2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S review (video)

The 911 is a legend of the car industry and often described as the pinnacle of all driver’s cars. The potential problem with that is how can you improve on perfection? Well, speak of the devil, this is the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. Let’s have a look and see if it’s possible.

Yes, it might look like every other 911 you’ve ever seen, carrying over the traditional coupe shape, with bulbous front wheel arches poking up like a cartoon car, and that steadily sloping rear end giving it an almost cute derriere. Porsche has been applying this iconic design theme now for eight generations. And for the 992, it’s bigger than ever. Compared with the old 991, this is 20mm longer, and 45mm wider at the front and 44mm wider at the back, while sharing the same wheelbase.

We think it does look quite sleek and much more elegant than all past generations. Not that they were ugly, just not as low-slung and low-profile as this. In that sense, it’s moving more towards supercar than sports car. Being the Carrera 4 usually means it gets the wide body from the 911 Turbo (not yet revealed for the 992 gen). But not for the latest model. Instead, all variants adopt a ‘wide body’ stance.

Stepping up to the 4S means there’s more power and a sportier set of components to go with it, but we’ll go into further detail on that in the drive section below. For now what you need to know is power comes from a 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six engine that produces 331kW and 530Nm (up from 283kW/450Nm in the non-S version). All of this is sent through an eight-speed dual-clutch auto. A seven-speed manual option is coming soon.

Prices for the C4S start from $281,100, while the base 992 911 kicks off from $229,500 (excluding on-road costs).

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S – THE SPECS

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six
Output: 331kW@6500rpm / 530Nm@2300,5000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive, locking diff
Wheels: F: 20×8.5, 245/35  R: 21×11.5, 305/30
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1524kg
Power-to-weight: 4.6:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 9.6L/100km
Economy during test: 12.4L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 67L/98 RON
Power efficiency: 34.47kW:L/100km

0-60km/h: 1.80 seconds*
0-100km/h: 3.43 seconds*
0-200km/h: 11.47 seconds*
60-110km/h: 2.26 seconds*
1/8 mile: 7.51 seconds at 159.8km/h*
1/4 mile: 11.51 seconds at 200.6km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.291g
100-0km/h braking: 2.59 seconds at 32.55 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.308g
Decibel at idle (sport mode): 57/65dB*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h (sport mode): 88/92dB*
Priced from: $281,100 (from $326,050 as tested)

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S – THE PACKAGE

Porsche isn’t really known for its packaging and value-for-money, in terms of features and physical bits and pieces. Instead, the brand likes to give buyers the opportunity to tailor their vehicles right from the get-go. In other words, there are heaps of options. We won’t bore you by going over all of them, but we’ll outline what this test car has, just as an example of the possibilities.

The starting price for the 911 Carrera 4S auto coupe is $281,100, as mentioned. Thanks to a range of options the starting price on this Racing Yellow example, still excluding on-roads, is $326,050. That means it has around $45,000 worth of options. The most expensive of them here is the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport setup, otherwise known as PDCC Sport, including Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus). It adds $6750 to the bill. A sports exhaust system with bi-modal sound including black tips is a must in our opinion, and costs $5480. Also, the Sport Chrono pack is definitely worth ticking, but it’ll set you back a further $4890.

Other options, such as the carbon interior package ($3750), adaptive sports seats in the front ($2850), Alcantara roof lining ($2440), and Racing Yellow seat belts ($930) aren’t really necessary but they do provide some exclusivity. Oh, the GT sports steering wheel is also worth selecting as it feels so good to grasp, and it only adds $580 to the cost.

We aren’t really complaining about the cost of these options, but we think some should be included as standard. Even if it means the initial price is bumped up. Rear-wheel steering ($4730) should probably come as standard on the new 911. It’s a new technology and after all the 911 is a driver’s car; who wouldn’t want it/what’s the point of excluding it? It’s a similar story with the optional surround-view parking camera ($2180); is there a reason a buyer wouldn’t want this?

