Porsche 911 blockbuster sequel premieres in LA

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — Porsche premiered an all-new sequel to its 911 coupe — one of the world’s true, four-wheeled celebrities — in the heart of Tinseltown Tuesday night.

The auto superstar drove the red carpet accompanied by other celebrities like actor Armie Hammer, international racing star Mark Webber, and tennis great Maria Sharapova.

The stunning, 2020 model 911 gains more power, width, and electronic capability.

The teardrop-shaped 911, first introduced in 1964, has maintained its iconic silhouette over six decades with a rear-mounted engine, 2+2 seating arrangement, long tapered hood, and frog-eyed headlights. It is the performance standard by which all other sports cars are judged, and the eighth-generation car pushes the technological envelope in materials, handling, and digitization.

The 2019 model was unveiled, not as a base model, but in Carrera S and all-wheel-drive RS performance trims. Their shared, turbocharged, flat-six engine gains 23 horsepower over the last generation. To manage those 443 horses, the 911 has increased in width by nearly 2 inches front and rear.

The added oomph will rocket the RWD Carrera S from 0-60 in just 3.5 seconds — nearly a half second quicker than its predecessor. Equip it with AWD — and the nifty Sports Chrono transmission-assist package — and that number improves to a neck-straining 3.3 seconds.

The new 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S and 4S will have their world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Wardrobe updates are typically conservative, and the new 911 will be most distinguishable from the rear which has adopted a narrow, horizontal tail lamp that also accentuates the car’s broad stance. Save for the front and rear facias, the 911’s skin is all aluminum.

Like Boris Becker and Pilsner beer, the 911 is one of Germany’s premier symbols. Significantly, however, the Stuttgart-built sports car was introduced here in the United States, which is key to the luxury brand’s global strategy.

The U.S. is the 911's top market with nearly a third of global sales last year — and California responsible for 25 percent of that. The Golden State boasts the biggest Porsche club in the world with some 30,000 members.

The 911 was rolled out at Porsche's Los Angeles Experience Center here, a sprawling, 53-acre automotive theme park in the middle of the city where customers can play with their toys on track. In addition to its celebrity friends, the new Porsche was accompanied by representatives of all seven generations of the 911 dating back to 1964 — fitting nostalgia for a car that has stood the test of time.

The 911’s famous shape has inspired a lineup of family SUVs and sedans — Cayenne, Macan, Panamera — that have far outstripped Porsche’s traditional sports car lineup (that includes 911 little brother Boxster/Cayman). The best-selling Macan bests 911 sales by 300 percent.

Like SUV buyers, Porsche customers laying down $114,250 (up from gen 7’s $106,050, including destination fee) for a sports car expect five-star interior comfort. As conservative as the design upgrades are outside, the inside changes are dramatic.

But for the traditional, center-focused tachometer, the instrument display is now entirely digital. The center console too has been digitally transformed with a 10.7-inch infotainment display replacing the old, cramped, 7-inch glass. A remote rotary button controls infotainment options. The driver’s seat can now be adjusted 18 ways. The center console even gets its first cupholder.

An array of electronic features also provide driver assistance including a Wet Mode that senses — and corrects handling for — wet roads, adaptive cruise control, automatic brake assist, and more.

With Porsche developing an electric lineup to compete with Tesla (and meet Draconian European carbon dioxide emissions mandates), the 911 is being closely watched for a first-ever hybrid option. But the LA reveal shed no light on that possibility.

Nor does the 911 move its engine amidships — as the IMSA Weathertech GTLM model has done. That feature remains exclusive to the race car.

The 2020 911 is available for orders now and will reach U.S. showrooms next summer.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.