What Car? says...
For those who prefer their sports cars served with a splash of fresh air, the Porsche 911 Cabriolet has long been a superb choice. Yet, while much of this success is down to the fact Porsche has never messed too much with the recipe, by the time every variant of the latest Porsche 911 is on sale, there will be some significant firsts for the car.
The first versions it’s chosen to launch are the Carrera S and Carrera 4S. These have historically been the most popular, and each is still powered by a flat-six engine that’s slung behind the rear axle to help give huge traction out of corners.
In both cases, you get 30bhp more than previous versions, and acceleration that’s on a par with the 911 coupé; the rear-wheel drive S gets from 0-62mph in 3.7sec and the all-wheel drive 4S in 3.6sec. Meanwhile, the fabric roof takes just 12sec to fold up or down and can be operated at speeds of up to 30mph.
So, should you choose the 911 Cabriolet over rivals such as the Audi R8 Spyder, Jaguar’s F-Type and Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster? To help you decide, this review covers everything from what it’s like to drive to how practical it is and how much it will cost you to buy and run.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The 911 Cabriolet weighs 70kg more than a hard-top Porsche 911 due to the structural stiffening Porsche has added to make up for the loss of a fixed roof, but you won’t feel this in the way it performs. It’s ability to pin you back in your seat when you put your foot down is nothing short of crushing, and that’s not even the most impressive thing about it.
Only the Carrera S and Carrera 4S variants are available at the moment. With an engine that delivers its peak torque (all 391lb ft of it) from just 2300rpm, you could be mistaken for assuming the 911 Cabriolet doesn’t like to be revved. However, unlike so many modern turbocharged engines that quickly run out of puff, the 911’s twin-turbocharged flat-six feels utterly relentless all the way to its relatively heady 7500rpm redline.
It makes the 911 Cabriolet so quick, in fact, that you really appreciate the speed and smoothness of its dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which ensures that the car never feels unbalanced, even if you happen to change gear mid corner. It really is in another league compared with traditional auto ’boxes such as the one found in the Jaguar F-Type, even if the sheer number of gears (eight) means you sometimes have to pull the downshift paddle several times when braking into corners or overtaking in manual mode. A traditional manual will join the range later.
Suspension and ride comfort
As standard, both the Carrera S and Carrera 4S come with 20in wheels at the front and 21in at the rear. They're huge, yet – despite the shallow sidewalls of the tyres they’re shod with – the 911 Cabriolet does an impressive job of cushioning you from battered road surfaces, as long as you avoid the firmer Sport setting.
True, it’s no magic carpet, but for such a focused car it’s surprisingly comfortable. Confronted by a series of challenging crests and dips, it remains remarkably flat and stable when many rivals would throw you around in your seat.
This smoothness is even more impressive when you consider that we have so far only tried the car with the optional ‘sport chassis’, which drops the ride height by 10mm.
A long, twisty road is the habitat in which the 911 Cabriolet really stands out from the competition. Body lean is virtually non-existent, while beautifully weighted steering that’s both communicative and linear in its responses means you can can push right up to the limit of adhesion with utter confidence – something that can’t be said about the Jaguar F-Type or Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster.
Of the two versions available, the rear-wheel drive Carrera S is the fractionally more engaging. Its steering is that little bit smoother and more consistent thanks to its front wheels being unburdened by having to transmit power to the ground. And, with no driven front wheels pulling you out of corners when you pile on the power, the S is also a bit more playful should you decide to slacken the stability control’s grip.
Does all this mean the Cabriolet drives every bit as well as the 911 Coupé? Well, not quite. Really rough roads do send slight shudders through the Cabriolet’s steering wheel, but this really is as rigid as four-seat convertible cars get.
Noise and vibration
While the 911 Cabriolet’s wide tyres give it epic traction off the line and out of corners, there is a downside; considerable road noise, particularly over coarse road surfaces.
More positively, cars with the optional sports exhaust make a full-blooded and thrilling noise when you put your foot down. And when you’re not in the mood, you can switch this feature off to ensure that the engine never gets too boomy or intrusive.
In addition, the standard electrically operated wind deflector makes it possible to hold a civilised conversation with your passenger at motorway speeds with the roof down – assuming you’ve got all the windows up.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Most people will be able to find a driving position that suits using the standard fit four-way electric seat adjustment. However, we recommend making the step up to the 14-way electric sports seats, which provide both adjustable lumbar support and a memory function.
You sit close to the floor, which gives the 911 Cabriolet a suitably hunkered-down feel from behind the steering wheel. And, while the seat itself is quite narrow, it offers plenty of support, so you remain comfortable even on long trips.
