Porsche knows not to mess with the 911, but also knows how to weave in progress

We’ll see a brand-new Porsche 911 before the end of the year. Passing the torch from one generation to the next is always a big moment for the brand. The 911 unquestionably remains one of the most emblematic cars ever designed and it’s still the backbone of the Porsche lineup. That’s why the styling won’t take a dramatic leap forward. Images of a fully camouflaged pre-production prototype confirm the next-generation model (called 992 internally) will look like a 911. What else did you expect? The tech under the sheet metal will evolve significantly, however.

“We know where we’re from and we know where we want to go,” August Acheitner, the director of the 911 model line, 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.

He’s not ready to reveal the recipe they’ve selected. 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. Acheitner stresses his baby will be one of the last cars on the market to drive autonomously.

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’ll learn additional details about the next 911 in the coming months. Porsche hasn’t revealed its debut date, but we expect it will break cover this fall and arrive in showrooms next year as a 2020 model. That means the current, 991-generation car will stick around for one final model year.

Speaking of, Acheitner’s team isn’t done with the 991. 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. On sale now, the model will make its public debut next month at the Geneva Auto Show.

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