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Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet: Quick Test

Involving the driver like few other cars in the world

By Emile Bouret   
The 911 Carrera S Cabriolet continues a drop-top tradition at Porsche that started with the beautifully simple 356.

Purely from a design perspective, the cabriolet version is not the best-looking of the 911 range. Personally, I'd give that title to the widebody Carrera 4S with its classic, four-decade-old 911 silhouette complementing its curvy hips seductively enough to instantly raise your blood pressure.

Still, there's no denying the unique appeal of an open Porsche on an open road. There are few life experiences more exhilarating than a quick blast down a beautiful mountain road in a fast, open-top car. The car sounds are all heightened, as is the sense of speed. Your nerve endings tingle as the engine screams toward redline and pops on the overrun.

Clearly, the 911 Cabriolet is best experienced with its fabric roof stowed, but even in the sunniest of climes, you have to raise the roof sometime. And when it's time, the Carrera's electrically operated top will raise into place in just 20 seconds.

It can also be operated at up to 30 mph—extremely handy when you decide to put the top down at a stoplight that changes to green sooner than expected.

New to the 911 Cabriolet are the optional ventilated seats, which, while maybe not the most obvious necessity in a convertible, are a godsend on hot, sunny days.

More useful still is this 911's most noteworthy new feature: Porsche's new 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission, dubbed, "PDK." Mechanically speaking, the PDK gearbox is easily the best dual-clutch transmission I've ever tried, lacking the awkward first-gear initial engagement when moving off slowly.

Once up to speed, it continues to impress with lighting quick shifts that rival the quickest sequential manual transmissions on the market. And, in its auto-mode, it plays traditional automatic extremely convincingly.

Vying for top technical highlight in all of the latest 997-based Porsche 911s is the new series of direct-injected engines. Ranging from 3.6-liters in the standard Carrera to 3.8 in our 385-horsepower Carrera S, Porsche's DFI offers several benefits - more horsepower; reduced CO2 emissions; and better fuel mileage.

Unchanged is how special the 911 Carrera S feels when you really start to stretch its legs. Let's face it, many of today's performance cars can deliver devastating pace. What continues to make Porsches so special are the intangibles.

Those of you who've experienced it know exactly what I'm talking about. And those of you who haven't had the chance to drive a 911 yet... Well, I hope you get to one day because the "feeling" of driver and car communicating so directly - almost as if the car is alive - will be instantly apparent.

Truly a special experience, top up or down, the Porsche 911 Carrera S simply involves its driver like few other cars in the world.

Watch the video

Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet

Performance
- Acceleration: PDK launch mode better than any other launch mode we've tried, including that of the Nissan GTR - shifts in Sport Plus mode are ridiculously quick
- Handling: The bobbing nose takes a little getting used to if you're not accustomed to 911s, but the handling is sublime - if there is a car with more communicative steering, we've not tried it
- Braking: Incredible deceleration helped by extra weight over the rear axle - brake fade is non-existent

Design
- Exterior: One of the great automotive shapes works, even with its roof removed - still, not the best looking 911, nor the best looking convertible out there
- Interior: 997s return to the pre-996 layout was extremely welcomed and addressed the biggest flaw of the 996 - PCM cleans up the center stack and improves things further

Utility
- Comfort: Great in the front, especially for a performance car of this nature - nonexistent in the rear, but everyone knows that
- Space: Boot is deep, but not as handy as a proper trunk - rear parcel shelf (referred to as "rear seats" by Porsche) is quite useful

Safety
- Dynamics: One of the very best stability control systems is as foolproof as you can get - evasive maneuvers a bit tricky as the front-end needs weight transfer to be effective
- Technology: Again, PASM is awesome - add to that PTM and airbags and those brakes and... yeah, it's all here and then some

Value
- Price: Yikes! That is a HUGE number... even for a car like this
- Mileage: Direct injection means that one of the most environmentally friendly sportscars is now even more so - other manufacturers should take note

Emotional Appeal
- Heart thumpin' factor: That profile and those hips will make your hairs stand up before you even start it up, and once you drop the top, it gets even more exciting
- Fun to spank: Spank isn't the right word here. Fun to drive quickly? Absolutely. But it wants to be driven cleanly and quickly, not sideways.

SPECIFICATIONS

Layout: Rear engine / Rear-wheel drive
Engine: 3.8 liter, Flat-6
POWER (SAE): 385 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch
Curb Weight: 3406 lbs.
0-60 mph: 4.5 sec.
Top Speed: 186 mph
Mileage: 17 city / 25 highway
Base Price: $103,880
Competitors: BMW M6 Convertible, Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG, Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster

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