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Monday 13th February 2012

Driven: Porsche 911 Cabriolet (991)

Can an open-top 911 really be a proper 911? Time to put prejudice to the test



We're not supposed to like the Porsche 911 Cabriolet. Why is this exactly? The open-top sports car is a long-standing tradition, not to mention the origin of Porsche with 356 'No 1'. Driving with the roof down lends every trip a greater sense of occasion - insert obligatory MX-5 reference here.


But somehow the 911 Cabriolet is excluded from this rule - theoretically creating a kind of chasm between 'real' 911 owners and those merely in it for the pose. Perhaps it's because the 911 coupe is so good that to detract from the perfection of this celebrated automotive form in any way at all can only be considered a betrayal by the 'true' petrolhead. The cabrio is inevitably heavier and slower and less rigid than its fixed-head companion, inevitably a compromise - even when it's been in the development programme since day one. Or perhaps it's just because the open top 911 always appears a little bit ... ugly.

Does my bum look big?
There's a bulbousness to the rear deck lid when the top's down that's somehow slightly offensive. It makes an otherwise athletic car look overweight, podgy. But with the roof up the 991 will surely draw fewer objections, because Porsche has managed to replicate the silhouette of the coupé with spooky precision.


This is largely thanks to a clever new 'panel bow' soft-top design comprising four underlying rigid sections - two magnesium panel bows, the glass rear window and the front roof frame - that slot together to create a smooth exterior surface. The appearance and refinement are improved without adding weight or taking up any more space; the new roof is the exact same 36kg as the 997's.

It takes just 13 seconds to activate, and this is possible at speeds of up to 31mph. Porsche isn't done with the automated trickery there though, since it's also added an electrically operated wind blocker - which can be brought to attention up to 75mph.

If you're getting a sense Porsche is putting convenience ahead of purity here, then the additional luxuriousness of the 991's interior probably isn't going to sit very well with you. It seems to have lost that clinical sporting focus - although in the case of the pale brown 3.8-litre Carrera S manual we sampled first, the overwhelmingly beige finish probably wasn't especially helpful. It was like clambering inside a 400hp chocolate biscuit.

Manual labour
However, the 991 Cabrio weighs up to 60kg less than the 997 thanks to the new aluminium and steel hybrid construction, and despite "18 per cent higher dynamic torsional stiffness". It's 70kg heavier than the coupé, and a couple of tenths slower to 62mph across the board; like its brother it's now available with some very clever electronic driver aids, all on hand to make you go faster.


Dan preferred the manual, and we can understand why - the pedals are beautifully spaced and it takes away some of Porsche's determined electronic intervention. But on the tortuously narrow and exceptionally twisty mountain roads of Gran Canaria, where it was difficult to get out of second gear, let alone third, the 911 feels weirdly big and the gate a touch clumsy.

The PDK by contrast is razor sharp, and makes the whole car seem more alive to your inputs - Porsche has really gone to town integrating every single one of those electronic assistance systems in the double-clutcher - and the solid metal paddles are gorgeously tactile. Too efficient, though? Perhaps.

It's as if the 911 Cabriolet really is built for big smooth roads and wide open spaces, where you can enjoy its expanded view of the scenery. If you want to drive hard and fast over more challenging surfaces, then that inevitable compromise is going to become more apparent. This is a stiff car for a convertible, but it's no coupé.

Face your demons
And yet, it is still a 911. If you'd rather have that unique rear-engine brilliance and the feel of the wind in your hair, exactly where is the shame in that? Ok, so the front end is less communicative now, but Porsche doing electro-mechanical power steering is better than anyone else we can think of, and this remains a machine built on decades of pedigree and development. It's a class above the majority of its open-air peers.

A highly unscientific hot-footed pursuit of a 3.8 PDK in a 3.4 manual suggests the 350hp car doesn't give much away in reality, at least until you start approaching triple digits - it's a really sweet engine. Be careful with the spec and we can see the lesser model being a hoot. And maybe the best riposte to those who think 911 Cabriolet owners prefer looking flash to pedalling with intent.





PORSCHE 911 CARRERA CABRIOLET (991)
Engine:
3,436cc flat-6 (S 3,800cc)
Transmission: 7-speed manual/7-speed PDK, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 350@7,400rpm (S 400hp@7,400rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 287@5,600rpm (S 324@5,600rpm)
0-62mph: 5.0/4.8 manual/PDK (S 4.7/4.5 manual/PDK)
Top speed: 178mph/176mph manual/PDK (S 186mph/187mph manual/PDK)
Weight: 1,525kg/1,545kg manual/PDK (S 1,540kg/1,560kg manual/PDK)
MPG: 30.7/33.6 manual/PDK (S 29.1/31.7, all NEDC combined)
CO2: 217g/km/198g/km manual/PDK (S 229g/km/210g/km manual/PDK)
Price: £79,947 (S £89,740)

 

 

 

cjhubbard
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Author Discussion

Luca Brasi

Original Poster:

842 posts

61 months

[news] 
Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
That is properly quick for the 'base' 911 eek

fastgerman

924 posts

82 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
911 Cabriolet - ugly? I don't think so :-)


tuffer

6,189 posts

154 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
I have never been a fan of the 911 convertible but this is the first variant that I would be tempted with, lines are fantastic and it has lost that awkward fat arse.

kambites

41,274 posts

108 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
Hmm, perhaps slightly oddly the first thing that sprang to mind looking at those pictures, is that those seats look down-right dangerous. The headrest is about six inches too low and doesn't look adjustable? Have Porsche really buggered up the ergonomics that badly?

