There are cheaper alternatives, but none are as complete as this Porsche 911

What is it?

The Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet is the open-top version of the latest 911 Carrera coupé and is due to follow its closed-roofed relation onto the UK market next month.

Like its sister, the 911 Carrera Cabriolet is significantly lighter, slightly longer in wheelbase and wider in track, more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the previous generation of 911 Carrera soft-tops.

Despite lopping at least 45kg from the kerb weight of the cabrio, Porsche also claims to have improved dynamic torsional rigidity by 18 per cent over the previous iteration.

Cabrio 911s have the same flat-six engines as the coupés, with the £79,947 Carrera featuring the 3.4-litre version that has 345bhp, 236lb ft of torque and a standstill to 62mph figure of 5.0sec.

The £89,740 Carrera S is fitted with the 3.8-litre powerplant that produces 395bhp and 325lb ft and can cover the 0-62mph sprint half a second quicker.

Both variants come with seven-speed manual gearboxes as standard but, providing you can pronounce ‘Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe’ to your dealer, you’ll be able to order the Stuttgart manufacturer’s excellent dual-clutch transmission.

With PDK come slighter quicker 0-62mph times, fractionally lower outright top speeds and, more significantly, improved fuel economy. On the subject of efficiency, all 911 Carreras are now fitted with stop-start as standard.

If you’re still not impressed by the eye-widening acceleration of the PDK-equipped 911, you can specify the optional Sport Chrono Package. It comes with a ‘Sport Plus’ setting that further sharpens up the car’s dynamics and transmission, with a claimed 0-62mph time of 4.3secs.

What’s it like?

Structurally, the Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet is fractionally lower than the hard-top variant, but we’re talking a difference of a few millimetres. The car’s interior, too, follows the coupé and takes some styling cues from the Porsche Panamera.

The main head-turning feature is the all-new ‘panel bow top’ roof, the frame of which is constructed from fabric and composite plastic and sits on a frame made of magnesium and aluminium.

This new roof has several packaging benefits, not least that Porsche has been able the follow the profile of the coupé’s roofline more closely than it could with the old-style multi-layered fabric structure. Dropping the roof is a case of pushing a button on the centre console – 13 seconds later the structure is neatly stowed away under the compartment lid.

The 911 Carrera S Cabriolet features a wind deflector that can be deployed from the cockpit, so there’s no faffing around trying to fit a deflector that lives in the boot. Although it can’t eliminate all wind noise and buffeting, the reduction in the amount of cockpit ‘swirl’ with the deflector raised is dramatic.

Despite weighing 50kg more than the coupé and losing that roof, the cabriolet handles deftly and with composure on most roads. Dreaded cabriolet ‘scuttle shake’ seems pretty much non-existent – at least it did on our test drive on a comprehensive selection of road surfaces in Gran Canaria. Even pressing hard over some broken, uneven asphalt didn’t seem to untowardly unsettle the car thanks to Porsche’s Active Suspension Management (PASM) – a ride-smoothing system that isn’t featured on all versions.

Back to top

If it lacks quite the same level of driver engagement as the closed-topped version, it makes up for it with its assault on the senses when you’ve got the roof down. The 395bhp is deployed in smooth waves, and with maximum power so high in the rev range, you sometimes wonder if you’ll ever scale the peak of it.

Combined with that, the exhaust note has a range that would make an opera singer jealous. At town cruising speeds the cabriolet burbles along with just enough noise to remind you what’s sitting over your shoulder. On the open road, it comes alive with a captivating, ever-changing soundtrack.

The 911 Carrera S Cabriolet’s brakes are outstanding, offering confidence-inspiring levels of progressive bite, and the new electro-mechanical steering hasn’t turned into the bane of this new Porsche, as was feared.

Our test car was fitted with PDK transmission. The little throttle blips it effects on down changes in auto mode are pleasingly neat and precise, although the transmission doesn’t require the same level of involvement as a manual. The PDK also made use of the ‘coasting’ fuel-saving system that’s a feature of the double-clutch gearbox. When you lift off the throttle gently, the system disengages the gear that you’re currently in. If you touch the brake or throttle, the gear is re-engaged.

It’s an uncanny feeling to be cruising along in a thoroughbred sports car with no engine noise, even only intermittently. Almost as unsettling as stop-start; Porsche’s system is undoubtedly clever, but it can also be obtrusive in a way that you don’t tend to notice on less sporty, quieter cars.

Should I buy one?

Yes, as long as that £90k price tag (for the Carrera S) doesn’t scare you off. The tweaks and improvements Porsche has made to the cabriolet compared to its predecessors mean it is certainly worth every penny, but this mature sportscar has a grown-up price tag to match.

The 911 Carrera Cabriolet is a ‘serious fun’ car: on one level there are sumptuous levels of luxurious refinement and sophistication, but underneath there lurks a demonic glint of sports car steel. Tap into that, and it’s a rewarding experience

Back to top

Those occasions when you can drop the roof and get over-friendly with the throttle, unleashing the full sonorous rasp of the flat-six behind you, are both spine-tingling and grin-inducing. Okay, the coupé will remain the pure drivers’ option, but it would be a shame if this cabriolet is only used for posing on continental seafronts.

Sure, there are cheaper – and you could possibly say more charismatic – ways to get your drop-top thrills, but it’s a struggle to think of alternative convertibles that are as complete as this.

Porsche 911 Carrera S cabriolet (PDK)

Price: 118,441 euros (UK price tbc); Top speed: 186mph; 0-62mph: 4.5sec; Economy: 31.7mpg; CO2: 210g/km; Kerb weight: 1485kg; Engine: flat six, 3800cc, petrol; Power: 395bhp at 7400rpm; Torque: 325lb ft at 5600rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Boris911 14 February 2012

Re: Porsche 911 Carrera S cabriolet

Can't help but think the 911's pricing is pushing the envelope. I was at my local Porsche dealership today and priced a 911S Cab with the only options being sports seats and PDK. It came out at almost double the price for a new model Boxster S with sports seats and PDK. Now I know they are different cars, but double the money seems a lot for what is far from double the product. Both Porsche, both 2 door coupes, both convertibles, both ostensibly two seaters, one a bit more potent than the other, but still, double the money!! Fair point or is it me getting old?

kdwilcox 10 February 2012

Re: Porsche 911 Carrera S cabriolet

I would have the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster on my drive thank you,

looks,character and overall desirability.

Diff 10 February 2012

Re: Porsche 911 Carrera S cabriolet

Do as Jeremy Clarkson says - buy the Mercedes SLS. It's the best convertible.