First DrivePorsche 911 50th Anniversary Edition escapes indulgence by being a nicely equipped well-priced 911 underneath it all – charming and appealing as ever
First DrivePorsche’s active anti-roll system adds control at the limit, but is best left on the options list
What is it?
This is the open-top version of the latest all-wheel-drive 911, and it’s also a chance to try the revised 997 in entry-level form with the 3.6-litre engine and a conventional manual gearbox rather than the new double-clutch PDK unit.
Don’t scoff at the thought, either. Choice of gearbox aside, this is just about the best-selling of all 911 variants, and Porsche has proved in the past that it can do open-top cars that don’t wobble and shake (much).
It may not be the 911 of choice for enthusiasts, but it’s still a 911, and that means it’s still a bit special.
Like the C4 coupé, very little has changed on the outside compared with the previous model – new LED lights, a reflective strip running across the rear – but quite a bit has been going on under the skin.
Although the impressively rigid structure remains unchanged, the C4 cabrio benefits from the same new electronically controlled all-wheel drive system as the C4 coupé, as well as the new direct injection flat six engines that are being rolled out across the 911 range.
It also gets a 44mm wider rear track than the rear-drive model. For the pleasure of open-top 911 motoring you’ll pay around £7k more than for the equivalent coupé, and all-wheel-drive security demands a premium of around £4300 over the equivalent two-wheel driver.
What's it like?
The cabriolet is 85kg heavier, model for model, than the C4 coupé, which isn’t a bad penalty to pay, but the extra weight does have the effect of blunting performance just a little and making the open car feel a little softer riding.
The entry-level 341bhp 3.6-litre engine is a cracker – arguably sweeter and more tuneful than the 3.8 in the S – and when linked to Porsche’s slick six-speed manual gearbox the C4 cabrio doesn’t feel all that much slower than the more powerful 3.8. Which is to say that it’s actually very quick.
Specifying the optional double-clutch PDK gearbox in theory shaves a couple of tenths off the 0-60mph time, but on the road it’s the conventional manual gearbox that works better with the less powerful engine for a crisper, more energetic and more involving experience.
There’s no escaping the fact that the cabrio, being less rigid than the coupé, doesn’t cope with bumpy roads quite as well, sending little tremors through the steering column and the odd shudder through the structure, but this is still a very sporting car and a pleasure to drive.
The PTM all-wheel drive system gives the car incredible grip and stability, albeit at the expense of more understeer than the RWD models and more weight to the steering.
Lower the more durable fabric roof – a process that takes 20 seconds – and there’s more wind buffeting in the cabin than you might expect of an upmarket convertible – a wind deflector might be useful - but the upside is that you can hear the howling, growling flat six better than ever.
It’s a more visceral and less relaxing experience than you’d get in, say, a Jaguar XKR convertible, but none the worse for it.
Should I buy one?
It’s debatable whether you need the extra traction and stability afforded by all-wheel drive in the UK, and the coupé is the sharper and more rewarding car to drive, so a C4 cabrio certainly wouldn’t be our first choice if we were buying a 911.
But we can understand why people like (and buy) open-top 911s. Among convertibles – even ones with sporting pretentions – there’s nothing quite like it.