To learn that the new 911 Cabriolet is a pretty damn good sports car is a bit like discovering Tom Hanks has been involved with another good film. There's an expectation now, so much success in the back catalogue that the prospect of a duffer never crosses your mind. For a good few years the 911 Cabriolet, while never one for the purists, has delivered a chunk of the contemporary 911 driving experience with the benefits of a drop-top roof.
As it is with the latest 992, Dan suggesting that the Cab is a "more complete car than the coupe" and the best convertible 911 yet, chiefly because "it doesn't expect its buyer to make anything like the weight of allowances for it that the earlier versions did." High praise indeed.
A problem remains, though, and it's simply that the 911 might be perceived as a little ordinary in the face of more glamorous rivals once more than £100,000 is being asked. A fantastic car, sure, though maybe not one that tugs at the heartstrings as much as you'd hope for the money. Which is where Wheels of Fortune comes in...
Given the most expensive 992 Cabriolet on PH is £130,000, the boys have a budget of up to £140,000 to find a cabriolet with at least the power of the Carrera S (450hp), a four-figure mileage, rear- or four-wheel drive (because the 911 can have either) and an engine that's up front or in the middle. Over to them...
Rules of Engagement
Driven wheels: Rear/All
Engine position: Dealer's choice
Engine output: 450hp+
Jaguar Project 7
The obvious choice here seems to be a Maserati Gran Cabrio. With 465hp from its sonorous V8, plenty of room for four adults and classically sharp styling, it'll more than match the 911's newfound GT ability whilst injecting a little of that sadly-lacking flair into the mix as well.
But this is PH, so I've gone for an F-Type Project 7 instead. Firstly, look at it. Jaguar may have seen fit to "refresh" the F-Type's styling this week, but in my humblest of opinions the new car's squinty visage doesn't come close to the handsome proportions of the old one. Combine that front end with a D-Type inspired rear and you're onto a winner.
Then there's its 575hp supercharged V8, an engine which blows the Porsche's out of the water for power, character and soundtrack, while also giving the Project 7 the legs for a spot of continent crossing should the need arise. It may lack the 992's rear seats, but no one fits in those anyway, and for those brave enough to run without the roof there's even some boot space...
Most of all, though, it's something special, something fun. A limited production model that'll put a smile on your face whether you're looking at it through the kitchen window or out of it through the windscreen. With front suspension borrowed from the XKR-S GT and a 3.8-second 0-60 time it turns into corners as quickly as it powers out of them, yet remains easy going and accessible while doing so. It may not be perfect, but the Project 7's sheer sense of occasion is the antithesis to the 992's soul-crushingly, all-encompassing competence. (DW)
Joker: Porsche 911 (991) Targa 4 GTS
If you have your heart set on an open top Porsche, though, then why not just get the best one? The GTS has established itself as a real sweet spot in the 911 range, offering the perfect balance of comfort and performance for daily use. The Targa, meanwhile, has been a surprise success since its return, representing one in ten of all 991 911s bought in Britain. Combine the two and you've got your very own 992 Cabriolet-beater, only this one wears the badge you really want.
McLaren 570S Spider
Is there a more direct response to the 992's somewhat stoic nature than a Mantis Green McLaren 570S? This Spider might hail from the Woking car maker's Sport Series, but it shares so many ingredients with former Super Series model, the 650S, that it damn well feels like the real deal. 570hp from the Ricardo-built 3.8 V8, 3.2 seconds to 62mph and a 204mph top speed are certainly not numbers usually associated with anything less than a supercar.
The 570S Spider laughs at claims that the 992 Cabriolet is rigid because, while that might be true compared with old 911s, compared with McLaren's Monocell II tub, it equates to a real compromise. The use of a carbon fibre structure means precious little rigidity is lost in the transition from Coupe to Spider, if anything at all, which makes them even more of a no-brainer in the range than the Porsche equivalent. There really is next to nothing to lose. It also helps the 570S Spider weighs in at just 1,486kg, 101kg less than the 992 drop top - and it comes with 120hp more than the Carrera S.
That somewhat sets the tone for the performance advantage of the 570S Spider, which is both quicker in a straight line (especially once rolling) and sharper around the bends. The 992 is an excellent handling machine, but it can't step up to the responsiveness of McLaren's mid-engined sports car. And let's be frank, a McLaren is a McLaren; before you've even sampled all that aforementioned stuff it's already more exotic. The shade of green paint applied to this 2,000-mile-old example only adds to the allure. (SS)
Joker: Morgan Plus 8
For every horsepower that this Plus 8 50th Anniversary falls short of our 450hp requirement, it makes up with lightness - and retro British cool. The last of 50 Anniversary cars, it's about a billion per cent less practical than the Porsche, but with those looks and that legendary BMW V8, who cares?
This could be the closest content we've had so far, both British alternatives to the 911 over delivering on sense of occasion, performance and desirability. Separating them is very hard. What the Project 7 offers in D-Type-inspired retro cool, the McLaren has in mid-engined supercar glamour. The Jaguar sounds better, the 570S goes faster. One is likely more relaxing than the other, one probably more exciting. Both are fine alternatives to the slightly staid Porsche, but one has to win.
And while it's unlikely to be a popular opinion, the McLaren edges this one. For all the Jaguar's nostalgic charm and caddish good looks, it's not as far removed from a regular F-Type R, for me at least, to warrant the premium over a non-Project car. The McLaren, on the other hand, by sharing so much with more expensive cars, gives the impression of a genuine supercar for less than usual, rather than a sports car given the limited-edition overhaul to take on the big boys. As a usable, thrilling 911 altenrative, it's the one I'd have. Sam wins, but only just. I'm not judging this next week, it's too hard...