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20th of October 2018

Automotive



2020 Porsche 911 Carrera Prototype 992 Series Development Drive: Spies Like Us - Motor Trend

We made our way to a remote parking lot on the bay to switch cars and passenger hosts. Standing on the windblown bluff, we learn the cars' wheels will grow to 20 inches up front and 21 in the back. I jotted down sidewall information: Pirelli P Zero NA0, 245/35R20 91Y and 305/30R21 100Y. Achleitner went on to reveal the cars' front track width grows by 40mm, overall height increases by 5mm, length by 20mm, or roughly similar dimensions to the current 991.2 Carrera GTS. The C-shaped one-piece aluminum body stampings (from A-pillar, over the door, through the rear quarter panel, and concluding at the front edge of the rocker panel) are aluminum and are 20 to 30 pounds lighter. The car's overall coefficient of drag drops from 0.30 Cd to 0.29. The front anti-roll bars' stiffness has been lowered due to new dampers. Hofstetter explained that the new engine mounts (active on Sport Chrono cars) move forward. The engines have 10.5:1 compression, precise piezo fuel injectors, and intricately cast, integral exhaust manifolds that are lighter than the current ones. The intercoolers migrate to the top of the engine, just under the highly vented engine cover. Air filters for the intake manifold now reside where the intercoolers were, which improves the intake flow. The eight-speed PDK's gearbox is the same length as the old one but now has a larger volume and four shafts instead of the previous two. Eighth gear is the same ratio as the outgoing seventh gear, so although the overall spread remains the same, ratios are distributed more tightly between gears. Time to drive some more.

Into the Light

Next up was car A1: a Carrera PDK with steel PSCB (Porsche Surface Coated Brake) discs and PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management). My partner for this stint was Probstle (the whole vehicle guy). We drove over the Golden Gate and into the sunlight in Marin County. On the drive, I learned about a new lane keeping system and a night vision system with pedestrian and animal detection that remains active (and will still warn) when the display isn't being used. Similar to snow/ice detection, there's also a new "wet" detection system, which alters stability and traction controls. Those sensors are in the front wheelwells and look for spray and listen for noise associated with wet roads. We swap into a new car with a new host (Hofstetter, the powertrain guy) for a riotous 4.4-mile hill climb through redwoods to the intersection of Fairfax-Bolinas Road and West Ridgecrest Boulevard. As luck would have it, I was driving A3, a Carrera S with the works: eight-speed PDK, PASM, PDCC (carbon-ceramic brakes), rear steering, and Sport Chrono. Let's just say the switchbacks didn't stand a chance.

Take a Break

The group grew hungry, and Ernst said he knew just the spot in the charming little town of Fairfax. We parked the cars on a side street and followed the red trousers. When we walked in the restaurant, it was clear he had been here many times. It felt like they knew and greeted the Porsche group, or maybe that was just Fairfax hospitality. In any case, over the jovial lunch it became very clear that despite having been away from home for months and working closely with the same group of dedicated individuals, the entire squad of engineers, mechanics, chase, and support teams really loves what they do—and weren't at each other's throats. Quite the contrary, the camaraderie was genuine, generous, and inclusive. As we dined, the team asked for my impressions—they're still working out the brake "jump-in," which was a little abrupt. I can't remember who said it, but I jotted down something somebody said: "If one cannot adapt to the car within 45 to 90 minutes, then the car must be changed." I told them I was honored to be involved, that they had succeeded in exceeding my 911 expectations, and that I greatly looked forward to driving the final product.

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There was one more stop 'n' swap on the way back to The City. As we stood on the roadside, a Toyota Prius driver stopped and asked for directions to the nearest gas station. Ironic, isn't it? Looking at her fuel gauge, the engineers determined she would not make the 10-mile distance, so Ernst sent a person to retrieve a gas can from the support van. Ernst emptied the container into the Prius, wouldn't accept a dime in return, and sent her safely on her way. These are good guys. We finished chatting, and with Ernst as my passenger, we headed back over the Golden Gate and straight into afternoon rush-hour traffic. The graphics and processing speed of the new infotainment/sat-nav system are world-class. As is the case with the recent Porsche products, the bevy of buttons has been reduced to a minimum, replaced with touchscreen or haptic-touch icons/panels.

991.2

What an illuminating, forthright, and privileged day it had been. Every question was answered. Each opportunity to demonstrate the cars' collective new features was welcomed. I wish I could tell you more about how the four cars drove, but we'll have to wait until the official, fully baked 992 press drive in January. What a treat it was to pretend to be part of the development team for a day—and to be welcomed with such gusto. I would happily do it again. Heck, I wonder if they're hiring! Kidding, of course, because I'm not an engineer, but it's no wonder the 992, and Porsche products in general, are some of the best-engineered vehicles in the world. They appear to have some very happy, cooperative, honest, and thorough engineers. And this was just one of the development drives. There are several more in the course of a Porsche's development: hot weather, cold weather, Nurburgring (naturally), and so on. Rest assured. The 2020 Porsche 911 will live up to its own self-set benchmark status. Watch this space.

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