2020 Porsche 911: We take a deep dive into the new car’s technology

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The eighth-generation, 992-series Porsche 911 is here. Not only have we driven it, Autoblog spent a day peering into the new coupe’s internals.

Of the exterior, Porsche’s executive board member for research and development, Dr. Michael Steiner, said, “The design, it changed a lot.” Yes, it still looks like a , because finespun evolution has been the model’s hallmark since the model launched in 1963. Almost everything beneath the all-new exterior design, however, has been through wholesale revision.

Outside, the front and rear fasciae are made of steel, the rest of the coupe fashioned from aluminum save for any optional roof, like the tilting sunroof made of steel, and the glass, carbon, or magnesium roof panels. There’s a sharper front fascia that sheds the 991’s body-colored vertical strakes through the front intake. The face loses a touch of character without the strakes, the full-length stretch of black intake inspiring a colleague to say, “It looks like the car swallowed a hockey puck.”

The square-cut hood adds visual texture thanks to a wide, shallow channel, a design idiosyncrasy not seen since the 993 series. The ovoid headlight elements layout is a little more glittery, a stronger “X” LED DRL element bracing the main beam. Headlight power is a lot more flashy for buyers who order the LED matrix lights with PDLS Plus, which debuted on the Panamera and are said to equal the intensity of laser lights. Further back, nearly flush door handles replace the literal handles on the outgoing car, the flat slats automatically extending as the driver approaches the car.

The wheelbase hasn’t changed from the 991 series, but the 992 is 20 millimeters longer. The S model adds 45 millimeters to the front track, and 39 mm to the rear track, with rear bodywork spreading an additional 44 mm compared to the 991-series S trim. The staggered tires, 20 inches in front, 21 inches in back, wear Pirelli rubber that’s 4 percent softer than before. The bigger rear wheels make the body sit a touch higher. That, along with 911 interior designers lowering the seats, adds 12 mm of headspace for front passengers, 8 mm of headspace for back-seaters.

Aero work began with enlarging the front intake, then swapping the former three-position shutters behind the intake for continuously variable shutters. They can now take any position between fully open and closed, moving in response to temperature, speed and load, with some positions dictated by whether the optional sunroof is open. Unless other parameters intervene, the flaps remain closed between 43 and 93 miles per hour, begin to open above 93 mph, and fully open above 105 mph or in Sport or Sport Plus driving modes.

The front flaps dance in sync with a three-position adaptive rear spoiler that has 45 percent more aerodynamically-effective area. The spoiler takes up its Performance position at 57 mph in normal conditions, canceling rear axle lift. If the intake air gets too hot, the spoiler extends as soon as 37 mph. The third position, during emergency braking, stands the spoiler up like an airbrake.

Porsche 911Porsche 911

A 911 in its bones

Combined with changes to the suspension, Stability Management System (PSM), tire compound, and larger rear brakes, the new 911 stops five feet sooner from 62 mph, 40 feet sooner from 180 mph. Drivers get more feel through the pedal, too: fashioned the brake pedal from steel, carbon fiber and plastics. The thinner pedal weighs 10.6 ounces less than before, and moves through a shorter arc.

The Volkswagen Group’s new MMB architecture provides the bones holding everything together. The modular platform, made for mid- and rear-engined , uses the interchangeable front and center sections, the rear section being unique to the 911. The next-generation 718 Cayman and Boxster will migrate to the MMB as well.

The 992’s structure contains 30 percent steel, down from 63 percent in the 991. Critical safety components like the A- and B-pillars and the roof frame are made of ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steel. The aluminum contribution rises from 3 percent to 25 percent, such as in the extruded longitudinal members and die-cast tunnel housing. Whereas the 997 contained no cast aluminum parts and the 991’s body-in-white was 9 percent cast aluminum by weight, the 992’s body-in-white is 13 percent cast aluminum by weight. The re-engineered metal mix makes the 992 body-in-white more rigid and 5 percent lighter than the 991’s, at 529 pounds.

The material variety necessitated 14 different join techniques, like flow-drilling screws to mate aluminum and steel, camera-guided roller hemming to wrap the outer skin around the body-in-white, and friction welding when a factory robot can reach just one side of the join. Porsche first used roller hemming and friction welding on the Panamera.

Porsche 911

Interior is ‘our ticket for the future’

The all-new interior takes a big step up. Going back to the words of Dr. Steiner, “This is our ticket for the future in terms of and style.” As another throwback to the 993, the instrument panel forms a conspicuous horizontal. The center tunnel, now a secondary form and adorned with fewer buttons, glows with a glass-topped sheen. And note the , America-friendly cupholder ahead of the armrest.

