What is it?
The ‘entry-level' Porsche 911 – if there is such a thing.
When the latest generation 911 arrived last year (model code 992) it was the mid-range Carrera S and 4S that hit showrooms first. Now, for 2020, the standard 911 Carrera has lobbed to expand the range and make the German sports car slightly more accessible.
Naturally it has less power and torque than the Carrera S, but it's also cheaper. But none of that means it's any less thrilling than you expect from a Porsche 911.
Does it have any racing pedigree?
The 911 is steeped in racing history, but typically it's the hardcore GT3 RS model that forms the basis for the brand's competition cars – including the latest GT3 R and Carrera Cup racers. That's because the GT3 RS uses the 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine rather than the 3.0-litre turbo used in the Carrera and Carrera S, which was introduced in the previous generation in the fight against stricter emissions regulations.
What's under the bonnet?
While the 3.0-litre flat-six turbo was an attempt to make the 911 more frugal, that doesn't mean it lacks anything in the way of performance. The previous Carrera's final naturally-aspirated engine, the 3.4-litre six-cylinder, made 261kW of power and 390Nm of torque.
This updated 3.0-litre turbo (which was introduced as a mid-life updated on the 991-generation) makes 283kW and 450Nm, which is a significant bump by both measures. Even though the Carrera S makes even more – 331kW and 530Nm – there's never a feeling in the Carrera that you're missing out or getting second-best.
There's effortless performance whenever you put your foot down, the engine spins up freely and with peak torque now available from just 1950rpm thanks to the forced induction it can really shove you back in your seat. It feels strong and steady across the rev range, with plenty of flexibility that makes it so easy to drive both around town, down a winding country road or even a racetrack.
Porsche's excellent eight-speed dual-clutch automatic (PDK in Porsche-speak) comes standard and provides an excellent conduite between the engine and the rear-wheels. Smooth shifting in automatic mode or offering sharp, direct changes when you use it manually it's ideally suited to the character of this latest 911.
If there's one small criticism of the engine its the soundtrack, which is now slightly muted compared to the old non-turbo 3.4-litre. Having said, it still retains that trademark boxer engine growl and with the optional Sports exhaust system it still makes a pleasing noise befitting its sports car image.
How does it handle?
Having said all that about how good the engine is, the 911 has never been a sports car defined by power – it's all about balance. Just the right amount of power and a chassis which rewards precision and finesse. That's what the latest 911 Carrera has, ideal balance.
Everything about the 911 feels like it would make Goldilocks happy – nothing is too heavy or too light, too much or too little, it's all just right. The steering is nicely weighted so you never tire, but still provides loads of meaningful feedback to the driver.
Previously we've tested the 992 Carrera 4S so this was our first chance to sample the new model in rear-wheel drive form. Like the steering the chassis itself communicates so well with the driver, allowing you to place the car with poise because it tells you exactly what it's doing. Even though the 911 has grown in size over the years, when you get it onto a challenging piece of road the way the chassis and steering speaks to you means it feels like its shrinks around you.
Where would you most like to drive it?
As impressive as the 911 Carrera is as a sports car, it also shines with its user-friendliness. It may feel at home on a racetrack, but this is a sports car you can drive to the office or the shops everyday and never feel awkward or uncomfortable. Yes, the ride is firm but not harsh, so it doesn't feel bothered on urban streets.
This really is a sports car for all occasions, so I'd like to drive it anywhere.
What's the interior like?
As mentioned in our previous review of the Carrera 4S, this latest 992-generation walks the line between modern design and retro touches with great precision. There's elements of classic 911 throughout, like the large analogue tacho in the centre of the instrument panel and the vertical lines that run across the centre facisa, but it doesn't feel like a slave to history.
Either side of the tacho are adjustable digital displays, and the centre of the dashboard features a state-of-the-art infotainment system that is highly intuitive.
But that's the 911, it has always been evolving, never standing still. Yes, the engine is still in (roughly) the same place it's always been and the silhouette is similar, but Porsche is always pushing to make it better while retaining its core strengths.
Is it good value for money?
This is a tricky question to answer. Unquestionably the 911 Carrera is a great sports car and worth the $229,500 asking price. However, that's the base price for the car and I don't believe in all my years of testing cars I've driven a stock-standard version of the 911. For example, the Sport Chrono Package that brings the adjustable drive modes costs $4890 and was fitted to our test car; indeed I've never driven a Porsche 718 or 911 without it. Porsche Australia admits the vast majority of buyers opt for it, so why not make its standard and charge $234,390 for the 911 Carrera – that price difference shouldn't be a deal-breaker.
While Porsche Australia has undoubtedly increased the value of its models over the years the long list of optional equipment that changes both the driving character and the look of the cars adds up. Our test car, the white model pictured here, tallied $276,730 (plus on-road costs). When you consider a standard 911 Carrera S starts at $264,600 (which still leaves wiggle room to add Sports Chrono and come out ahead) it makes you question the details.
Would I buy one?
Putting aside those concerns around value, there's no question I'd love to park a 911 Carrera in the driveway permanently. There's a reason why this is lauded as the king of sports cars, it has the ideal blend of performance purity whilst still being easy-to-live with.
Is the Carrera S nicer? Sure, it's a bit faster but it doesn't feel any more engaging and enjoyable to drive than the 911 Carrera.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera price and specifications
|From $229,500 plus on-road costs
|3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol
|Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
|19-inch front, 20-inch rear
|235/40 ZR19 front, 295/35 ZR20 rear
|4.2 sec (claimed)