be some 5mm higher, and 20mm longer at the front – the latter for styling purposes. The rear track will match the GTS, though Porsche has upped the front track by 40mm.
That change, says Achleitner, “allows us to transmit more loading forces without a stiffer stabiliser. It enables us to lower the stiffness of the roll bar on the rear axle to transmit higher forces for accelerating out of a curve.” Filling the rear wheel arches in the Carrera S will be a 21-inch wheel with 305/30/ZR21 tyres, the front axle getting 20-inch alloys wearing 245/30 section rubber, the 992 being the first series Carrera to wear staggered wheel sizes. The body is lighter, too, Porsche using aluminium for the panel that begins at the A-pillar and runs over to the rear, it previously being steel, the doors and front wing being made of aluminium, too.
“Aluminium saves about 10 to 15kg overall, most of which is at the back, which is important to us. The car is pretty much the same overall weight. It was a challenge to make the big part to manufacture, because of the curves,” admits Achleitner. Saving or maintaining weight levels has been crucial to the 992’s development, particularly as new regulations require the addition of weighty filters on the exhaust. Hofstetter admits that’s been a big challenge, though says the 991’s engine was an excellent starting point for his team to make the necessary revisions.
It remains a 3.0-litre turbocharged unit, the capacity being identical, though the solenoid injectors have been ditched in preference for more accurate Piezo injection. That benefits emissions, particularly at cool temperatures and part throttle loads, the more controlled mixture allowing a slight change in the compression ratio to 10.5.1. In addition to that the entire intake and exhaust system has been redesigned, the intake using lessons learnt with the GT2 RS. The new intake improves the pressure and behaviour in front of the turbines, the more direct path improving response.
The result: “Turbo lag isn’t really present,” says Hofstetter, adding that the intercoolers have also been moved from the side to above the engine. That shortens the low path, allowing a bigger intercooler with obvious benefits in improving cooling. Cooler running is beneficial to power, says Hofstetter, adding: “A turbo engine lives from the intake manifold temperature, less is better.” The result, even with the challenges of installing the exhaust filters, which will only feature on EU cars, is that the Carrera S will deliver 450hp and 530Nm of torque. The Carrera will be in the region of 380 to 385hp.
Pushed on the subject of naturally aspirated engines and the eventual GT models, Hofstetter won’t be drawn, simply saying, “They’re made in Flacht.” What he can say is how the 3.0-litre turbocharged flat six is attached to the body differs, describing the new connection: “If you have a look at any 911 over history, you see the engine-mounting concept with the mount at the gearbox, at the front end of the gearbox. And two mounts at the rear end of the engine, with the special ‘sword’ on the left- and right-hand side. We have removed this and engineered a different solution; there’s now a connection between the cylinder heads on both sides, a little bit more to the front, and we go directly to the longditudinal beams of the body.” The advantage of this is that it makes the whole system stiffer, feeling more rigid, Achleitner saying: “This is especially an advantage for convertibles for stiffness, you don’t feel it so much with the Coupe, but it’s a big step for the Cabriolet.” As standard this new connection will be made with passive mounts, though the Sport Chrono Package will include active engine mounts, as with the 991.
What is attached to the 3.0-litre turbocharged engine is one of the biggest changes, the 992 bringing an eight-speed PDK transmission. It’s derived from the Panamera’s gearbox and adds 20kg over the old ‘box, it needing re-engineering to a 911’s rear-mounted situation. “This eight-speed gearbox not only has an extra ratio, so we have a better ratio between sixth and eighth, eighth is about the same as the seventh gear before, but there’s a gear between, and this feels much more harmonious,” says Achleitner.
That’s useful, but the key reason the new eight-speed transmission has been adopted is its layout has all the shafts located at one end, leaving a gap at the end of the casing. “It’s empty because we prepared this car for any hybrid solution in the future,” says the 911 boss, adding: “not for this generation, but most likely for the second part. This empty space [145mm of it] is able to integrate an electric engine/motor for the electric solution. The whole car in its layout, its structure, is prepared for any hybrid solution in the future. We do not do it right now; we will not introduce it in the next years because we are not yet satisfied with the performance, especially of the batteries.” As Hofstetter says: “We can’t change the wind, but we can set our sails in the right direction. We’ve made the 911 ready for hybrid.”
So there’s space in the body for batteries, the future-proofing of the 992 by changing the transmission and creating space for an electric motor, as well as batteries having been a contentious issue within the company. In addition to Achleitner’s comments about performance, weight is also a key factor stopping the adoption of hybrid at launch – making the car hybrid could add as much as 450kg to the 911’s kerb-weight. A 48V system was considered, this too discounted as the additional circuit required was too heavy.
The manual remains a seven-speed, it featuring the same ratios as the 991, though coming with a differing final drive to account for the larger 21-inch rear wheels. It’ll be lighter, Porsche retaining the manual transmission as there’s still demand for it, with around 15 per cent of sales globally coming with three pedals. Some markets, like the US, will take a larger manual/PDK model mix where available. The US’s importance as a market is arguably why the 992 will have its reveal at the LA Auto Show in late November, too.
Approaching the car, the 992 greets you by the door handles popping out automatically before resting lush with the bodywork ten seconds later. All will be keyless go, the 992 introducing a raft of new convenience and driver-assist technology to Porsche’s sports car. There’ll be the opportunity to specify Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Departure Warning and Night Vision. An inevitable creep to autonomy? Porsche’s Achleitner says no: “The 911 is still a driver’s car, and we want to keep this character in the future for as long as possible, so in my opinion autonomous driving maybe comes on a higher level from generation to generation, but as long as it’s possible to switch it of then it’s fine.”
