Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet | Driven


It was nine months ago that Matt drove the 992-generation Porsche 911 Cabriolet in Greece and declared the unthinkable: the droptop 911, he wrote, might just be the one to have. But he tested the Cabriolet on the fringes of the Mediterranean at the start of spring, his mind a little fuzzy from all that ouzo the evening before but full of hope nonetheless for the summer that lay ahead, the warm Grecian air swirling around his ears and the sun shining pleasantly on his forehead. Of course a topless 911 seemed agreeable at the time.

His idea that the 911 Cabriolet might somehow be a more wholesome vehicle than its fixed roof counterpart - the 911 having matured in nature and grown in size, a trend that began several years ago with the 991 - was conceived somewhere close to Athens. Since then the idea has developed slowly through the trimesters and now, nine months later, it's emerged fully formed into a frigid British autumn and not only been born, but borne out. By gum, I think the lad's right.

It's all about the allowances you have to make. For a very long time the 911 Cabriolet buyer was expected to overlook the flimsy hood that flapped in the wind and leaked in the rain, the decapitated body that would shudder on bumpy roads like a whippet left out in the cold, and the styling that was imbalanced with the hood lowered and even laughable with it in position. Nowadays, most of those things don't apply. The allowances you must make are almost non-existent, the most notable gains coming on three fronts.


The first, mentioned just now, is the way the 992-gen 911 Cabriolet looks. It's the most handsome droptop 911 so far, even if that only means it's the least ugly of the lot. That old issue of visual imbalance remains, because with the engine slung behind the rear axle there'll always be more mass out back than a designer would like. 911 Cabriolets have tended to look as though they're dragging along a swollen version of themselves and this one isn't any exception.

With the hood up, though, the old 911 silhouette is actually left intact, the roofline flowing seamlessly from the top of the windscreen to the engine cover. Porsche's designers were so dissatisfied with the wonky roofline of the 996 and 997 models they even gave it a name: the hungry horse optic. The fabric hood sagged between the spars that supported it, calling to mind the protruding bones of a skinny nag. For the 991 they made huge improvements, but now they've nailed it.

Secondly, the latest 911 Cabriolet is almost indistinguishable from the coupe to drive. Whereas you could once feel the entire body shaking and flexing, be that when driving over rough ground or even just when cornering, now you feel none of that at all. The giveaway is the crisp, 4K-quality image you get in the rear-view mirror that tells you the structure of the car is strong and inflexible. When the picture you see in the rear-view is so fuzzy you can't make out the make and model of the car behind, you know the body has lost much of its integrity.


That stiffer shell, the most rigid ever built for a 911 Cabriolet, is what underpins a very impressive set of handling traits. Impressive, but not tantalising. We know well enough that the 911 has grown up, that it isn't any longer the lithe and tactile or idiosyncratic thing it was for so long. But in spreadsheet terms it's arguably better than ever: more grip, rock solid body control, very good compliance over a bumpy surface, unerring stability, accurate steering response and all the rest of it. The Cabriolet carries a 70kg penalty over the coupe but you'll do very well to identify it. The point is this: an enthusiastic driver will have every bit as much fun in this model as the hardtop, even if that amount of fun is not what it once was. And that's a first.

Finally, this latest 911 Cabriolet is the most refined yet. For instance, I'm sure you could use this car throughout the winter months without ever feeling you'd bought the wrong one. And on the motorway there is more road and wind noise than you'd hear in the coupe, but only a touch. It's as though you're driving the fixed roof 911 with a window open a crack. Hood down at 50 or 60mph, the cabin is calm and settled even with the wind deflector stowed away.

For all those reasons and more, the latest 911 Cabriolet is the best one yet. It doesn't expect its buyer to make anything like the weight of allowances for it that earlier versions did. If you want a droptop 911, you can have one almost without compromise. But what actually makes the 911 Cabriolet a more complete car than the coupe is that it's very difficult to find fault with it, whereas the coupe - the sort of machine we should expect a little more from by way of thrills and spills - is not without its weaknesses. In simple terms, the Cabriolet nails its brief more squarely than the coupe does.


Only for the time being, though. When the more driver-focused models begin to emerge - by which I mean the Carrera GTS and perhaps the Carrera T, and not necessarily the GT models that exist in an entirely different stratosphere - the pendulum will surely swing back towards the hardtop models and they'll represent the sweet spot of the 911 Carrera range once again. But for now at least, in that place you will find the one with the fabric hood and the swollen derriere.

And what about the rest of it? I think the twin-turbo engine is pretty much a masterpiece of the forced-induction art form with strong power and torque throughout, excellent throttle response, a reasonably tuneful soundtrack thanks to the optional (Β£1,844) sports exhaust and the kind of mid-range muscularity that makes light work of this model's substantial 1,710kg kerbweight - a portliness the old normally-aspirated flat-six would have laboured against.

The PDK transmission is basically faultless and seems to suit the easy-going nature of a convertible more than a manual might. Four-wheel drive doesn't add anything worthwhile to the driving experience, particularly now that the 911 has become a more safe-and-steady sort of thing, but the security it adds in wet weather will make it a no-brainer for some. Me? I'll save my fantasy six-figure sum for a 911 Carrera GTS coupe with a manual 'box. When that car arrives, I reckon you can pack the Cabriolet back off to Greece.


SPECIFCATION - PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 4S CABRIOLET

Engine: 2,981cc, flat-six, twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 450@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 391@ 2,300-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.6 secs
Top speed: 188mph
Weight: 1,710kg
MPG: 31.4
CO2: 207g/km
Price: Β£108,063

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