All in all, I think the longer, lower shape make the cabrio look a lot less ungainly than the previous ones which were, as you say, decidedly ugly things.

aston addict

84 posts

45 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
I think they've done a great job with the new one. Before, I viewed the 911 cabrio as a kind of automotive apology - like Porsche was saying 'well we need a more expensive convertible for the US market so let's chop the roof off - and btw sorry it looks odd' - but now, thanks to the new roof and leaner styling, this one looks decent.

But why-o-why do they insist on supplying test cars with the most god-awful interiors? Beige and the red one pictured are so incredibly naff - is style that bad in Germany?
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atifrana

1 posts

87 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
hate it when geeks design the interiors of a car....whats with the center console ???...how can you possibly fit two people in the driver seat ???????

CliveM

408 posts

72 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
fastgerman said:
911 Cabriolet - ugly? I don't think so :-)

Always thought it was an ugly car - but from that angle I have to admit it looks pretty good. Shades of the curvaciousness of a 993 (for me at least). A shame it's not so pretty from other angles (again, for me at least).

IAJO

213 posts

45 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
I'd love one of these, be a great drive on a sunny day. Great colours in those pics too, black interiors are way too boring.

bigsillyV10

37 posts

34 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
I love the 911, in all it incarnations and am back looking for a 996. However I can not bring myself to even like the soft top. I think soft top versions of cars are great, from my first XR3i convertible to the Alfa Spider I have that only comes out in sunny days, they are generally more attractive than their hard top counterparts, but not the 911. I am not a pureist beard stroker I just dont like it, even if on the used market they are a good few grand cheaper than the coupe.

Cacatous

2,942 posts

160 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
Apparently the Toyaburu GT86's steering is better than Porsche's.

The Pits

4,156 posts

127 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
If hydraulic power steering is so much better, why did they switch to electric steering?

rottie102

3,186 posts

71 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
Cacatous said:
Apparently the Toyaburu GT86's steering is better than Porsche's.
Porsche's what? Latest creation? wink

VladD

5,379 posts

152 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
CliveM said:
fastgerman said:
911 Cabriolet - ugly? I don't think so :-)

Always thought it was an ugly car - but from that angle I have to admit it looks pretty good. Shades of the curvaciousness of a 993 (for me at least). A shame it's not so pretty from other angles (again, for me at least).
It reminds me of the time that Kenny Everett did his Rod Stewart impersonation.

cathalm

595 posts

131 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
The Pits said:
If hydraulic power steering is so much better, why did they switch to electric steering?
Costs more and is less efficient. Moving to electric is one of the many little detail changes that car makers are using to affect emissions, mpg etc. A great shame but there we are.

Numeric

360 posts

38 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
I will say this - the emissions are amazingly low and full credit must go to Porsche for this bit of cake and eat it stuff.

Sure I know that in the real world you'd be 25% off - but the benfits will still show. And for perspective, the Astra VXR of just a few years ago had a CO2 of 224 and wasn't near on performance. (though oddly after 50k miles claimed to have achieved identical MPG to the quoted combined cycle tha Vauxhall listed)

The Pits

4,156 posts

127 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
Is electric steering typically lighter than hydraulic?

M666 EVO

888 posts

49 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
That is a gorgeous car, nice lines and in proportion perfectly.

But the interior? The colour is garish. Black would be better IMO

kambites

41,274 posts

108 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
The Pits said:
Is electric steering typically lighter than hydraulic?
No particular reason that it should make any difference to the weight of the steering. Either can make the steering as light or as heavy as you want.

For that matter, I can think of no good reason that it should rob the steering of most its feel either, but in practice it does seem to. Hydraulic power steering systems were pretty rubbish when they first appeared, I'm sure electric ones will get better. By all accounts the one in the GT86 is rather good.

loudlashadjuster

1,240 posts

71 months

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Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
That interior! Meine augen!

The Pits

4,156 posts

127 months

[news] 
Monday 13th February 2012 quote quote all
kambites said:
No particular reason that it should make any difference to the weight of the steering. Either can make the steering as light or as heavy as you want.

For that matter, I can think of no good reason that it should rob the steering of most its feel either, but in practice it does seem to. Hydraulic power steering systems were pretty rubbish when they first appeared, I'm sure electric ones will get better. By all accounts the one in the GT86 is rather good.
apologies, I meant lighter as in kgs. Hydraulic sounds heavy, involving fluids and the like. Electronic sounds like a small black box is involved.


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