Taking a seat inside it is immediately obvious that this isn’t an average car. There is theatre and a high sense of occasion, in a Germanic type of way. You sit very low with the dash presented perfectly in front of you, and all you can see are those trademark humps over the front wheels. All fixtures and fittings are of very high quality too, and installed with utter precision; you won’t hear any rattles or squeaks from this cabin. Everything feels really tight. Even the new gear selector stub is like it’s made from a solid billet of aluminium.

Up on the dash is a very crisp 10.9-inch touch-screen interface. At first the mostly black and white graphics seem a little basic, but you’ll soon see this is exactly fitting for the pure character the 911 is renowned for. Its resolution is high and the menu layout for the home screen is configurable. However, some of the menus seem oddly placed, sprouting out from the middle, with some menus fast becoming dead-ends.

Down below is an extremely clean and clutter-free centre console, with only one cup holder. Well, it’s not really a dedicated cup holder but more of a square storage slot that can hold a cup. Storage under the arm rest is minimal due to its shallow depth, but it is a handy place for your phone. You’ll find charging ports in there, too. There are bottle holders in the doors although they are quite slim and only accept limited bottle sizes.

As for those rear seats. It is possible for a smallish adult to get in there, but the low ceiling and rear windscreen mean yoga skills are essential. And you’ll need to remain in an awkward position for the entire drive. Legroom is also very restricted. It is okay for young children though and there are ISOFIX points for a baby seat. But overall this is definitely a ‘2+2’ style layout; it’s probably best described as a two-seater, but with extra storage behind the front seats, if anything.

Storage under the bonnet is acceptable, especially for this type of car. With 264 litres on offer you can easily store a weekend bag or a couple of small travel cases. The boot floor is surprisingly deep, almost on the ground, and designers have done a great job of maximising the space by making it as wide and straight-edged as possible.

As a place to sit during daily commuting or when you’re lucky enough to have some time for a weekend drive, we think the interior is suave and very modern, yet it’s not overly complicated and constantly calling for your attention. Likewise, the view from the driver’s seat is informative but not overwhelmed by technology.

For example, an analogue tacho remains front and centre, following tradition, with two cove-shaped digital screens on either side for the speed and trip information. The screen on the right can be configured to display various readouts as well, and even show a map from the sat-nav.

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S – THE DRIVE

Enough of the in-car stuff. The main reason anyone should want to buy a 911 is because they want to drive it. We want to start off by talking about this engine. What a masterpiece it is. Porsche says it produces 331kW at 6500rpm (7500rpm redline), and 530Nm between a very wide 2300-5000rpm. These figures might not raise an eyebrow if you’ve been browsing other super sports cars currently on sale. However, the efficiency in the delivery of these outputs is quite simply unbelievable.

Using the launch control system, which comes with the Sport Chrono pack, the 4S pounces off the line like a startled frog. Porsche claims that, in this configuration, 0-100km/h comes up in 3.4 seconds. Our best result with the Vbox Sport was 3.43 seconds. To be honest we weren’t expecting any different. A 3.4-second claim is insane for a regular model, and to hit that in the real world is deserving of huge praise – remember, this isn’t a supercar and isn’t primarily designed for straight-line acceleration. We also clocked 0-200km/h in just 11.47 seconds, which, again, is insane for a normal model.

Let’s try and unpack some of that. One of the main areas that helps with the performance, we think, is the sheer tightness of the drivetrain. There is no slack in power delivery, at all. No turbo-lag and no evident driveline delay. The new eight-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) dual-clutch auto changes gears in virtually no time, so no time is wasted during acceleration while the upshifts take place. It’s just gear, gear, gear; relentlessly pulling harder and harder.

Another area that helps is the weight. The tare weight of this machine is 1524kg. That’s not a lot for a modern all-wheel drive, four-seat premium vehicle. In fact, some common hatchbacks weigh about that. Let alone a car filled with this much technology, including rear-wheel steering, electric seats and so on. Add in an enormous amount of grip and you’ve got yourself a road-going rocket launcher.

