Porsche 911 cabriolet
Price £85,253 - £154,614
- Stunning design
- Well refined
- Great to drive
- Costs £40,000 more than a Boxster
- Auto gearbox can be unpredictable
- Visibility isn't great
At a glance
“The Porsche 911 Cabriolet’s iconic status doesn’t come cheap, but few cars offer comparable looks and thrills.”
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet is something of an institution. The rear-engined 911 has been on our roads for over 50 years now, while the Cabriolet version first appeared in 1982. Since then, the roofless 911 has established itself as something of a style icon.
Previous generations of the 911 Cabriolet have been criticised for their compromised handling – a result of structural changes caused by removing the roof – but this latest version is the stiffest yet, providing wind-in-the-hair thrills together with an excellent driving experience. The Porsche 911 Cabriolet isn’t cheap by any means – it can easily cost more than £100,000 – but for many, no other car will do, such is the prestige attached to the 911 name.
The 911 Cabriolet competes with other roofless luxury cars such as the sharp-handling Jaguar F-Type convertible and Mercedes SL, which, with its folding hard top, offers a less sporty and more relaxing driving experience. The new Audi R8 Spyder is due to arrive in spring 2016 and is likely to provide a convincing alternative for those lucky enough to be consider 911 Cabriolet ownership.
The 911 Cabriolet is available with either two or four-wheel drive, together with a choice of manual or dual-clutch automatic gearboxes and a selection of engines and power outputs. In 2015, Porsche updated the 911 engine line-up, with new turbocharged 3.0-litres being fitted to the most popular models.
Even the entry-level Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet is a fast car: its 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine is turbocharged to provide 365bhp, allowing this model to reach 62mph from rest in 4.6 seconds while returning 33.2mpg – impressive fuel economy for sports a car of this performance. For drivers after even more speed, the 533bhp 911 Cabriolet Turbo offers one of the most exhilarating driving experiences of any convertible.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet has fuel economy figures that belie its performance
The 911’s cult following is such that Porsche’s decision to decrease the size of the car’s engines and fit turbochargers was a controversial one. This has, however, made the 911 Cabriolet an impressively efficient car – at least in terms of fuel consumption.
The least powerful 911 Carrera Cabriolet produces 365bhp, yet returns 33.2mpg – figures that would have been unheard of a few years ago. True, the 195g/km of CO2 emitted by this car means you’ll face annual road tax of £265, but that’s unlikely to worry buyers at this rarefied end of the market.
The further you go up the 911 Cabriolet range, the more expensive and less economical the cars become. The Carrera S Cabriolet, for example, returns 32.1mpg and costs £290 a year in road tax. If you want the added grip offered by the four-wheel-drive 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet, fuel economy drops a little more, to 31.7mpg, while CO2 emissions rise to 206g/km for a £290 road tax bill.
Note that all these figures are for the 911 Cabriolet fitted with the standard seven-speed manual gearbox. If you order the optional dual-clutch automatic (which Porsche calls PDK) then performance and economy figures improve slightly.
At the more expensive and performance-orientated end of the Porsche 911 Cabriolet line-up is the Turbo model. This produces a staggering 533bhp, propelling the car from 0-62mph in 3.1 seconds. This comes at a price, however: the Turbo Cabriolet costs over £135,000, although its 30.4mpg and 216g/km CO2 emissions seem almost reasonable in light of that performance. Do bear in mind that you’ll have to drive your 911 Cabriolet with a great deal of discipline to achieve these figures – drive in a sporting way and they’ll drop commensurately.
Running costs will be high for all 911s – expect servicing that sets you back around £1,000 at a time and expensive group 50 insurance premiums.
Engines, drive & performance
Few cars can match the sheer driving pleasure of the 911
One thing that 911 drivers have always liked is the distinctive noise of Porsche’s special six-cylinder engines – which can be heard even clearer in a 911 Cabriolet with the roof down. While the advent of turbochargers has changed the note slightly, it’s still a special experience.
Drop the roof – which takes just 13 seconds and can be done at speeds up to 35mph – and the 911 Cabriolet’s engine comes to life, with a lovely exhaust note supplanted by whooshing turbos. It’s by no means unpleasant, but it may take a little getting used to if you’re more familiar with Porsches of old.
In terms of handling, the 911 Cabriolet has always played second fiddle to the standard 911 Coupe, but the latest Cabriolet is the sharpest yet. There’s plenty of grip on offer, particularly if you go for one of the four-wheel-drive ‘4’ versions, and the steering – always a 911 highlight – is sharp and accurate, with plenty of ‘feel’ coming through the wheel.
In terms of refinement, with the roof up you’d be hard-pressed to tell you were in a convertible. While conversations on the motorway can be difficult with the roof down and there’s obviously some wind noise, this is part and parcel of to the drop-top driving experience and the sound of the engine behind your head adds to the thrills.
You’re unlikely to want for power or speed, whichever 911 you choose. The standard 911 Carrera Cabriolet has 365bhp and reaches 62mph from rest in just 4.6 seconds, while the 414bhp Carrera S Cabriolet does the same in 4.1 seconds – although it costs about £10,000 more than the standard car.
If money is no object and performance is your goal, the £135,000 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet is difficult to beat. Its 533bhp 3.8-litre engine will get you to from 0-62mph in 3.1 seconds and on to a possible top speed of 198mph. Few cars out there are faster, particularly on twisty back roads.
Interior & comfort
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet is as quiet as the Coupe with the roof up
Refinement is excellent for such a performance-orientated car. It’s possible to drive the 911 Cabriolet every day without being intimidated or feeling the need to use all its performance.
The standard electronic wind deflector keeps buffeting to a minimum when the roof is down and the excellent quality of the 911’s cabin materials make it an enjoyable place to spend time in.
Porsche’s latest seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system recognises fingertip pinches and swipes, while standard sat nav, leather and Bluetooth means even the most basic 911 Cabriolet is far from spartan inside.
Practicality & boot space
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet’s rear seats are small but useful
The 911 is unique in this class of car in offering rear seats, but they’re best thought of as an extra luggage compartment or an emergency transport option – even the smallest of children will find them a squeeze.
Because the 911 is rear-engined, its boot is at the front. It’s not vast, at 145 litres – and this drops a further 20 litres if you order a 911 Cabriolet with four-wheel drive – but it’s a deep, useable space that can easily swallow shopping or squashy bags for a weekend away. You’ll want to keep some wet wipes handy, though – as it’s at the front of the car, the boot lid gets dirty very quickly.
The 911’s relatively compact dimensions mean manoeuvring around town is easy and it fits into most parking spaces comfortably, aided by the standard parking sensors. While nobody buys a 911 Cabriolet with trips to the dump in mind, it’s by no means entirely impractical.
Reliability & safety
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet feels like a quality product, inside and out
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet is every inch a luxurious, high-quality car. The cabin is beautifully made and all the controls operate in a reassuringly solid manner. This craftsmanship isn’t backed up with perfect reliability, though: the previous-generation 911 fared relatively poorly in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, coming 109th out of 200 cars.
Porsche as a brand did significantly better, ranking sixth out of 32 manufacturers for owner satisfaction, and we’d hope this latest 911 signals an improvement in terms of reliability.
While the 911 doesn’t sell in large enough numbers to warrant Euro NCAP safety testing, Porsche fits a wide range of safety equipment to all 911s. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) helps ensure the car stays planted on the road, while anti-lock brakes, traction control and a host of airbags together ensure the 911 is a very safe car. The 911 Cabriolet also has rollover protection, with spring-loaded bars ready to deploy if the car senses an imminent crash.
Price, value for money & options
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet has a decent amount of standard kit, but options are expensive
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet is an expensive and exclusive car, but it holds its value well on the secondhand market. You can be as indulgent as you like with 911 options – Porsche’s ‘Exclusive’ personalisation programme means anything from the seat stitching to the colour of the brake callipers can be specified to your tastes – although tick too many boxes on the vast extras list and the 911 Cabriolet becomes eye-wateringly expensive.
Rivals like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage cabriolet and Jaguar F-Type convertible offer a more traditional front-engined sports-car experience, but there’s something special about the 911 Cabriolet that’s kept buyers coming back for over 30 years. One final point to consider: if the 911 Cabriolet is too expensive for your tastes and you still fancy an exclusive German convertible, a Porsche Boxster is around £40,000 cheaper.