The word icon is hugely overused in today’s hyperbolic society, but the Porsche 911 truly is a motoring icon. With a design that has remained broadly unchanged for over 40 years, the 911 is as close to a perfect driver’s car that money can buy. The drop-top version, the 911 Cabriolet, isn’t the purist’s choice, but if you are in the market for a sporty cabrio, there’s not much need to look any further. It drives brilliantly, looks classy and offers all the performance – especially with the bigger 3.8-litre engine – you could need on a public road.
Our test car was fitted with the 3.8-litre, six-cylinder engine used by the S, which generates 380bhp at 6,500rpm and 310lb-ft of torque at 4,400rpm, mated to the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) seven-speed double-clutch transmission. The 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds is a good indication of the 911 Cabrio’s pace: it’s very rapid, accelerating quickly from a standing start and, thanks to lots of power and torque further up the rev range, this continues in-gear or when overtaking is required. Indeed, there’s all the performance you’ll ever need, both within UK speed limits and if you ever get the chance to wring it out on a track or a derestricted autobahn. The PDK gearbox is good enough, with quick, almost seamless changes, but the steering wheel-mounted rocker switches aren’t intuitive enough, so you’ll need to tick the box for the optional paddleshifts. However, the crisp, short-throw manual gearbox is a more involving option – and it’ll save you the extra £2,338 the auto ‘box costs as an option.
Nothing handles like a 911. The first time you drive one, a little light goes on in your head and you instantly get why everyone raves about them. The steering, is sharp, accurate and feeds back so much information, the driver can feel exactly what’s happening where the wheels meet the road. The Carrera 4’s four-wheel-drive system adds even more grip and traction, so you always look forward to the opportunity to take some corners at speed on a twisting B-road, confident in the knowledge that the electronics will take up the slack if you run out of talent. Of course, the ride in the 911 is going to be firm, but it’s perfectly judged, lacking any harshness or tendency to crashiness. The absence of a roof is naturally going to have an effect on the rigidity of the chassis compared to the coupe version, but Porsche’s engineers have managed to reduce any shuddering and scuttle shake to an absolute minimum, so you only feel it when going over the worst potholed surfaces.
As you’d expect from a car that costs north of 80 grand, the build quality of the 911 Cabrio is superb. The exterior feels sturdy and well-engineered, the bodywork and uniform panel gaps combining with the squat stockiness of the classic 911 shape to create a sense of robust quality. This continues in the cabin, the leather and high-quality materials used in the interior exuding the luxury feel you’d expect of a car in this price range. The attention to detail is almost faultless, down to the optional Porsche crests embossed on the head restraints (which will set you back an extra £135). Porsche doesn’t sell enough cars in the UK to appear in customer satisfaction surveys, but in the US the brand came out top in JD Power’s most recent Vehicle Dependability Study, scoring five stars in the fields of Initial Quality Rating and the Predicted Reliability Rating. As all 911s come from the same German production lines, there’s no reason why cars here are any different.
As a luxury sports car, the 911 doesn’t sell in high-enough volumes to justify being crash-tested by Euro NCAP, the body responsible for assessing the safety performance of cars sold in Europe. However, Porsche claims that the 911’s reinforced body structure will ensure a high level of crash safety, even in an offset collision. In addition, there’s a comprehensive list of active and passive safety equipment, including six airbags (front, head and thorax); a side impact protection system; an upgraded, high-performance brake system; an optional tyre pressure control system, which permanently monitors air pressure in each individual tyre; LED lights at the front and rear, plus daytime running lights and adaptive headlights; a rollover safety system that has two extra-strong steel tubes in the A-pillars and two rollbars behind the rear seats that deploy automatically when required; and the Porsche Stability Management (PSM), which comprises ABS anti-lock brakes, ASC (anti-spin control), EDC (engine drag control) and ABD (automatic brake differential). For security, there are remote central locking and an alarm.
The 911 Cabriolet is a convertible sports car, so it’s never going to be the most practical car money can buy. That said, there’s plenty of space up front and the driving position is excellent, with a fully adjustable seat and steering wheel. All-round visibility is also good, especially with the roof down. The dashboard is well laid out, but there are a lot of small buttons, which could potentially be confusing. Although technically a four-seater, adults will find it almost impossible to fit in the two rear seats and only very young children will have enough space: it’s far better to think of it as a two-seater with additional luggage space in the rear to supplement the meagre 105 litres under the bonnet (there’s no boot because of the rear-mounted engine). There’s a lot of equipment available to make using the 911 easier, but take care when ticking the boxes on the options list, as the cost of the car can soon mount up. For example, the hard drive-based Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system with integrated sat nav is £1,283 and the telephone module for the PCM is £523 alone. Most of these options worked perfectly well, but we found the Bluetooth telephone system to be the worst we’ve ever encountered in a car, with the connection to the mobile phone constantly dropping out.
The 911 Cabriolet is not a cheap car – the base price of our test car was £86,651 and with the options added it came to £94,018. However, if you can afford one, owning a Porsche is a highly enjoyable experience and something serious car fans (with serious money) should try at least once. And the chances are, once bitten by the Porsche bug, you’ll become a serial buyer. Running costs are high, but they have been improving slightly in recent years, so official fuel consumption on the combined cycle is now 26.4mpg (which will translate to the upper teens or around 20 in real-word driving) and CO2 emissions are a polar icecap-melting 251g/km, so vehicle excise duty will be punishing £425. Then again, if you can afford a Porsche… Demand for second-hand Porsches is always strong and Cabriolets are also very popular, so residuals will hold up well if you come to sell it: expect to get around 52% of its value back after three years and 60,000 miles.
Submitted: 03/09/2010 10:14:12
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