Well-placed pedals also help, as does the wide rest for your left foot. However, while the speedo and rev counter are directly in your line of sight and are easy to read at a glance, some other instruments, including the fuel gauge, are obscured by the steering wheel.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Driving a sports car usually involves making serious sacrifices in usability, but the 911 Cabriolet is surprisingly easy to live with.
Forward visibility is excellent, thanks to slim windscreen pillars. And those distinctive bulges around the tops of the headlights give you a clear idea of where the front wheels are, making the car easier to manoeuvre than rivals such as the Jaguar’s F-Type and Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster.
Only rear visibility disappoints, because the fabric roof creates big blindspots that aren’t present on the 911 coupé. What’s more, even when it’s stowed, the structure behind the rear seats is high enough to limit what you can see. You’ll be grateful that all-round parking sensors come as standard, and should consider adding the optional reversing camera.
Sat nav and infotainment
Porsche has acquired a reputation for being stingy with the amount of kit it fits to its cars, but the 911 Cabriolet comes with all of the infotainment essentials.
An excellent sat-nav unit is included in the price, as is a decent eight-speaker stereo and a DAB digital radio. However, if you’re a bit of an audiophile, it’s worth considering the optional Bose or Burmester sound systems – the latter being particularly impressive.
All of the above is controlled through a pin-sharp 10.9in touchscreen. It's quick to respond to inputs and is placed within easy reach of both the driver and front passenger. True, being a touchscreen means it can still be a little distracting to use on the move, but it’s one of the best systems of its kind and has Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring.
All of the buttons and switches on the dashboard are well damped, sturdy and classy to look at. Most of your other frequent contact points are made from metal or covered in leather and, where plastics have been used, they feel pleasingly dense and squidgy.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The seats slide back a long way, and there’s a decent amount of roof-up head room in the front of the 911 Cabriolet, even for tall adults. The centre console, though wide, is well padded, so it’s not uncomfortable to rest your knee against.
However, front passengers aren't quite as well catered for when it comes to storage space. The glovebox is deep but quite narrow, making it hard to fit more than a few documents inside, while the door bins are also on the small side. You do get two cup holders, though, along with a shallow storage area under the central armrest that's deep enough for a wallet or phone.
The 911 Cabriolet’s tight rear knee room mean it’s back seats are really only suitable for smaller adults, children (you can just about fit an Isofix child seat on either side of the wide transmission tunnel) or as a place to put coats and bags. Plus, the backrests are very upright, which further limits long-distance comfort.
Criticising a Porsche 911 for this is to do it a disservice, though; what rear space it does have makes it massively more usable than most of its rivals, which are either strict two-seaters or so cramped in the back that they might as well be.
Seat folding and flexibility
Adjusting the height or backrest angle of the front passenger seat is just as easy as it is on the driver’s, thanks to a pair of switches on the side. However, unless you specify the optional full electric adjustment, you have to return the front seats to their original position manually after you've moved them forward to allow access to the rear seats.
The rear seats split and fold down flat and allow you to carry long items of luggage, such as a set of golf clubs, inside the car without much fuss.
The main luggage area, which is in the nose of the car, is big enough for a carry-on suitcase, a soft weekend holdall or a few shopping bags. It's certainly better than nothing, but you do get more space in front-engined hard-tops such as the Jaguar F-Type Coupé and Mercedes-AMG GT.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Both the Carrera S and 4S undercut more exclusive rivals such as the Aston Martin DB11 Volante and Audi R8 Spyder by a wide margin, but they do look quite expensive when compared with the Jaguar F-Type.
A long options list means it’s easy to add thousands of pounds to the price, too, and discounts are non-existent. However, this fact – along with how tightly Porsche controls the number of cars built – helps to ensure that resale values are very strong.
The cheapest model to run is the rear-wheel drive Carrera S, which averages a respectable 28.0mpg (although you’ll be lucky to get anywhere near this if you make the most of its performance).
Equipment, options and extras
Unless you regularly drive your sports car to the Alps, we’d go for the Carrera S, because it’s quite a bit cheaper than the four-wheel drive 4S and yet still feels completely unflappable – particularly in its Wet mode.
Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, cruise control, heated seats and keyless entry. Several desirable items are reserved for the options list, though, including rain-sensing wipers and keyless start.
The 911 Cabriolet comes with a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty and three years’ European breakdown cover. Unfortunately, Porsche finished towards the bottom of our most recent reliability survey.
Safety and security
You get six airbags and a sophisticated stability control system, while all three passenger seats feature Isofix child seat mounting points. It’s just a pity you have to pay extra for blindspot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.
An engine immobiliser and an alarm are standard, but if you want more protection you can pay for Porsche’s vehicle tracking system, which makes it possible to trace stolen vehicles across most of Europe.
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|RRP price range||£109,275 - £193,260|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||23.3 - 27.4|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£7,918 / £14,104|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£15,836 / £28,209|