Porsche 911 RAISING THE ROOF (71/100)
With forecasters predicting ever hotter UK summers, the experts at caranddriving.com discover how the latest Porsche 911 Cabriolet is shaping up for the sun.
Ten Second Review
Roof up or down, the 911 Cabriolet takes all the ingredients that make Porsche's iconic sportscar so popular and adds a splash of drama. Through new smaller turbocharged engines, even on entry-level models, Porsche is adapting the range to prepare for a fuel efficient future in the high-end sportscar market.
When the replacement for Porsche's landmark 365 model was introduced in 1963, an iconic silhouette was born which, over the next 50-plus years, would become the unmistakable outline of a 911. In 1982, the coupe was joined by a convertible model, the Cabriolet, and ever since the coupe and cabrio have co-existed, along with the quirky Targa - a coupe with a small detachable roof panel.
The Cabriolet 911 is a very different animal from the Coupe and targets a different market. In the UK, the Cabriolet version of this car remains relatively rare, with the more affordable, convertible-only Boxster model becoming almost ubiquitous on British roads. Nearly £10k more than the equivalent Coupe, the Cabriolet maintains a level of exclusivity that makes it a deeply desirable choice. The latest version of the Porsche 911 has been updated and the Cabriolet version benefits from a raft of engineering updates.
You get an advanced chassis and host of technological developments in this updated 911 but the headline change is the move to a more fuel efficient 3.0-litre turbocharged powerplant generating 370bhp in the standard Carrera model or 420bhp in the Carrera S version. This sonorous six-cylinder flat engine gives the Porsche a low centre of gravity and there's the usual all-wheel-drive 'Carrera 4' option for buyers wanting added stability, plus rear-axle steering to make cornering even more precise. The result is a convertible that feels equally at home in London or the Lake District.
With both engines, drivers can opt for a manual variant or an automatic with a PDK (Porsche Dopplekupplungsgetriebe) transmission. Despite being 20kg heavier than the manual car, the PDK Carrera version will accelerate to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds. The manual 911 Carrera Cabriolet won't hang around though, hitting 62mph in 4.8 seconds, and drivers will happily cruise past everything else on the autobahn with a top speed of 181mph (180mph with PDK). Go for the Carrera S and the performance improvement isn't massive: 62mph takes 4.7s on the way to 190mph in the manual model.
Porsche has made this the most comfortable 911, with re-designed shock absorbers able to cope with the variety of ride heights of the adaptable chassis. Those who wish to cruise around town with the top down can do so without grimacing at every speed bump and pothole.
Design and Build
The 911 Cabriolet has four seats in a 2+2 configuration. That means it has two seats up front for adults and two token seats in the back which really serve only as a storage place with seat belts. This rear space does make it more practical than the two-seat Boxster and a large-ish capacity bin under the front bonnet allows sufficient space for shopping, or luggage for a weekend away.
The boot space is up front because the defining characteristic of a 911 is the rear-mounted powerplant. The engine bay creates a pronounced rump on the rear end of the Cabriolet which doubles as a cover for the fabric roof. This marks the topless 911 Cabrio apart from the more flatly designed Boxster.
The hood houses a fixed glass rear window, opens and closes in around 13 seconds and can be operated at speeds of up to 31mph. When the roof is in place, the famous 911 silhouette is maintained by a magnesium folding structure and insulated lining. For over 50 years, Porsche's remit for the 911 has been one of evolution and improvement. This makes it one of the most robustly constructed sports cars on the road.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £85,000 - about £9,000 more than the equivalent Coupe model. There's a £9,000 premium if you want the 420bhp 'Carrera S' version rather than the standard 370bhp Carrera variant. Allow a premium of around £5,000 if you want an all-wheel drive 'Carrera 4' derivative. We'd allow a little extra in the budget for the PDK auto transmission too.
That pricing makes this car more expensive than the top of the range Jaguar F-type Convertible, but undercuts the Ferrari California T and Audi R8 Spyder by quite some margin. Options and accessories however, will soon bump up the price. There are plenty to choose from allowing endless personalisation, but it must be said that some features that you might expect to come as standard, such as adaptive cruise control, are extras on the 911.
Porsche has introduced a 'communication management system' across the 911 Carrera range. This integrates a navigation system that uses Google Earth's mapping software, with voice control and a multi-touch screen. When an iPhone is connected via WiFi, the screen offers 'Apple Car Play' functionality and compatible smartphones can be recharged wirelessly in the integrated phone tray in the centre console.
Cost of Ownership
The main aim of introducing the smaller 3.0-litre turbocharged engines is to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. The higher performance PDK model delivers better fuel economy than the manual, with an impressive 38mpg and just 172g/km CO2 compared with the manual's 33mpg and 195g/km CO2. In the UK, this means the manual 911 Cabrio will cost £60 a year more than the PDK version in annual vehicle tax.
With any premium car, servicing and maintenance also comes with a premium but, with uncompromising German build-quality, your Porsche shouldn't need much more attention than the regular recommended servicing. As testament to the reliability of these cars, Porsche estimates that over 150,000 classic 911 models are still in regular use today. Typically, the Porsche 911 sees used values drop significantly in the first year, and the Cabriolet is no exception, but thanks to its rarity, the convertible tends to be more resilient than the coupe over the following three or four years.
Porsche's 911 Carrera Cabriolet may be based on one of the world's best-selling sports cars, but it still works hard to justify the hefty premium over the more popular coupe.
While losing the roof of a 911 has previously meant losing some of the defining character that made the coupe so successful, Porsche has worked hard in more recent times to develop a car with that iconic silhouette roof up, but also one capable of befitting drama roof down. In this latest guise, that evolution continues. The improved comfort and ride, thanks to a more advanced chassis, plus the enhanced performance and frugality of the all-new 3.0-litre turbocharged engine have made the 911 Cabriolet a more complete prospect for all-year round enjoyment.
We'd recommend the PDK auto version with its slightly higher performance and more affordable running costs, but whatever variant you choose, this improved 911 Cabriolet is a comfortable, fast and agile convertible that takes full advantage of its brand's fifty years of experience in building one of the world's best sports cars.