In every way that matters, the 911 is still a great Porsche

After blasting around Europe in two 992s, our man finds the 911 hasn't lost its way

2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet
2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet / Image Credit: Porsche
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When an entirely new generation of 911 arrives, the kvetching begins anew – it's as sure as the sun rising, or a GTS variant following the S. Would-be auto- philosophists bemoan the changes on the 911, offering proof that Porsche has finally jumped the shark. How can a 911 still be called a 911 if it's bigger/heavier/fitted with new technology? (If you wonder if these people would be a bore at a dinner party, be assured the answer is a resounding yes.)

We've already driven both the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S and 4S coupes and cabriolets, and surely, they are changed beasts. Different inside and out from the previous 991 generation, and a world away from something like a 993. But in every way that matters, the 992 is still very much a 911. Here's why.

First up, it's the physicality of the car. The unique seating position; the way the vehicle surrounds you. If you were magically transported into the driver's seat of the 992, you'd know you were inside a Carrera without having to look at the insignia on the wheel. It's the upright seating position, the relationship of the driver within the cockpit, the rake of the windshield.

2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet 2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet 2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet

The 911 has never encouraged a louche, reclined-seat attitude, one hand slung casually over the wheel. As taught by instructors at any one of the Porsche Driving Experiences around the world, the car is best piloted with a nearly upright position, wheel close enough that your arms are bent and elbows tucked at your sides.

Taking up this position in the 992 on my first drive of the coupe in southern Spain, my body was immediately at home. Forget the slightly longer dimensions of the hood, or even the wider front and rear body on the S. This was the same perspective of the road that I've experienced over two decades of 911 and its endless variations.

That driver's seat is also a moment to relish the new and vastly improved layout of the dash. It is once again horizontally situated, like the 911s of old. My own biggest fear was that the new car would be an expanse of digital menus and haptic buttons. It generally isn't. Thank the gods for hard buttons.

And indeed, the outcry about the new gen is generally about technology. You'd expect to find adaptive cruise control on a GT car, but a 911? This generation can be had with safety systems as intrusive as lane keeping assist that recognizes traffic signs. Anathema to a sports car, surely? This is a point of credible criticism: That stuff adds weight and complexity. But such tech is optional — you'd have to ante an extra $2,000 for the adaptive cruise control for instance — and can be easily and happily left off the build sheet.

2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet 2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet 2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet

It also reminds me of something that Hurley Haywood, the legendary Porsche driver, subject of new documentary and Autoblog's recent guide around Road Atlanta, once told me: "The purists always complain about new technology, no matter what. If it was up to some of these guys, we'd still have manual roll-up windows." For what it's worth, Haywood always prefers a PDK over a manual, and allows the car to shift itself on the racetrack.

To me, ultimately, the 911 experience comes to down to one thing: The feeling you get when you unleash the rear-engine-machine, and let it sing. That moment when you're on a beloved road and traffic has evaporated. You downshift or pop into sport mode. The world suddenly narrows to the size of the lane, and any concerns about technology diluting the essential experience of the 911 evaporate.

The 911 allows you to live in the moment, and that's something few cars can accomplish.

The sound of the turbo engines isn't as good as the naturally-aspirated flat sixes of old – not by a long shot. But the noise emanating from behind you is still a happy thing, and the curious balance of the 911 is still present. You still sense the weight in the rear.

The coupes and the cabs we tested were equipped with PASM sport suspensions and rear-axle steering. The car turns in like never before, which means you no longer need to pull out the peculiar 911 tricks to get weight to the front wheels. But unlike some rear-wheel-steering systems, it is entirely natural and it feels the same in every corner. You're not second guessing the car.

2020 Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet

You've always had to be mindful of how you drive a 911 — no sudden lifts in the middle of a fast corner — but the car has also been an expression of freedom. It encouraged you to find your joy. At its best, a great run in a 911 is zen.

And on roads in Spain in the coupe, and in Greece in the cabriolet, I easily accessed those emotions. Forget the new tech and the changed body style or the rear that some find divisive. Whenever a portion of road opened up and an oncoming curve beckoned, I was thrilled to meet it. The car made me feel alive. And that's all that really matters.

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