Since when was the 911 Carrera about straight-line speed and acceleration? We know. We weren’t aiming to talk so much about it, but then we also weren’t expecting the numbers to be that incredibly impressive. We can’t wait to see what the next 911 Turbo S can do.

Driving the 911 C4S as a daily commuter is no problem because there are no major sacrifices that you need to make. Well, none that we could see and we drove it into the office all week. Leave it in all of the default modes and it will behave like a well-built luxury car. With the sports exhaust option in the quiet mode there still is an underlying rumble and roar, but it’s not overbearing. We like that there is some character in that department though; a rumble and pop from the engine. It tends to build excitement and character. The ride quality is also excellent for a sports car in these scenarios.

The steering feel is beautiful and the forward visibility, albeit from a low vantage point, is very good. All of the controls, such as the pedals and so on are exactly where you’d expect, and the driving position is, as you can imagine, absolutely perfect. There’s plenty of adjustment with the steering column and seat to ensure this, and Porsche says the new-generation seats (3kg lighter than previous seats) have been crafted using specially adapted geometry to hold you in place. And they do just that.

Okay, enough chit-chat. How does this beast handle during a spirited drive?

It feels tight and rigid, and the more you push it, the more it opens up and wants to play. We couldn’t find any understeer during our tests, and we did make sure we tested it thoroughly. Now, normally a car that doesn’t understeer will often flip into oversteer too quickly. Not here. The beauty of having that engine over the back wheels means there is a massive amount of traction. You can floor it at the worst of times and it will rip you around with savage g-force yet in a completely controlled and carefree manner.

Switch it over into Sport Plus and the stability control slackens off a bit. In saying that, you need to be pushing really hard to cause it to activate in the first place; the fundamental stability is so good. In this mode the exhaust opens up and gives off that classic flat-six sound. Being turbocharged means it’s not quite as raspy as the naturally aspirated engines of the past, but you can definitely hear that distinct and very characteristic flat-six roar (check out our videos below for a demo).

Pushing hard in the bends in this mode provides one of the greatest driving experiences you can imagine. It is so connected and at one with what you want to do. It’ll even powerslide from corner to corner, despite being four-wheel drive. But it’s not snappy or surprising. And then in between the corners you’ve got that immense acceleration and soundtrack. When you arrive at the next corner, the braking feel, performance and engagement are all in perfect unison.

Porsche is renowned for offering outstanding brakes. And we can see why. After numerous, very vigorous mountain runs we experienced no brake fade or pedal drop or any change in braking performance at all. We also tested the 100-0km/h emergency stop in just 32 metres, but obviously this only tells half the story. So, out of curiosity we conducted four stopping tests consecutively to see how that would go, and the car produced very similar results each time. Only the really elite sports cars, in our experience, are able to do this.

It is difficult to explain the overall allure of the 911. All we can say is you just need to go out and drive one. Only then will you understand and see that it really is the purest all-round driver’s car in the world. It grips if you want it to grip. It slides if you want it to slide. It stops when you want it to stop. And it goes, it bloody goes when you want it to go.

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S – THE VIDEOS

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S – THE VERDICT

It’s easy to see why the 911 attracts so much respect from all walks of life, and from pretty much all types of car enthusiast. While some cars, even sports cars out there are built to turn a profit for the company as well as provide enjoyable driving experiences for the owners. The 911 seems like it was made, first and foremost, by real driving enthusiasts. All the way through the production foodchain.

From the engineers that evolved the iconic powertrain and chassis recipe, to the designers that created the interior and even the dashboard; it’s obvious that everything has one main focus. The fact that it also happens to turn a nice profit for the company helps it to evolve and evolve, and is probably why it has been such an international success for so long.

PROS:
– Perfect handling
– Incredible powertrain performance
– Awesome brakes
– High quality cabin and fit and finish
– Rough and dirty soundtrack with optional sport exhaust

CONS:
– Tight rear seats
– Steep price
– Umm…

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.