Tuesday 19 July 2016
Summer is upon us (hopefully), so now’s the time to grab the keys to a convertible Porsche. Is the post-turbo 911 still king of the cabriolets?
Porsche has been making convertible sports cars since Moses, so it’s no surprise that the second phase of the 991-series 911 comes with a canvas roof option. It’s quite the canvas roof, though, with several layers of acoustic fabrics and other sound deadening materials that make it damn near as quiet as the coupé.
It shares the same new 3.0-litre turbocharged engine as the hard-top, squeezing 414bhp from its six horizontally-opposed cylinders. The bigger news is torque, though, where there’s so much pulling power that Porsche had to develop a completely new type of clutch for the manual gearbox.
As a mid-life update it’s fair to say that even less has changed than usual for a 911. The round headlights and weight-rearwards silhouette are as familiar as mum’s cooking.
As for image, the 911 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea simply because it’s everyone else’s cup of tea. It’s so usable, so classy and so well understood that it never needs to be explained to neighbours, golf partners or business associates. It just works, and people only ever dislike the image because the car is so widespread. Or because they haven’t got one.
There are rear seats but they’re about as comfortable as a Turkish prison, so they’re for short trips only or for shoving coats or soft bags onto. The fronts are much better, and you’ve got a handy covered storage tray, useful (if narrow) door pockets and lots of adjustment in the driving position.
Under the bonnet is a 145-litre storage bay that’s much more useful than it has any right to be. Weekend bags and a couple of coats for two will drop right in with room to spare.
Turbocharging means the latest 911's character is generally softer, having lost the crispness in its throttle response compared to the old one. There’s a certain bulk to the way it behaves and responds at low speeds, too. It needs a bit of speed before it wakes up and shakes its money-maker, but you do notice just how much more tractable the new 3.0-litre is. It picks up cleanly from sub-1,000rpm in top gear if you ask it to.
The engine is tuned to give a kick at 5,000rpm, like an old normally-aspirated engine with variable cam profiles. And what a kick – tall gearing makes you think it’s not as quick as it should be… until you look at the speedometer. Oops.
In Sport and Sport Plus modes the Sports Exhaust activates, if you ticked that option box. It’s naughty, but also a touch artificial. There’s something sweeter and more natural about the engine note with the exhaust switched off. Handling is typical 911, with glorious traction out of bends and huge reserves of grip, but this generation is so unyieldingly fast that it needs a wide, well-sighted road before it will give its best.
This is a £94,000 car and it doesn’t have heated seats or cruise control until you pay for optional extras. That’s an eye-opener. You’re paying for the mechanical engineering involved, and to some extent the badge. Buyers normally add £10,000 or more in upgrades, so it clearly isn’t a problem for the target audience. Don’t expect 32mpg, though – a relaxed country road average is more like 25mpg.
The 911 is a sports car that doesn’t pressure its driver to go fast all the time, and even more so with the Cabriolet. It’s a car in which to enjoy laid-back performance. There’s no denying that it delivers big-time when you ask it to, but it needs vast trouser plums and plenty of talent to reach its extremes. It’s likelier to be bought by fans of the image and the everyday ownership experience.
This car summed up in a single word: Potent
If this car was a… shirt it would be white with a tailored fit. It’s not the most exotic but it’s a popular classic for a reason.
Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet, from £94,698
Engine: Turbocharged six-cylinder petrol producing 414bhp and 369lb/ft
Transmission: Seven-speed manual driving the rear wheels
Performance: Top speed 190mph, 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds
Fuel Economy: 32.1mpg
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