So the Turbo Coupe gets the predictable cabrio chop then…
Spot on. And at £106,180, this turbocharged, open-top, tech-fest is the flagship of today’s range. The only 911 topping £100k comes with a turbocharged flat six engine producing 480bhp, all-wheel drive, active suspension and every conceivable goodie: DVD navigation, leather comfort seats, Bose sound system. But there’s one crucial thing Porsche has forgotten to make standard – an eye-test before the keys are handed over. Believe you me, the way this thing piles on speed, you need perfect long-range vision to pick out upcoming obstacles. Blink and by the time your eyes readjust, you’ll be bearing down on hairpins or Smart cars or oblivious wildlife. It makes for an exhilarating drive…
How come it’s so quick?
The 3.6-litre flat six is breathed on by two turbochargers with variable turbine geometry, to optimise boost pressure. It’s only now, with the third generation 911 Turbo cabrio, that Porsche could implement variable vanes that can resist operating temperatures up to 1000-degrees in the exhaust flow. The benefit is a consant rush of torque, with a 457lb ft punch delivered consistently from 1950 to 5000 revs. Tick the one obligatory option box for the £1015 Sports Chrono Pack and there’s a turbocharger overboost function, which serves up an additional 0.2 bar and 44lb ft, and shaves a few extra tenths of the already eye-boggling in-gear acceleration. Zero to 62mph takes 4.0sec flat; don’t lift for another 8.0sec and you’ll hit 124mph or 200kmh. Top speed is 192mph.
What does all this acceleration feel like?
A bit ludicrous, to be honest. Engage gear, prod throttle, feel like you’ve been launched by a mediaeval catapault. Engage next gear, charge ballistically forward again. This is a fantastic engine, which serves up a relentless surge of torque. Its effortless nature resembles a diesel’s, though with a howling, metallic turbocharged six soundtrack. The digital speedo keeps throwing up increasingly preposterous (and illegal) numbers, as the scenery blurs and you focus on keeping the Turbo cabrio on that tongue of tarmac snaking ahead of you. It’s reminiscent of a brutal and simplistic arcade game, rather than the nimble, engaging drive of more humble 911s.
Really? Has Porsche cocked it up?
Well, the steering definitely doesn’t feel as direct and alive as on a Carrera S. Maybe it’s due to the extra weight of the all-wheel drive, bracing and electric roof, which bulks the Turbo cabrio up to 1665kg (though still 10kg less than the 993 equivalent). The wheel still jigs in your palms, and beautifully conveys every score and undulation in the road surface. Appropriately, throttle response is lightning fast, although you’ll be stretching into the passenger footwell to connect with the offset pedal. Stomp on the brakes and all that speed is calmly hosed away by six-piston callipers clamping 350mm iron discs (which can be upgraded to carbon ceramic composites). This stable and powerful deceleration is almost as impressive as the acceleration, to be honest. Cornering is equally other-worldly: keep your toe down, and the four-wheel drive system and active rear wing sucks the cabrio through bends. No drama, just dogged grip and another straight opened up to exploit. Indeed, Porsche claims this car is the world’s first convertible whose aerodynamics generate downforce on the rear axle.
Now we’re talking. Which gearbox should I (virtually) spec ?
The Tiptronic S automatic is quicker, shaving two-tenths off the manual’s 0-62mph sprint for a 3.8sec blast. Although journalists are hassling Porsche’s engineers for a double-clutch system in keeping with its motorsport history, the current ‘box has Audi’s S-tronic system licked. The changes feel quicker and smoother, and you don’t have to lift as the next cog melds into place. But it’s not perfect. In automatic mode it continually seeks higher gears, with an eye on fuel economy (combined consumption is 20.6mpg for the five-speed auto, 21.9mpg for the six-speed manual). It also changes up for you, if you’re hanging around the redline. And the ‘paddles’ are a joke. They are awkwardly positioned buttons on the face of the wheel, which toggle up and down – assuming you manage to hit their g-spot. Unless you’re continually caught in traffic, go for the manual. It’s trad Porsche – precise and with a springy action that’s like twanging on Action Man’s elasticated leg.
So it can do quick. Can it do slow?
Impeccably. This is a supercar that you can drive like a supermini, should you be feeling sensible. Mooch around at urban speeds and there’s not a grumble from the understressed six. Don’t expect the ride on the 19-inch rims to be anything other than jarring, though – naturally the body must be mercilessly tied down, to realise the Turbo Cabrio’s extreme performance potential. Hit the Sport button to firm up the spring and damper rates and potholes feel like landmines. But this is the only way to travel, and the ride gets more fluent the faster you go. ‘I was speeding under orders from my chiropractor, officer…’
Can you make yourself heard?
Up to an (illegal) point. Thanks to the standard wind deflector and with the windows raised, you’ll be able to chat comfortably at motorway speeds. And watching the roof do its thing is mesmerising: the rear panel slides backwards and the Z-shaped section glides out, like a snake under the spell of a charmer. It’s a slippery shape too – the convertible has a 0.31Cd drag figure, and is just as aerodynamic as the coupe with the roof up. There’s the odd wiggle from the rear-view mirror but the Turbo Cabrio feels very solid. And the seats are great – comfy but so supportive and figure-hugging they could be standard fit on the space shuttle. The dashboard architecture is looking fussy these days. Long rectangle here, arc for an airbag there, quadrilateral glovebox yonder: in tan leather, it looks the contents of a milk chocolate box have melted and fused together.
The 911 Turbo Cabrio is a technical triumph. The way it corners, accelerates and brakes defies physics. And compared with many supercars with similar ballistic performance, it’s good value. But… You may think this sounds churlish, but its performance is too effortless, too relentless, too soul-less. It’s like the machines have taken over, and rendered the driver all but redundant. I’d go for the lighter, nimbler, rear-drive-only GT3 coupe instead, and invest the £30k saving in sunbeds, if you really must have that tan.