A framed tachometer sits in the middle of the virtual dash cluster behind a 360-mm steering wheel. There will still be two steering wheel designs in the 992, but the wheels are the same size now; previously, the Sport steering wheel was 10 mm smaller. The changeable displays on the virtual cluster deliver images and information from a camera in the rearview mirror housing, four wide-angle cameras around the coupe, an infrared camera, eight ultrasound sensors, a long-range radar up front for adaptive cruise control and another radar in back.

The systems provide new and upgraded driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control plus (ACC), lane keep assist with traffic sign recognition, night vision, park assist with surround view. Also new, three stages of brake assist, from preparing the stoppers for an accident to automatic emergency braking, aims to prevent collisions with people, animals, and cyclists.

The 991 series offered adaptive cruise control, but the latest version can stop and go on its own if the vehicle is stationary for under 15 seconds. After that, a tap on the accelerator or pressing the Resume button gets the show going again. Lane-keeping assist works above 40 miles per hour. It doesn’t try to keep the 911 in the center of the lane — which we find intrusive — but only works to stay within lane markings unless the driver activates the turn signal. A cornering notification feature warns drivers of any tight bends ahead.

The Night Vision Assist is new, able to detect pedestrians and animals from 300 meters away. Automatically turned off in urban areas, its programming allows it to distinguish heat sources so that it knows a person from an animal or a recently parked motorcycle. The infrared image shows to the right of the tachometer, highlighting people and “larger wild animals” in yellow. It will be less fully featured in the U.S., since the full system uses the optional Matrix LED headlights to put a spotlight on pedestrians and wild beasts.

On the instrument panel, the 10.9-inch Porsche Communication Management (PCM) touchscreen becomes the hub for the 992’s huge step in infotainment. Nearly double the resolution of the seven-inch screen in the 991 creates room for a lot more information. An ever-present vertical menu bar on the left houses predefined buttons like Navigation and Media. The screen can display a single information source, like the navigation map, or be broken into up to three columns of disparate information. In the three-column setup, a user can configure the middle panel with three additional functions. For instance, the left column displays navigation, the middle column contains tiles for satellite radio, Porsche apps, and the Home Link Profile, while the right column displays phone controls.

Porsche’s refined nearly every method of commanding that digital bounty. Hands-on types can swipe, scroll, tap, pinch in and out, rotate, and use a fingertip to write on the screen. The new Voice Pilot not only follows orders, it sends commands to back-end recognition software to learn the owner’s speech patterns and slang. Needs-based voice control understands what to do with statements like “I’m hungry,” and “I’m cold.” Frank Moser, Porsche’s VP of corporate responsibility, said the 992 learns how to see, how to understand, and how to communicate.

An embedded SIM card means the 992 will always be on the grid. Navigation and radio functions take full advantage. Nav software compares on-board hard-drive routing with online routing, the PCM deciding which route to follow. When using the My Porsche website or Porsche Connect app, you can enter a destination online or on your phone that the car will automatically receive upon startup. After exiting the car near the destination, directions are sent to the driver’s phone for last-mile navigation to the precise location.

Radio Plus accesses Amazon Music and online radio stations. If the vehicle leaves the reception area for a terrestrial station, Radio Plus will automatically switch to the online stream if the station has one. Going global, the coupe can search online stations by country, so an owner no longer needs his smartphone to satisfy an urge for Slovakian rap. Stereo options will be either 570-watt Bose or 855-watt Burmester audio, both with 12 speakers.

Porsche 911Porsche 911

Turbo tweaks

Porsche said it focused “primarily on enhancing the performance” of the powertrain. Engineers made small changes in everything from the 9A2 Evo engine to the axles to reach the goal. It starts with a new intake system — new turbochargers not only are bulked up, they are laid out in a different way. Larger chambers house 48-millimeter turbine wheels, three millimeters wider than before, turning compressor wheels that have grown four millimeters to 55 mm. The bypass valves aren’t controlled by vacuum anymore, but electric stepper motors, giving finer and more precise boost control. Porsche said maximum boost pressure “is around 16 psi (1.1 bar),” matching the 991’s engine.

The two turbos on the 991 were identical, the asymmetrical setup necessitating longer exhaust tubing with a tighter bend for the left-side turbo. Porsche flipped the left-side turbo on the 992, creating a symmetrical layout. The intercoolers were moved from the sides of the rear fenders to where the air filters used to be, on top of the engine under the rear decklid. The placement and redesign shortens the distance air needs to travel, makes the charge air coolers 14 percent larger, reducing airflow obstructions by 50 percent, and improving compressor efficiency by halving the air pressure in front of the compressor. A new, lightweight cast manifold improves airflow and responsiveness. The arrangement provides intake cooler air even though the turbo plumbing now sits above the exhaust.

