Vital Stats

Engine:
3.4L Boxer Six
Power:
350 HP / 287 LB-FT
Transmission:
PDK Dual-Clutch
0-60 Time:
4.4 Seconds
Top Speed:
177 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,234 LBS
Seating:
2
MPG:
NA
A Soft Top Worthy Of The Best 911 Ever
2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet front view2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet rear view

... even though you might not think so at first. Nearly all of the formal presentation we were privy to was devoted to the roof, and almost all of what was left over was devoted to the 12-speaker, 800-watt Burmester stereo. Porsche has been doing what it does with the 911 for so long that no one really expected this particular convertible to go rogue. Still, engineers wanted to make sure we understood that they hadn't just designed a roof, but that they'd figured out how to wrap folding-hardtop convenience inside fabric soft-top simplicity.

The result is called the Panel Bow roof, and of course, it isn't exactly simple. An aluminum crescent sits beneath the rear deck and the roof mechanism is controlled by two outboard aluminum arms. The 991 droptop uses roughly the same quantity of aluminum as the 997 cabrio's, but the 991 uses a great deal more die-cast magnesium and a great deal less steel. The aluminum arms are attached to magnesium brackets in the body, and the panels between the roof bows are also the light stuff. That is how the more-substantial 991 roof is able to match the 36-kilogram weight of the 997's lid.

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet roof
2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet roof2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet roof

There are two additional panels in the new convertible behind the solid forward section (which was also in the 997) and ahead of the rear window. When the roof is lowered, the panels stack on top of the rear window – which now has its own frame and actuating motor – and underneath the forward section, which is the visible portion of the stowed roof between the tonneau cover and the rear seats. The 230-millimeter stack height remains the same as on the previous car, but because the shoulder line of the 991 has risen to accommodate the Carrera S's standard 20-inch wheels, it appears thinner.

When you run your hand from the windscreen all the way back to the engine cover, all you feel is solid metallic substantiality. Look at any video of the previous car's roof in action and the difference is immediately visible – the fabric doesn't bunch between the bows. The only soft-yet-still-taut spot on the new car remains in the C-pillars. The whole shebang drops in 13 seconds and up to 50 kilometers per hour. Another link it has with the hardtop is that on the coupe, when the sunroof is opened, the rear spoiler angle increases in order to maintain its position in the airstream; the rear spoiler does the same on the Cabriolet.


In seven years of planning, Porsche's roof engineers didn't only find a way to make a better, lighter top, they found a way to pay a smaller price when it came to marrying the roof to the car. The weight of the 997 Carrera convertible equipped with with the 3.6-liter flat-six and PDK dual-clutch gearbox was 1,530 kilograms (3,366 pounds). Porsche got the curb weight of a PDK-equipped 991 convertible (with its 350-horsepower, 287 pound-feet of torque 3.4-liter engine) down to 1,463 kg (3,219 lbs), which they deemed "as light we could go." Then they added seven kilograms, all of 15.4 pounds, for extra stiffening and the electric motor that controls the rear window, making its final weight 1,470 kg (3,234 lbs).

High-strength steel is used in the A-pillar and B-pillar for door-sill reinforcement, and there's a rectangle of the carbon-enhanced iron traversing the car. Yet the item mainly responsible for the meager weight gain is said to be the new rollover mechanism. The previous car had roll hoops attached to an aluminum subframe, whereas the 991's mechanism is a self-supporting, load-bearing component of aluminum and high-strength steel – it's part of the car instead of attached to the car. The hoops themselves reside beneath two panels behind the rear headrests, and are topped by carbide points that break the rear window if the roof is up; that way they can extend all the way in order to support the car's weight.



Instead of going the extra mile, the guys in white lab coats went the extra half-marathon to achieve the same silhouette as the coupe with the top up – something we had no idea they cared so much about. We were shown a series of slides outlining the differences between coupe and cabrio profiles going back to the first 911 'vert, the 1982 911 SC. On the overlays, slivers of crimson were the difference, the errant slash of a medium-tipped red pen. After three decades, though, their collective aesthetic nightmare has come to an end. We weren't able to test it (there were no coupes on the island), but were told that if you line up a coupe and a cabriolet, from the side you will divine nary a difference.

