Porsche 911 Cabriolets – are they only for girls?
Guilty pleasures. We all have them. Things that we shouldn’t really like but do. Mine include butterscotch Angel Delight, Doctor Who and, er, Wham!
I also rather like open-top cars which, as a motoring journalist and Porsche enthusiast, is simply not acceptable. I’m supposed to turn my nose up at anything softer than a 997 GT2 RS. Well, as much as I enjoy extreme 911s, on a warm summer’s day, there’s nothing better than cruising along with the hood down, stereo blasting.
The trouble is, although I’m happy driving open-top 911s, I’m less keen on looking at them. And, let’s face it, part of the appeal of a 911 is its appearance. Cutting the roof off means losing that wonderfully curving roofline and signature side window; indeed, the whole side profile of the car changes, and not for the better.
Interestingly, as much as I like the narrow-bodied 911 coupes, the rear of this Carrera Cabriolet one looks a bit weedy. The wider Carrera 4 and 4S Cabriolets work better from behind, while the Turbo Cabriolet has a positively aggressive backside.
So it’s with mixed emotions that I get into this 997 Cabriolet. The white paintwork doesn’t help – as I’ve pointed out before, white is supercool on a GT3 but ever so slightly naff on a Cab. This car would look so much better (and more macho) in stealth-bomber black. The red leather interior probably doesn’t help but, I have to confess, red leather (inside cars, I hasten to add) is another of my weaknesses.
The Porsche has got a refreshingly basic specification which I like (see issue 62 for a full feature on this very subject), right down to the 18-inch wheels. In fact, this is the first time I’ve driven a 997 without the optional 19-inch rims and the difference is very apparent. Road noise is markedly reduced, while the ride is more compliant, allowing me to drive the car faster on bumpy country lanes. Especially as the Cabriolet has slightly softer suspension settings compared to the coupe. Indeed, I do wonder if this set-up is more suited to British roads. The coupe can be too skittish, which can hamper progress on all but the smoothest Tarmac.
The only problem is that we’ve all become so used to super-large rims that these 18-inchers look, well, a bit weedy. Silly, really, when you remember that it’s not too many years ago that 16-inch wheels were extreme.
Anyway, I digress. Driving down a busy motorway with the roof up, I’m very aware of other traffic – the cloth top doesn’t insulate me from external noise in the same way as a steel roof would. That said, there’s no increase in wind noise and I soon forget that I’m driving a Cabriolet. This is a car I could happily use all year round.
Dropping the roof (which you can do at up to 30mph if you feel the need) takes seconds and transforms the car – in a good way. I can now feel the sun on my face but not, thanks to the removable wind deflector (which makes the rear seats unusable), the wind. Even at, cough, high speeds I’m comfortable and cosseted. I can even listen to the hifi, thanks to the excellent Bose Sound Package, although you’ll be pleased to know that I resist playing Wham!
However, at risk of digging up a Porsche cliché, I don’t need the stereo, as the exhaust note is so good. One of the few options this car has is the switchable Sports exhaust – pressing a button on the dash gives the system a louder, rawer sound. It makes the car sound like, well, a 911. And with the roof open, there’s nothing to stop that sound from reaching my ears. It’s impossible not to be in a good mood when driving this car.
But would I buy a 911 Cabriolet? You know, I could well be tempted but it would have to be a black 4S, if not a Turbo…