A really desirable drop-top Porsche 911? You'd better believe it. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the '992'-series 911 Cabriolet.
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet has improved in huge measures with this latest '992'-generation model. The hood is a brilliantly-engineered piece of kit and the chassis dynamics are better than ever. It's getting pricey though.
The Porsche 911 is more than just a car. It's a legend. As such, it carries a huge weight of provenance. Obscure design cues speak volubly. Individual colours have historical resonance. It's something to obsess over. Thing is, for some people it is just a car. A pretty and fast car, but just a car nevertheless. While most 911 purists would never choose an open-topped version, there's a healthy proportion of 911 customers who like the idea of limitless headroom. 'Real' 911 buyers sniff at these cars, denigrating these drivers as not getting the whole 911 'thing', but so good is the latest '992'-generation car that perhaps the purists are painting themselves into a corner. If owner experience and enjoyment are key to owning a sports car, who's to deny that 911 Cabriolet customers aren't one step ahead of the obsessives?
There's a weight penalty (70kgs) for choosing the Cabriolet body shape rather than the Coupe but that's well compensated for by the extra power on offer with this '992'-series model. In Carrera S form, it's now got 30PS more than it had before, putting out 450PS, which is enough in a 2WD model (if you've got the 'Sport Chrono Pack' fitted) to get you to 62mph in just 3.7s on the way to 190mph. So yes, it's as fast as you'd want. As usual, there's a Carrera 4S all-wheel drive variant, that version's figures being 3.6s and 188mph. Crucially, peak pulling power is developed low in the rev range from just 1,700rpm, which should make it easy to tap into performance which is accessed via PDK paddleshift auto gearbox now boasting 8 speeds. When it comes to refinement and insulation, there's not much difference to the experience you'd get with the coupe's metal roof, so the compromises you've to accept when choosing the Cabriolet body style are slimmer than they've ever been. Handling is typically immersive and adaptive damping (or 'Porsche Active Suspension Management') is standard, as part of a suspension set-up that remains unchanged. There's plenty that's new though. The steering rack has a faster ratio. And there's a new 'Wet mode' driving setting that senses the splatter or rain water in the wheel arches and then dials in appropriate settings for the engine, gearbox and safety systems at the same time as alerting you.
The shape of the latest 992-generation car retains the classic 911 design cues but it looks sleeker and the more elegant silhouette certainly complements the Cabriolet design. You certainly don't get the hunchbacked look of many 911 Cabriolets of the past. It even looks great with the hood up, not something you can say of many cabriolets. The hood itself is an intriguing piece of equipment. Porsche has never subscribed to the trend for folding hard tops and this roof incorporates a lightweight magnesium frame, uses a fabric-skinned composite panel for the upper and rear part of the structure and can be raised and lowered at speeds of less than 31mph. It takes just 12 seconds to raise or lower. It has a series of metal bows within it that maintain its shape when travelling at high speeds. You get a very effective windbreaker, too, while the roof now folds itself into position more compactly and so takes up less space. Grab one of the newly motorised door handles to gain access to the cabin and you'll find the usual disciplined high quality Porsche interior. The brand hasn't followed its rivals by switching to a fully-digital instrument cluster, but most of what's on offer in the binnacle uses this technology, though the rev counter still retains a classic analogue dial. The seats remain beautifully comfortable and supportive. Plus, as ever in a 911, the rear pews are suitable only for tiny children or designer shopping bags. And the boot space is split front and rear.
There's a premium of nearly £10,000 to choose the Cabriolet body style over the Coupe body shape on a 911. For the Carrera S, that means pricing starting from around £103,000 for the 2WD model - or from around £108.000 for the Carrera 4S Cabriolet. Most buyers will want to pay extra for the usual 'Sport Chrono package which includes a steering wheel-mounted mode switch including a 'SPORT Response' button. This enables you to choose from five driving settings - 'Normal', 'Sport and 'Sport Plus', as well as an 'Individual' mode and the new 'Wet' mode which helps to support the driver in the wet. The 'SPORT Response' button sets both engine and transmission for the fastest possible unleashing of power for 20 seconds - ideal for quick overtakes. Standard is the latest 10.9-inch 'PCM' ('Porsche Communication Management') centre-dash touchscreen with the usual navigation and smartphone-mirroring functions. Plus of course there are leather-upholstered sports seats and a grippy multi-function sports steering wheel. Popular options include front axle lift, a sports exhaust and ceramic brakes. As you'd hope, Compared to its rivals, Porsche isn't big on camera-driven safety, including a multi-collision braking system and even a driver training course at the Porsche Experience Centre at the Silverstone racing circuit.
Despite being a more luxurious thing than its direct predecessor, intelligent use of lightweight materials means that the efficiency of this Carrera S cabriolet isn't bad at all by class standards. As usual, we'll quote what we've been given - fuel figures conducted under strict WLTP-testing and CO2 readings based around the rather less stringent NEDC cycle. The 2WD Carrera S Cabriolet manages up to 20.5mpg on the combined cycle and 208g/km of CO2. The 4WD Carrera 4S Cabriolet manages up to 26.6mpg on the combined cycle and 207g/km of CO2. If you specify optional Adaptive Cruise Control, further efficiency gains can be made via a 'coasting mode' added into the PDK auto gearbox which seamlessly disconnects the engine from the transmission at a cruise. A major 911 buying incentive lies with this car's impressively high likely residual values. On the downside, because of the high up-front price of this car, it'll face the higher road tax rate of £450 for the first five years of ownership after the initially CO2-weighted payment that's rolled into the on-the-road price. Included as part of purchase is the usual three year warranty, though this one laudably doesn't come with any mileage limitations. This package can be extended by either one or two further years on request. 911 owners also get a three year breakdown recovery package, a three year paint warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion guarantee.
Though it looks almost identical to the 911 Coupe when the shapely hood's in place, the 911 Cabriolet is now a car that emerges from the hard top model's shadow as an entity in its own right. It's a more convincing convertible car than ever before, the sleeker profile matched with greater technology and a more luxurious interior. As with the Coupe model, Porsche is banking on the fact that the excellence of this car will help to simplify the decision over whether to commit to the significant outlay involved in buying it. With this much style matched to this much substance, you'd have to be tempted.