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