Not just for hairdressers
19 October 2004

Wheelarches fatter than the average owner’s wallet, dinner-plate sized drilled discs gleaming through mammoth 18in alloys and, yes, an electrically folding canvas top.

A seemingly incongruous clash of ideals – this is 911 Hollywood-style. Only we’re not in LA; this is Britain in October, it’s raining drops of water like knitting needles and the newspaper lying next to the Porsche keys is warning Brits to expect the sort of winter that would test the mettle of a Siberian husky. Clearly this isn’t perfect weather to enjoy Porsche’s new 911 Turbo Cabriolet, the first of the current turbo cars (but still using the outgoing 996 body shape) to get the roofless treatment.

Even leaving aside the UK’s inclement weather, you’re left with the thought that only the omission of the Tiptronic transmission (available as an option but not fitted to this car) denies this new Porsche the dubious distinction of being the least 911-like 911 money can buy. Cabriolet conversions rarely drive as well as the hard-top cars on which they’re based, the combination of the added weight used to replace the strength lost when cutting a huge hole in the roof and the slightly wobbly structure proving to be an anathema to hard-core enthusiasts.

Then there’s the inescapable fact that drop-top 911s have always looked slightly inelegant beside their coupé contemporaries. The arrival of the prettier Boxster drew further attention to the 911’s ungainly hunched back, so effectively disguised by the all-metal car’s more handsome roofline.

But your first drain cover scotches any suspicions that this is nothing more than a four-wheeled trinket for poseurs in a hurry. The sort of shimmy and shake from the steering column and windscreen that blights the likes of Maserati’s Spider is barely an issue with this car, and given how stiff the suspension feels around town that’s particularly admirable. In fact it’s stiff enough to set CDs skipping, but it takes a few miles of grimacing before you trust the chassis not to flex over Catseyes and ruts.

But what of the steering? Stepping back into a 996, albeit a four-wheel drive one, so soon after driving the new 997 Carerra S is a revelation. Feeling that familiar jiggling sensation as the front wheels wire even the most seemingly inconsequential detail back to your hands rams home just why we had reservations about the new car’s slightly anaesthetised variable-ratio rack. But the 997’s vastly superior cabin quality makes this car’s interior look distinctly off the pace.

There’s more understeer on wet roads than we remember from our last encounter with a Turbo coupé, and while given enough room and right foot commitment the tail will eventually arc round in a satisfying slide, it won’t happen often on the road. But all that traction just means more opportunities to unleash the full 414bhp and the 413lb ft that hurls the car to 62mph in the same 4.3sec it takes the tin-top, despite an extra 70kg. And if that’s not fast enough, there’s always the Turbo Cabriolet S, with its extra 30bhp and standard carbon brakes.

We’d never recommend you choose a 911 cabriolet over a regular fixed-head car, but if you’re determined to catch rays at three miles a minute, this is one of the best ways to do it.

Chris Chilton

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK