Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet Test Drive
Jeremy Clarkson says we shouldn’t drive a soft-top sportscar because pedestrians will see the integral paunch and bald spot. And they’re technically inferior to the hard-top in the corners. Funny thing was, though, as I powered down an A-road in the Porsche Turbo Cabriolet at 100ph with the wind in my hair and the sun on my back I couldn’t quite find the time to care about the drawbacks.
Porsche couldn’t have ordered better weather and the depths of rural Germany took on a Riviera feel for our day behind the wheel. With winding backroads, de-restricted Autobahns and a valley to play with, we couldn’t have asked for much more and while the drivers arrived as cynics, most of us left converted by the depths of the Cabriolet’s skills.
It was always going to be fast, thanks to that 3.6-litre twin turbo engine that blasts out 480 raging horses and 457lb/ft of torque from as low as 2000rpm. That’s thanks to Variable Turbine Geometry that helps the engine fire on all cylinders at low and high revs and helps send the Porsche down the road as if it was pulled by elastic.
The manual version fitted with the Sports Chrono kit with overboost hits 60mph in four seconds, 0.2s behind the computer controlled Steptronic, and keeps going all the way to 192mph thanks to controlled boosts to 501lb/ft of torque. Even though its slower it’s still the one to go for, as the clutch is no more troublesome than Europcar’s softest hatchback’s and the payoff on the back road is ultimate control.
It’s totally at home in the fast lane of the Autobahn where its additional weight and fine-tuned aerodynamics make it a comfortable cruiser even with the roof down. A wind-deflector works in harmony with basic engineering to keep buffeting to a bare minimum and myself and co-driver Cusick talked all the way without shouting too often.
Deep, comfortable seats, Porsche’s Communication Centre and a well-appointed interior that can brag more about build quality than flair provide other clear pointers as to the 911 Turbo’s position as the luxury car of the line-up. Yes it’s face-twistingly fast, but it’s also a long-distance cruiser, a status symbol and an office companion. Most of the Turbo’s life is spent on standard roads, doing standard things, and it is now so far above and beyond a standard road car that chopping the roof off doesn’t seem to matter.
As for the looks, well the bi-plane rear wing is a mastery of understatement while LED warpaint on the nose of the car is a little vulgar. Overall the Carrera is more elegant, but we have all been intrinsically programmed to recognise the flagship and everyone gives this car the respect it deserves – even in soft-top form.
Cars like this simply obliterate free space and even on the de-restricted section of the Autobahn it wasn’t long before the middle pedal came into play and the ceramic brakes hauled outrageous speeds from the clock and gave a brief time to reflect on the balance of the Turbo Cab.
Incidentally those PCCB brakes are still an expensive way to ruin the experience and a relaxed, finger light car like this deserves brakes that match the character. That’s the steel units with red calipers, not the optional yellow ones that cost the Earth and offer a snatchy, hostile bite in return. The perfectly weighted standard units are more than enough for road use and cheaper to boot.
The soft-top weighs just 70kg more than the Coupe and 5kg less than the outgoing 996, thanks to a lightweight 31kg, triple layer hood, bracing in the side sills and rollover protection in the back of the seats and the window frame. Most of that extra weight is designed to eliminate scuttle shake and tuners have taken this shell up to 910bhp without too many traumas, so this is undoubtedly a stiff car.
Those 1655kg can’t disappear in the corners, and at the first sign of trouble the Cabriolet shares the load with the front wheels thanks to the computer controlled viscous clutch-controlled four-wheel drive. There’s a host of other electronic goodies going on, too, with the giant electronic brain applying the brakes, squashing the suspension to the road and doing everything it can to keep the man with the money to buy this car through to the next service.
Underneath the skin it’s a technological masterpiece. And the car works so much faster than the driver ever could that it will fix almost any problem before antiquated concepts like opposite lock even matter. While it won’t engage as much as the GT3 it also has no sting in the tail and, crucially, no shudder in the chassis even through the most challenging bend.
Over the years Porsche has found a way to get downforce at the rear so through the high speed bends this car is every bit as effective as the hard-top sibling. But to be honest to test that theory you’d have to push the local law enforcement to the very limits of their understanding.
The loss that once marked the Cabriolet out as the hairdresser’s choice is now only on paper, a theoretical margin we never get to explore. People whose particular needs go beyond that point buy the GT3 and a trackday season pass, not the Turbo. This is now a completely different car for a different sector, one that will be happy to cruise round town with the top down on those balmy summer days.
From the hotseat, it was hard to see the drawbacks in pure, decadent luxury.