All gain a new driving program – Wet mode. This new setting will automatically recalibrate PSM and gearbox shift strategy to Normal, and heighten the angle of attack of the rear wing for greater downforce, should it detect a wet surface. It’s achieved by Porsche fitting acoustic sensors in the front wheel wells, the driver able to select a full Wet mode via the drive-mode selector – the rest being the familiar Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and the configurable Individual. Wet mode is not linked to the wiper’s action as there could be standing water after a shower, Achleitner saying it’s been added because the 911 is “a light car on wide tyres”. There’s no rain in San Francisco today, but Ernst admits on a previous test all four cars activated within 200m of running on a wet surface. We’re heading out of the city, the convoy of 992s slipping out as discretely as four obviously disguised 911s can do. There’s an attempt to hide the interior from not just the public’s prying eyes but mine, but there’s only so much the driver can do without revealing some details to the passenger alongside. The instruments ahead of Ernst are reminiscent of the Panamera, though there’s a properly analogue rev-counter dead centre, Porsche retaining its classic 911 signature. Either side of that are configurable screens, while the centre console features an 11-inch screen with all the info and entertainment.
What’s clear is the 992’s refinement, like the 991 before it, is accomplished in the hubbub of town traffic, usability as always part of the 911’s enduring appeal. It’s why, Achleitner says, they do so much testing, adding that “everyday usability is very important for us, hugely important. We are unique.
We sell real cars, not computer games that are simulated.” He continues, “To drive you have to feel it; that is essential with our cars.” And while we’re in the wrong seat today, it’s evident that the 911 has retained all its traditional hallmarks – and removed a few less desirable ones. More specifically there’s a notable improvement in road noise, the 992 better damping out the sound from its sizeable contact patches. The suspension too isolates the poor surfaces of the city streets, as well as the expansion joints on the highways.
A consummate GT, then, evidently, but it’s the sports car element that’s the 911’s core appeal. The convoy heads into the canyons to assert this, Ernst, Achleitner, Hofstetter and Pröbstle obviously enjoying their day of work, the 992s tackling the tight, testing road with aplomb. The body control is exemplary, the braking as sensational as you’d expect, these test Carrera Ss having standard steel brakes as well as optional PSCB and PCCB discs. Being hard worked on these roads, there’s no apparent let-up in their stopping power. It feels sensationally rapid, too – with launch control it’s as quick as a 997 Turbo, so 62mph should be possible in 3.5 seconds, the top speed likely to be 195mph plus. It’s the response that drives that pace, the immediacy obvious even from the passenger seat both to throttle application and to the finger’s pull for another gear.
There are slight differences between the US-specification cars and the EU ones. The US cars have a marginally more intoxicating exhaust note, thanks to the loss of that particulate filter. Removing it saves about 7.5kg of mass, too. The differing character is more notable on the overrun where the non-filtered 992s generate a few more rousing crackles when lifting of. What’s not obvious is in a further bid for efficiency, EU 992s feature a slightly different setting for the rear wing, it sitting marginally lower in an ‘eco’ position to reduce drag and improve economy. In that position the 992’s coefficient of drag is a slippery 0.29. All look great, the 992’s wide rear accentuated by the neat red strip light spanning its entire width, the front lights having the four-points that’s now a Porsche lighting signature.
After a day on the road Ernst and his team have several hours of debriefing to undertake. Many terabytes of data have been recorded during our drive around San Francisco, all to make sure the 992 is perfect when it reaches showrooms. We’ll be getting in the correct seat in January to confirm our early ride impressions, while deliveries are expected early next year. On evidence of our day in the new 992, our first drive can’t come soon enough.
Total 911 verdict
More driver aids and sophistication through an inevitable technological creep, the 992 has to meet ever-tougher emissions and consumption regulations yet remains an authentic sports car. It seems Porsche relishes engineering around the hurdles contemporary legislation places upon it, future-proofing the 911 for the next generation. Our ride reveals the 992 is going to be very much a 911 for our times, as well as lap times…
- Improved ride comfort and noise isolation, particularly from the front axle
- Widebody for all Carrera and S models
- It’s retained the manual, though we’d prefer the GT3/R’s six-speeder, even over the promise of an improved seven-speed
- The idea of the eventual, and now confirmed hybrid 911
- Exhaust particulate filter dampens the exhaust note of EU-bound 992s
- Lane Keep Assist shouldn’t be in a 911!
ABOVE Testing over, the 992 will be signed off by the board as T911 goes to print and readied for launch at the LA Auto Show. ABOVE Matthias Hofstetter, director of powertrains, puts the 450hp Carrera S through its paces in California. ABOVE Don’t expect that rear running lught to be broken up as on these thinly disguised prototypes. ABOVE Flush door handles are a new addition, though Pirelli P Zero tyres will remain the N-rated choice
“The 911 is still a driver’s car, and we want to keep this character in the future for as long as possible”
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 2020 Model 992 Carrera S
Model Year 2019/2020
Engine Capacity 2,981cc
Compression ratio 10:5.1
Maximum power 450hp at 6500rpm / DIN
Maximum torque 530Nm at 2200-3900rpm / DIN
Transmission Eight-speed PDK automatic or seven-speed manual
Suspension Front Independent; MacPherson strut; PASM; anti-roll bar rear Independent; Multi-link; PASM; anti-roll bar
Wheels & tyres
Front 9×20-inch; 245/35/ZR20
Rear 12×21-inch; 305/30/ZR21
weight 1,450kg (C2, est ++)
0-62mph 3.5 seconds (est)
Top speed 195mph (est)