First Drive

Porsche 911 Carrera S manual 2020 UK review

There’s something almost incongruous about the appearance of the old-school gearlever in the 992’s high-tech cabin, which is all glossy touch-sensitive buttons and wall-to-wall TFT screens. Sprouting from the transmission tunnel in the place where the PDK’s stubby gear selector is normally placed, it sticks out like a leather-topped sore thumb. Yet reach for it and you’ll find it’s placed at just the right height and distance for minimum-effort shifting.

You’ll need to let the gearbox oil warm through first, because when it’s cold, the shift action has a notchy action and the slight feeling of fragility about it. Once up to temperature, though, it’s an absolute delight. The lever’s short throw and precise action allow you to slice through the first six ratios using little more than fingertip pressure. Seventh is still out on a limb, but it’s easier to engage than before and delivers a proper overdrive ratio of around 40mph per 1000rpm for seriously relaxed cruising, tyre roar aside.

Even using the clutch is a pleasure. It’s not too heftily weighted, so progress through traffic won’t leave your quadriceps crying in anguish, while its progressive take-up allows you to easily nail smooth upchanges. Another aid to silky shifts is the rev-match system, which accurately marries engine, gearbox and road speeds for perfect downshifts. Of course, the Porsche’s pedals are so well arranged that you’ll be quickly disengaging this kit and breaking out the heel-and-toe technique. And this is where the manual 911 comes to the fore: its ability to draw you into and make you a part of the action is unmatched by any other model in the line-up. 

The manual gearbox also lets you really stretch that glorious twin-turbocharged flat six, whose outrageous muscle is often disguised by the PDK’s slick delivery, which always puts you in the right gear at the right time. In the manual, you can be a gear or two higher than ideal and yet there’s always plenty of lag-free urge. Even at 1500rpm, there’s meaningful boost, while by 2000rpm, the 911 is really hauling hard, the familiar hollow bark from the sports exhaust given turbo twist thanks to the compressors’  whistle and wastegate flutter. This is a seriously quick car.

The rest of the car is pure 992, which means it’s a 911 in its most polished form. Yes, it’s a little larger than before, but it’s still more compact than most and the excellent visibility means its size never feels intimidating. The steering has beautifully calibrated rate of response and an oily slickness that allows pinpoint placement, while the mid-corner balance is uncanny given that pendulous mass hanging out over the rear axle. Better still, you can feel through your fingertips and buttocks exactly what the car is doing, allowing you to edge up to and over the edge of grip, while the finely honed stability systems give just enough leeway to exploit the limited-slip diff on corner exit for some genuine throttle steer. 

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