"The 911 Cabriolet sets the standard for soft-top sports cars. With the roof up, it also looks as good as the Coupe."
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet is a rival for the Audi R8 Spyder and Jaguar XK – and it's a huge leap forward over the car it replaced. It is lighter than the old car and has a stylish new folding fabric roof that matches the handsome profile of the Coupe. It gets an electric wind deflector as standard, as well as an automatic rear spoiler, parking sensors and a pair of small rear seats. The gorgeous Cabriolet also gets the 911 Coupe's longer wheelbase for improved cabin space, a lighter body and identical range of 345bhp 3.4-litre and 395bhp 3.8-litre flat six-cylinder engines for the Carrera and Carrera S. These are more efficient and come with the option of either a seven-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission and two or four-wheel drive. Yes, it's expensive, but few convertibles are this great to drive or have such a sense of occasion from behind the wheel.
In a word? Brilliant. The 911 Coupe sets the benchmark in this class for driver thrills, with amazingly precise steering and stable yet involving handling. The Cabriolet feels the same, but it's even more fun because if you drop the roof – which takes just 13 seconds and can be done at speeds of up to 35mph – you can hear every note of the amazing flat six-cylinder engine. The standard Carrera can do 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and 176mph and will have more than enough performance for most drivers, but the S has even more punch and can do 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds and 186mph. The four-wheel drive Carrera 4 and 4S gets a wider rear axle and is marginally slower – but benefits from supreme all-weather traction, feeling enormously surefooted in the wet. All these figures are for the PDK automatic, which shifts even faster than the seven-speed manual, although it has an annoying tendency to kick down sometimes even in ‘manual’ mode. A flagship Turbo model is on the way in 2014, and should be capable of 0-62mph in less than four seconds.
The 911 has always been the world's most useable supercar, combining great visibility with relatively compact dimensions and lots of easily accessible performance – and the Cabriolet continues that theme. It's certainly as quiet as the Coupe with the roof in place, while roof-down you can raise the wind deflector to reduce buffeting. That said, it's still a noisy place to be thanks to the engine being situated right behind your head – and it's difficult to hold a conversation on the motorway with the roof-down. However, the pay-off is you can hear even more of that superb six-cylinder exhaust note, which roars into life as you accelerate. With a longer wheelbase, there's more room inside the cabin, too, and the driving position is easily adjustable and very comfortable. The sports seats are firm and supportive, but the rear seats are barely big enough for children, let alone adults over any considerable distance. The ride is pretty good, especially given the grip available, and you can stiffen it up by pressing a button on the centre console.
Build quality is beyond reproach – from the way all of the controls have an expensive-feeling precision, to the chunky buttons and beautifully stitched leather seats. You certainly feel like you’re sitting in an expensive sports car. It's got plenty of useful safety tech, too, with big ABS brakes, a variety of airbags and ISOFIX anchor points for when you need to carry a child seat. Porsche has an enviable reputation for producing enormously fast sports cars that don’t seam to suffer from mechanical or electronic gremlins either. The company finished an impressive 9th in the 2012 Auto Express Driver Power survey – ahead of BMW or Audi – and we’d expect the current 911 Cabriolet to carry on this tradition.
With a deep boot at the front, you’ll be surprised at just how practical the 911 is. The Cabriolet has exactly the same amount of space as the Coupe, with enough room in the front luggage compartment for a medium-sized suitcase and several squashy bags. The back seats are so small that only the tiniest of children will be able to fit – but they’re not really for sitting on anyway and really should be treated as an extra stowage shelf, for coats and bags. Being about as wide as an Audi TT and only slightly longer, the 911 is easy to park and place on the road, too – both in town and on the motorway.
Value for money
The Porsche 911 is an expensive sports car designed to rival the Audi R8 and Aston Martin Vantage. As standard you get the electric roof, climate control, a 4.8-inch colour screen on the dashboard, leather sports seats and 18-inch alloy wheels – a fair amount of equipment if not particularly generous. Options include upgraded stereos, a seven-inch touchscreen and a wide variety of alloy wheel designs. If you want the open-top flat six-cylinder Porsche experience but don’t have the price of a 911 to spend on a new car, you could always buy a Boxster – which is brilliant in every way and costs around £40,000 less.
The new 911 Cabriolet is much more efficient than before, with the PDK-equipped Carrera claiming 33mpg and just 198g/km of CO2. This is thanks in part to a more aerodynamic body and a standard stop-start system. It should hang onto its value, too – 911s are always in demand on the second hand market. But while you’ll be able to get 30mpg on the motorway if you’re gentle with the accelerator, insurance, tyres and servicing will be very steep indeed.