Engine displacement, bore and stroke don’t change, but compression’s gone up as a side effect of piezo-controlled injectors and asymmetrical intake valves. The injectors are a first for the 911. The previous solenoid-controlled units fired a single shot per cycle at the maximum pressure of 2,900 psi. The piezo-controlled jets open and close more quickly, fire finer fuel droplets, and can shoot up to eight partial injections per cycle for better combustion. The 3.0-liter flat-six makes 443 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, up 20 hp and 22 lb-ft. The new injection system is said to improve power, torque build-up, responsiveness, efficiency, and rev elasticity.

Porsche improved engine smoothness with one small change and one large one. The small: VarioCam Plus gains asymmetrical intake camshafts. Under partial load, adjacent valves open unequally, one valve extending two millimeters, the other 4.5 millimeters. The varied apertures improve air circulation inside the combustion chamber, enhancing fuel management and refining power delivery at low speeds.

The bigger change comes via the engine mounting. Previously, a cradle around the crank pulley area sat on a crossbar, the crossbar attached near the back of the coupe’s longitudinal members. Porsche designed new attachment points 6.6 inches further forward and 4.4 inches further outboard. The cylinder heads mount directly to the longitudinal members, and closer to the engine’s center of gravity. The connection increases rigidity and lowers vibrations.

The tweaked exhaust system — which in Europe will flow through a gas particulate filter that adds 15 pounds — employs fully variable exhaust flaps. As with the turbo wastegates, the formerly vacuum-controlled, binary-position flap controllers take orders from electric stepper motors and provide a wider range of sound. Even so, the sound symposer first installed on the 991 series has added a second, switchable channel behind the rear trim panel to pipe more aural sensation into the cabin.

Porsche 911Porsche 911

A look inside the transmission

The bigger bell housing around the standard eight-speed PDK transmission encloses heavily updated internals. This is the same eight-speed concept as introduced on the Panamera two years ago, with 911-specific guts. Every gear ratio is different than on the 991’s seven-speed PDK; the first seven gears are shorter, and the first four gears get triple-cone synchros. Top speed can still be reached in sixth gear, but for highway cruising, eighth gear provides a longer gear ratio than possible on the seven-speed PDK.

The gears don’t sit in a sump, but are bathed from overhead with oil conveyed through plastic piping. An additional hydraulic fill bypass provides more, and faster, clutch changeover control. Assisted by a new oil pressure delivery process, this enables even faster quick-shifts in Sport Plus or in manual mode using the paddles. Oil pressure for the clutch and for gear changes is tailored to demand, making for better pump efficiency and smoother shifts at higher throttle inputs.

The eight-speed PDK is tied into the navigation and ACC systems, permitting a measure of predictive shifting. For instance, if the route map indicates a hill ahead, the transmission might not upshift. Or if the ACC detects a car ahead, the transmission will use engine overrun to help slow down.

The transmission sends power through chassis components given the same fine-grained refinements. Every model gets a stiffer torsion bar, a new steering controller for better feedback, and a faster rack. Steering is 10 percent faster on models with rear-wheel steering, 6 percent faster without. An optional Power Steering Plus package throws in extra boost during tight, low-speed maneuvers.

Spring rates front and rear increase 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively, on models without Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Opting for PASM lowers the body by 10 millimeters and increases spring rates by 18 percent in front, 23 percent in back.

Porsche 911

On all-wheel-drive models, a thicker front axle can dispense up to 50 percent of the car’s torque, up from 40 percent in the 991. The new front axle gearbox houses a reinforced clutch discs with higher activation torque and more accuracy. By switching to water cooling for the front axle, Porsche says cooling performance has gone up 300 percent.

Although active shock absorbers are standard, choosing PASM provides infinitely adjustable Bilstein dampers; the former PASM dampers moved between fixed positions. The central “Skyhook” controller performs calculations at each wheel several hundred times per second, changing damper characteristics in milliseconds via a magnetic control valve that oversees the main stage valve and rebound pressure chambers. The firmer springs and vastly superior damping translate into a better ride in normal scenarios, a softer ride over harsh roads, and a wider dynamic range between normal and sporty driving.

All of this upgraded tech, along with more abundant luxury, was a lot to pack into the 911’s relatively small body. So, yes, curb weight rises by 121 pounds, but most of it makes proven gains to performance. The 992 accelerates to 60 mph 0.4 seconds quicker than the 991.

Greatest performance comes from an unexpected corner, though. Whereas the 4S with the Sport Chrono Package rules the stoplight dash, Porsche used a 2S model to set a new 911 benchmark time at the Nürburgring. Porsche calls it “Best Setup,” the rear-wheel driver fitted with rear-axle steer, active roll stabilization, the PCCB composite brakes, and series production tires.

As we discovered during our First Drive, the additional weight and technology don’t break the 911’s decades-long spell. You should also know that now you can turn that spell on its edge. A Porsche test driver told us during a ride around Hockenheim, “You can drift for a longer time, and you can get the car 90 degrees sideways.”

The 992, at any angle of attack, remains a 911.



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