FIRST DRIVE

The 911 Cabrio is still all about driv­ing first and pos­ing next

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On the Web - karla.pin­cott@cars­guide.com.au

En­thu­si­ast alert: We drive the new Car­rera top­less. Or some­thing like that. It was quite hot.

NO­BODY wants to wreck a win­ning for­mula. Es­pe­cially at Porsche, where the heart and soul of the brand, the 911, has a de­voted fan club and a podium po­si­tion in sports car his­tory. So it’s no sur­prise the sev­en­th­gen­er­a­tion 911 sticks to the for­mula that has ap­plied since 1963, with tweaks to shed weight, add power and save fuel. There are techno trick­ery and clever fea­tures but no ex­treme changes that might frighten the faith­ful.

DE­SIGN

As you’d ex­pect, the new Porsche 911 con­vert­ible looks pretty much like the old one. But it also now looks more like the coupe in pro­file, thanks to the line of the new pow­er­re­tractable soft-top, which in­cludes rigid pan­els but is lighter and folds more swiftly than the cur­rent de­sign. It can be opened and closed at up to 50km/h and has a pop-up wind de­flec­tor to keep the cabin breezy with­out be­ing bat­tered.

The body is slightly low­er­slung than the out­go­ing car, longer and wider, em­pha­sised by tail-lights trimmed to hor­i­zon­tal sliv­ers that al­most risk a copy­right call from As­ton Martin. There are new wheels that add an arch-fill­ing inch to give the Car­rera 19-inch­ers and the Car­rera S 20s.

More alu­minium and high­strength steels have been used to trim weight to as lithe as 1450kg, side mir­rors have mi­grated to the doors and the roofline is said to have been low­ered by a tiny 5mm.

The cabin gets switchgear from the Panam­era and a new colour dis­play screen but the big­gest change is the fit­ment of hefty me­tal pad­dles be­hind the wheel.

VALUE

The starter Car­rera will be priced from $255,100, the Car­rera S from $288,300. What cars can you get for the same sort of money? Quite a few.

But what can you get with the same com­bi­na­tion of per­for­mance, han­dling, en­gi­neer­ing in­tegrity and, by no means least, styling that says quiet con­fi­dence rather than neu­rotic at­ten­tion­seek­ing? Not many.

Jaguar’s XKR Con­vert­ible is in the ball­park at $263,000 with re­strained style and a thump­ing su­per­charged 5.0-litre V8 slot­ted in af­ter the brand’s shift from Ford to Tata (a move that purists de­cried but which hasn’t seemed to do any harm). And there’s fa­mil­iar­ity to the styling, although in this case its be­cause the Jag is due for a make-over.

There’s the As­ton Martin Van­tage V8 Road­ster at $274,698 with a 4.7-litre V8, stun­ning looks and all the ca­chet of be­ing re­lated to James Bond’s steed of choice. But it’s not as sharp or re­fined as the Porsche. And touches of Ford here and there will re­mind you 007 drove a Mon­deo too.

And you can’t en­tirely dis­miss the 4.7-litre V8 Maserati Gran Cabrio, which has ar­guably one of the loveli­est bod­ies around, but at $328,000 is over­priced with­out match­ing the 911’s en­gi­neer­ing and per­for­mance.

Yes, they’re all V8s and the Porsche is a boxer six. But it overde­liv­ers on the value scale.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The en­gine line-up is the same as in the 911 Coupes that will ar­rive here in March, but there are slight speed and ac­cel­er­a­tion penal­ties.

In the Car­rera S, the 3.8-litre six pro­duces 294kw/440nm and it sprints from rest to 100km/h in 4.7 sec­onds with the seven-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion and 4.5secs with the PDK dual-clutch au­to­mated man­ual. Top speeds are pegged at 301km/h and 299km/h re­spec­tively (the Coupe’s limit is 304km/h).

The Car­rera gets a 257kw/ 390Nm 3.4-litre six. With the man­ual, it prom­ises a top speed of 286km/h and 0-100 sprint of 5.0 sec­onds; the PDK fig­ures are 284km/h and 4.8secs.

Ef­f­i­cency mea­sures in­clude a stop-start sys­tem. Fuel con­sump­tion— if that mat­ters — starts from a claimed 8.4L/100km for the Car­rera with PDK. But even the thirsti­est of­fi­cial fig­ure is a rea­son­ably mod­est 9.7L for the man­ual S.

SAFETY

It gets six airbags, anti-lock brakes with all the ex­tras, sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trols. Add the new torque-vec­tor­ing dif­fer­en­tial— which mod­u­lates brak­ing on the in­side wheel when cor­ner­ing— and in­creased side-im­pact pro­tec­tion, and you can ex­pect it to have five-star safety.

DRIV­ING

In a mix of town driv­ing, free­ways and tight moun­tain roads, the Car­rera S proved tractable and oblig­ing. The steer­ing is quick and di­rect, with lit­tle ev­i­dence of any loss in feel from the switch to elec­tric as­sis­tance. Through mixed bends at a de­cent clip, the mas­sive 20-inch wheels al­most seemed to find their own way, the car switch­ing di­rec­tion deftly, shrug­ging off any im­pact from patches of crum­bled road.

Slip­ping the gear­box across into the faux man­ual side and flick­ing the pad­dles sparks an ea­ger burst of ac­cel­er­a­tion and the dis­tinc­tive, glo­ri­ous sound of Porsche’s flat six. Give the en­gine its head and you no­tice how quiet the cabin is. Roof up or down, and even up to los­sof-li­cence speeds, you can talk to your pas­sen­ger with­out shout­ing.

With the roof up, the 911 cabri­o­let is close to the coupe in terms of com­fort and noise lev­els and, more im­por­tantly for some, it now also looks more like the coupe.

VER­DICT

Porsche has kept re­fin­ing one of the world’s great­est sports cars. Main­tain­ing the DNA, adding tech­nol­ogy and gen­tly evolv­ing the looks are key to the 911’s en­dur­ing suc­cess.

KARLA PIN­COTT

Open herr: The Ger­mans just keep evolv­ing and re­fin­ing the 911. The Cabri­o­let looks even more like the Coupe and the cock­pit is quiet even at warp speeds

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