First Drive: The New 911 Carrera and Carrera S Convertible
Porsche 911 Cabriolet – the new 991 takes its top off Text by - CJ Hubbard What is it?
New Cabriolet version of the latest 991 series Porsche 911. Why should I care?
Even the base-model now has 350hp and hits 60mph in under 5 seconds. Plus the roof is actually pretty clever. How fast and how much?
3.4 Carrera: 350hp @ 7,400rpm
Seven-speed manual: 0-60mph 4.8, vmax 177mph, MRSP $93,700
Seven-speed PDK: 0-60mph 4.6 (4.4 with optional Sport Plus), vmax 176mph, MRSP $97,780
3.8 Carrera S: 400hp @ 7,400rpm
Seven-speed manual: 0-60mph 4.3, vmax 188mph, MRSP $96,400
Seven-speed PDK: 0-60mph 4.1 (3.9 with optional Sport Plus), vmax 187mph, MRSP $100,480
Catch a glimpse of a dark painted car with a dark fabric roof, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking the new 991 911 Cabriolet for a regular coupé – the silhouette is now almost identical.
This is thanks to the new flush-fitting ‘panel bow’ soft-top design, which has allowed Porsche to get closer than ever to that iconic 911 shape for those days of the year when you just can’t get the top down. Since this takes just 13 seconds, and can be actioned at up to 31mph there are few excuses, however. But anyway, refinement is increased, too.
A different kind of animal?
Add in a clever new electrically operated wind blocker that flips up from behind the rear seats with no assembly required, and you’ve got one slick convertible solution. Bose (445 watts) and Burmester (800 watts) stereo options both feature a bodyshell-mounted subwoofer that saves space and generates cleaner bass, there are 18-way electrically adjustable sports seats available with cooling as well as heating functions, and the Panamera-influenced high-rise center console is symptomatic of an increased amount of luxury (not to mention buttons).
All of which might strike you as a funny way to start a sports car review – but it’s clear that the 991 911 is a slightly different kind of animal. Despite taking up only marginally more road space that the 997 it replaces, the new car feels curiously wider – which definitely grabs your attention on the exceptionally narrow ribbons of mountain tarmac around Gran Canaria. Yet it’s also more comfortable and easier to drive fast, thanks to the extended wheelbase, wider front track and the filtering effect of the new electro-mechanical power steering.
End result? A 911 that, especially as a convertible, initially seems more Grand Tourer than pure flat-to-the-floor-er. There’s even extra legroom in the back.
But who are we kidding? Turn that frown upside down – this is still a 911. Make no mistake.
This is still a 911
Porsche may have been seduced by the fuel-saving attributes of electro-mechanical assistance, and this may have robbed the car of really detailed feedback at the front end. But its engineers have tuned the new system with prodigious accuracy, and driven hard you aren’t about to forget the 911 still has its engine fitted at the ‘wrong end’. The traction and the balance remain sublime, and this unique drivetrain layout continues to imbue the Porsche with huge character, regardless of whether you pick the coupé or the convertible.
It won’t surprise you to learn that the Cabrio has been in the plan since Porsche began engineering the 991. So even without a roof its “dynamic torsional stiffness” is increased by 18% while the aluminum and steel hybrid construction means weight is down by as much as 60kg compared to the equivalent 997. It is still 70kg heavier than the coupé – and thus 0.2 seconds slower to 60mph across the board – but this gap is 15kg less than before, and despite accommodating solid magnesium panels the new soft-top is the exact same 36kg.
Bare figures to one side, this is a Cabriolet you can properly enjoy. Over smooth roads it feels absolutely rock solid, and even broken surfaces will have to try pretty determinedly to upset it. The optional Sport Chrono package includes active engine mounts now, closing up another area of potential flex. With Sport Chrono’s Sport Plus mode engaged, a PDK-equipped 400hp 3.8 Carrera S becomes supremely aggressive, snapping home the upshifts and deploying the new Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus to really sharpen up the direction changes.
It is alive.
Possession with intent
But then, it is also quite heavily electronically assisted – even without the optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control. Gladly then, Porsche is still offering a stick shift alternative. The new seven-speed ‘box feels a little clumsy on first acquaintance, but with pedals placed just so for some gloriously indulgent use of the old heal and toe, not to mention a fully mechanical limited slip differential – the PDK has, again, an electronic alternative – the manual puts you more firmly in control.
Whether you buy a 911 Cabriolet with that kind of intent is a different matter. But the manual 3.8 also jumps the last few rpm towards the redline in the same way you jump when the hot water suddenly stops in the shower – with massive urgency. Somehow this commitment hit is lessened in the PDK, snarled up amongst the drama of the twin-clutch upshift, gorgeous metal paddles and all. Naturally the PDK is faster off the line; Sport Chrono’s PDK launch control sees 0-60mph gone in 4.1 seconds now, 0.4 seconds quicker than Porsche quotes for the stick.
What then of the new 350hp 3.4 Carrera? Slower on paper – by a couple of tenths – it doesn’t really give away very much on the road at all, at least until you’re closing in on triple digits. It’s a sweet motor, and less cluttered with standard-fit driver assistance acronyms, so could actually prove more of a purist’s tool. Don’t rule it out.
It’s a rare moment when the lack of a roof actually impinges on the driving involvement to the point where it becomes genuinely irritating. For the most part you can simply settle in and enjoy the experience of hustling that 911 chassis with the space above you open up to the sun. If you think that’s a fair price to pay for losing a little of the coupé’s ultimate precision, then I for one am not going to hold it against you.
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet remains a standard by which all other soft-top sports cars must be judged.