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NO SOFT OPTION (Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet) car review


PORSCHES, in particular the 911, attract two kinds of people. You might want to insert your own vocabulary here, but let me suggest the following: purists and posers.

The purist knows the heritage, understands how the Weissach engineers have spent 40 years making what is inherently a difficult rear-engined concept into a sublime road car and appreciates that buying a 911 is to buy into heritage. The poseur, on the other hand, likes the badge and what that says about them. You can make your own call on that one.

However, the purist might not be so keen on the drop-top 911, because as anyone with an understanding of engineering will know, the roof is a crucial structural element of any car and that extra strengthening is required to make it work. But what the purist is forgetting that this is a Porsche convertible, and Porsche engineers like a challenge.

So here is the 991-series 911 Cabriolet, and the first thing you notice roof up or down is how closely it resembles the Coupe. If you had black paint and a black roof from a sufficient distance you’d be hard pressed to spot it had a fabric roof at all. So the 2012 version of the classic 911 silhouette remains wonderfully intact and like any new version it takes a little time to fully drink in the progress over the outgoing model. It is this measured incremental progress that maintains the enduring appeal.

That roof has more to offer than just the right looks. When up it keeps the cabin well insulated from noise and there’s still sufficient light getting in to the cabin. Plus rearward vision is barely different to that of the coupe. Naturally you get full electric operation so only 13 seconds of button-holding is required to let the fresh air in. When you do the roof stows very neatly behind the seats to give a clean rear deck and should you need to raise it again in a hurry (a somewhat inevitable occurrence in the UK) then you can do so whilst travelling at up to 31mph. Very handy indeed. Motoring with the roof down can be as windy or as breeze-free as you like. With the windows up and the deflector in place even higher motorway speeds fail to produce anything more than a faint rustle in the cabin, which makes long distance trips a viable prospect.

But frankly this isn’t the most important aspect of the 911 Cabriolet: what you really want to know is if it still drive like the real thing. It doesn’t take long for it to you to find the answer. After driving an ‘ordinary’ car the 911 feels almost like hard work. The clutch in this seven-speed manual requires a decent amount of heft, the shift itself doesn’t tolerate sloppiness and the brake pedal is firm but sharp. Presumably this is the difference between handling a hand-crafted Samurai sword and a plastic toy: this isn’t a machine designed for just anyone, it is intended for those who want to drive with a purpose.

The 3.8-litre flat six has as much power as you can sensibly use on a regular basis. It pulls hard from low revs whatever gear you happen to choose, and the wider the throttle is open the louder the rumble from the exhaust is. Fully extended to the red line it accelerates with eye-widening venom with that fantastic soundtrack to go with it. You can specify the sports exhaust with a button for extra loudness – but why you would have it on anything other than loud is beyond me. Each blast of acceleration is then punctuated by the quick-snap of the seven-speed manual which changes as fast as you can.

Pile into a bend and despite what you might have read the steering keeps you totally informed about what the car is doing. Inevitably you’ll find that what you thought was a fast approach turns out to be well within its limits, but more importantly you know where those limits are. It may not be an inexpensive proposition but you can drive it with confidence right from the start, and the combination of the rear-weight bias and communicative chassis turns the briefest of B-roads into a delight.

And yet this is a 911 suited to the everyday. That seventh speed is perfect for cruising, leaving six speeds for when you’re not. The brilliant roof keeps the looks and the refinement means you can have it folded more of the time. Yes it costs a little more than the coupe, but for the noise, the wind and those times when the sun shines, you’ll not regret choosing the soft option.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet, from £89,740 on the road Engine: 3.8-litre petrol unit developing 395bhp and 324lb.ft of torque Transmission: 7-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels. 7-speed PDK semi-auto gearbox optional Performance: Maximum speed 187mph, 0-62mph 4.7 seconds Economy: 29.1mpg CO2 Rating: 229g/km

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power5 (high performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups1 (very high costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4 value verdict:    stars

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