Car reviews - Porsche - 911 - Carrera cabriolet
Design, performance, refinement, ease, efficiency, PDK smoothness, handling, grip, cabin design, roof operation, comfort, solidity, quality
Room for improvement
Expensive, firm ride on 20-inch wheels, some essential items optional, base cabin ambience a tad drab
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31 May 2013
Price and equipment
WELCOME to what is arguably the prettiest 911 convertible in history – with or without the roof up.
Porsche’s decision to elongate the wheelbase and body has helped the 991-generation designers fashion a fabric top that finally matches the classic coupe silhouette.
The 991 Cabriolet, therefore, has come of age.
Impressively, it’s also 55kg lighter despite being larger – and by an impressive margin to boot – without sacrificing its 911 essence, while comfort and refinement have come in for an overhaul as well.
If all this sounds too good to be true, there’s a catch. Even after the company made big price cuts in April, it still isn’t cheap.
Ours starts at $229,900 before on-road costs, or $245k as tested as tested thanks to the $6000 PDK dual-clutch auto, $6000 exhaust and $3400 20-inch alloys.
A reverse camera and remote keyless entry/start aren’t standard.
This car costs almost half the price in some countries: around $100k in the USA. Admittedly, a lot of that difference comes from our big taxes. But Porsche isn’t totally mugging us, not when Canberra is skimming a massive slice in taxation alone.
Porsche has completely changed the dimensions and look of the interior, yet the 991 – even in Cabrio form – is pure and unmistakable 911.
Yes, the iconic proportions, high-set horizontal dash, shape of the body, and (most tellingly) location of the engine do play a part.
But for some people, being close to this car is like putting beer goggles on. Suddenly perspectives are coloured and rearranged.
It isn’t just visual either. The hefty doors thud shut as before. The cabin feels solid – if still a bit more plasticky than we’d like – and reeks of a leather-infused Stuttgart scent that could only be Porsche.
All the signature modern 911 motifs are there – five overlapping gauges, fat three-spoke steering wheel, tombstone front seats, tiny token rear seats, and a low, low driving position.
Porsche’s effort in creating a cocooning cabin that feels just like a coupe is first class. Part of that lies in the composite framework with thick insulation material, covered by sturdy and springy cloth that shuts down tight.
It takes 13 seconds to open and close, can be done so at 60km/h as well as remotely (at extra cost), and sits within a 230mm mound, for a true open-air feel.
Speaking of which, an electric air deflector markedly reduces buffeting at any legal speed in Australia. And in the unlikely event of a rollover, a pair of hoop bars will deploy with the airbags to keep the occupants from becoming people pancakes.
Our only real gripe is that a reverse camera, true keyless entry, and a remote-control roof operation aren’t included in the (now $25K cheaper) base price.
More boot space would be appreciated, while the basic cabin décor is quite dour.
Nevertheless, nothing beats the absolute versatility of a 911 that can be enjoyed as a coupe, all-four windows-down hardtop, or full-blown drop-top.
Engine and transmission
Let’s get one thing straight.
No convertible really needs more performance than the base 911, especially in a car with a chassis that can easily handle a whole lot more.
If you’re reading this in Germany, rest assured that on a de-restricted piece of autobahn, the 257kW 3.4-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine with optional seven-speed Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) will catapult the 1545kg Cabrio to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds (and two seconds faster with Sport Chrono Package) on the way to a 286km/h V-max.
Impressive numbers all, particularly when you factor in the Commodore Evoke-equalling 8.4L/100km and 198g/km consumption levels, though the constant belting we dished out to our 911 meant that we rarely saw the figure dip below 12L/100km.
Now, a fast car that revs well beyond the 7500rpm red line and makes such a glorious noise doing so (due in part to a switchable exhaust butterfly piped into the cabin like some sort of artificial automotive amplifier) is certainly worthy of the company’s coat of arms, especially as its off-the-line acceleration is obviously very rapid in the right hands.
But if you want more power, well, that’s another story. There isn’t much drama or theatre in the way the base Cabrio so cleanly and easily delivers its performance. Maybe the sheer speed and efficiency of the PDK mutes the excitement. Could this 911 be too refined?
Maybe, if we are to cast subjective needs-for-speed aside, we might desire a bit more overtaking oomph. That’s what the $266,200 294kW/440Nm 3.8-litre S version is for, though.
Our advice, then, is to enjoy the Cabrio 3.4’s laid-back charm instead.
In seventh gear at 100km/h, the engine just hums along innocuously at around 1700rpm, highlighting the cruisy and fatigue-free nature of this particular headless beast.
Just remember, though. If you want to go ballistic, the Porsche won’t hesitate to play ball. It is a 911, after all.
Ride and handling
Knowing there’s an engine slung over the rear axle, the 911 Cabrio’s dynamic capabilities are nothing less than almost supernatural.
Grip levels are just phenomenal, underlined by the sheer balance and neutrality of a chassis offering precision and poise. How does Porsche do it in a car with such a rear weight bias?
Much has been said about the electric power steering’s effect on the latest 911. In the coupe that nth degree of feel and interactivity has been lost compared to the old hydraulic set-up, and for us this is a profound disappointment.
But that’s not such a concern in the Cabrio since the helm is still fantastically responsive and sufficiently tactile, going exactly where that gun-turreted snout is pointed towards. Ferociously effective brakes help the driver keep everything in control too.
On the optional 20-inch wheels fitted, the ride is on the firm side of pliant, dealing with bad urban roads probably better than its slammed-down appearance suggests.
We found very little evidence of compromised rigidity as a result of the roof structure removed – even over gravel roads.
In most situations at least, the Cabrio, then, feels as tight as a drum – and drives just like a 911 should.
Safety and servicing
Porsche says this car achieves a five-star ENCAP crash-test rating. There is currently no fixed-price program available, while the new-car warranty is three years with unlimited kilometres.
It’s a coupe, 2+2 hardtop, and convertible all in one, this majestic 991-series Cabrio.
That makes the base 3.4 a unique proposition amongst the luxury drop-top contenders, especially as the classic 911 essence remains intact in its transition from hard to soft top.
Planted, polished and punchy, it isn’t perfect, of course, and you’ll still need to fork out a cool quarter of a million dollars for the privilege, yet this is still one of the finest convertibles on the market ever.
Better still, the Cabrio finally finds the visual grace to match its frenetic pace.
BMW 650i Convertible:
From $248,300 plus on-roads. Bavaria’s long and sleek four-seater ragtop looks and feels toweringly capable, with efficiency to match, but it still feels pretty much like a 5 Series convertible.
Aston Martin V8 S Roadster:
From $280,600 plus on-roads. Stunning in design inside and out, with a stark beauty simply unparalleled in this company. It’s also properly fast, though not as toweringly capable as the brilliant 911.
From $328,000 plus on-roads. Ferrari V8 engineering with sensuous styling sounds heavenly literally, but beneath the opulence lays a heavy car with a hard ride and soft dynamics. It’s pretty exxy too.
Make and model: Porsche 991 911 Carrera Cabriolet
, Engine type: 3.4-litre boxer six-cylinder petrol
, Layout: RWD
, Power: 257kW @ 7400rpm
, Torque: 390Nm @ 5600rpm
, Transmission: 7-speed PDK auto
, 0-100km: 4.8s
, Fuel consumption: 8.4L/100km
, CO2 rating: 198g/km
, Dimensions: L/W/H/WB 4491/1808/1299/2450mm
, Weight: 1545kg (tare mass)
, Suspension: MacPherson struts/struts and wishbones
, Steering: electric rack and pinion
, Price: From $229,900
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