The next-generation Porsche 911 has entered the final phase of testing before its official debut. Engineers are taking prototypes to some of the planet’s most inhospitable places and logging thousands of miles to ensure the car can withstand anything future owners will throw at it, from the scorching heat of Death Valley to the frigid cold north of the Arctic Circle. Pictures from the tests shed valuable insight into what we can expect from the next 911, a car that has become the backbone of the Porsche brand.
Though the prototypes are still covered in camouflage, it’s not difficult to get an idea of what the next-generation 911 looks like. The headlights are still oval — no surprises there. Porsche tried to move away from that archetypal styling cue with the 996-generation 911 and fans revolted. It still looks like a 911, too, but the rear lights are now connected by a light bar and the vents on the decklid gets a new-look design that integrates the third brake light. The changes are evolutionary at best.
We haven’t seen images of the 911’s interior yet. If we were to guess, we’d say the model will likely receive the 12.3-inch touchscreen found in bigger models like the Panamera and the Cayenne. The tachometer will remain front and center but Porsche could integrate a driver-configurable display into the instrument cluster.
We expect the next 911 will receive the clever InnoDrive software already offered on the Panamera and the Cayenne. Think of it as a super-cruise control system that doesn’t neuter a sports car’s impulses. It’s on when needed and off when it’s not. The 911 might come with other electronic driving aids, too, but Porsche isn’t trying to force tech onto buyers. One thing is crystal clear: the 911 will always have a steering wheel. August Acheitner, the director of the 911 model line, stresses his baby will be one of the last cars on the market to drive autonomously.
“We know where we’re from and we know where we want to go,” Acheitner explained in an interview. Porsche prudently wants to stay true to the 911’s spirit, but it can’t afford to ignore industry trends like digitalization, electrification, and connectivity. Acheitner and his team members took each of these areas into consideration when they began developing the “992.” Engineers picked out which features they could incorporate into the 911 right away, set aside the ones they’d come back to in the future, and put the ones that would dilute the formula back on the shelf.
Porsche wants to keep technical specifications under wraps until the 911’s big debut. Sources close to the company have previously hinted the next-generation model (which is code-named 992 internally) will use an evolution of the current car’s turbocharged flat-six engine. The portfolio will include only Carrera-badged models at launch but it will again grow with the addition of Targa, GTS, Turbo, and GT3 variants.
The big question mark hovering above the next 911 is whether it will incorporate electrification. Acheitner, like other top Porsche executives, hinted it’s a strong possibility. He didn’t explicitly confirm it, but he highlighted the model’s tendency to evolve mechanically over the past couple of decades. First, it adopted water-cooled engines. Then, more recently, the Carrera models downsized and went turbo-only. Electrification seems like the next logical step forward, very likely in the form of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain capable of running on battery power for short distances.
Porsche laid the rumors of an all-electric 911 to rest — at least for the time being. While the next-generation model won’t offer a pure electric option, the 911 could lose its flat-six sooner or later. “Two years ago I’d have said no way. Today, I wouldn’t categorically rule it out,” Acheitner remarked.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see the next-generation Porsche 911 break cover in November 2018 at the Los Angeles auto show. Acheitner’s team isn’t done with the current-generation 991 model, though. It produced the most powerful naturally aspirated engine ever fitted to a street-legal 911 and stuffed it between the rear fenders of the updated GT3 RS. And, Porsche will send off the current 911 by building a super-sexy Speedster model.
Updated 11-6-2018: Added the latest information about the 2020 911.