In case we haven't made the point enough, you don't get here by accident.

Gran Canaria's roads are alternately much better than you'd ever expect for a lump of basalt in the middle of the Atlantic, and just what you'd expect for a lump of basalt in the middle of the Atlantic. Nevertheless, there are more compelling distractions that will keep your driving in check: cliff-face switchbacks that are San Francisco's Lombard Street meets The Land Before Time, thousand-foot drops over diminutive rock barriers and guardrails, and someone's idea that the equation for the proper road width should be "Just enough for two tiny cars – and I mean just enough – then minus half a car width." That was why when you got a stretch of clear road you ran it like Bullitt, because it could be a long way behind a Renault Twingo before you got another one.

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet side view

The upside was that we got a chance to see just about all sides of the new 911 Cabriolet – aided by a dozen hot laps around an ocean-side track.

If there was one topic we discussed as much as the top, it was the steering, gossiped about like oenophiles discussing an early vintage Veuve-Clicquot: "I heard it was no good," "Well so-and-so hated it," "He would, wouldn't he?", "Well, I heard it was tuned by aliens with three hands."

We found it as precise as it's always been, but with recognizably less feedback. The last-gen 997 not only informed you of minute changes in road surface, you could tell where the stone had been quarried and which model of Mitsubishi road grader had been used. If you were unfortunate enough to be involved in a roadkill you could identify the contents of the squirrel's last meal down to the nut. We've read that the change had to do with owners complaining about nervousness in the 997 at upper-tier Autobahn speeds. That might have played a part, but Porsche's own explanation made more sense: EPA regulations forced its hand – when you can get one extra mile per gallon by going electric, you've got to take it.

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet engine

And let's not minimize it, there's a difference between nine-tenths and ten-tenths. But would the Israelites have complained if Moses came down the mountain with just nine commandments? Of course not. That last tenth was probably wasted on a fair number of Porsche's buyers anyway (not on us, mind you). Rumor is that it made others nervous, but we're still in rare air when we talk about Porsche steering – it's like going from Everest's 29,029 feet to K2's 28,251. The steering is plenty good, and unless you've been to Everest, you won't even know how to begin complaining.

When we could give it the boot on good roads, the wheels could be put where we wished, and excess enthusiasm was scrubbed off with the ever-capable six-piston front brakes on steel rotors, or with understeer-killing applications like torque vectoring. The 997 was tidily stiff, and the 991 ups the twist resistance by 18 percent from 9,000 Newton-meters/degree to 11,700. So when the roads got as unbearable as Medusa, you could not only detect the convertible's adaptive suspension dealing with the road, but also working to tame a chassis so stiff that it might be inclined to skip right over the broken surface because it refused to flex at all. It's a very coupe-like experience. Which is the point.

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet wheel

With a completely new model, one-to-one comparisons are sketchy when making attributions for interior noise; the 991 coupe is quieter than the 997 coupe, and the convertible doesn't alter the formula. Engineers were shooting for a roughly two decibel drop in interior noise with the top up, and they achieved it – but the entire package is much quieter. Forget about the steering, just sitting in the cabin at speed is when we were inclined to ask, "Is this really a Porsche? It's so... demure." Casual conversation was welcome with the top up or down, which means we now live in a world where Mercedes-Benz makes an everyday-driver convertible, the SLS AMG Roadster, that's louder, lairier and less comfortable to converse in than any Porsche convertible.

Is it a softer 911 overall? Certainly. Is it still good enough to be a 911 (cue the angels) in spite of it? Certainly. You don't feel the goodness as much, and that leads some to ask "Then how can it be as good?" Because with more power, more speed, more room, better handling, better gas mileage, and more convenience, you can do even more with it. And remember we're talking relative comparisons here – it's not that soft...

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet interior2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet sport plus button2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet gauges2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet center console

Get it on the track and the infinitesimal gap in dynamics between the cabrio and genuine coupe sensations was even more apparent – and frankly, even with the "loud button," the track is what it took to rouse the car from its demure mien. The Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control system, by counteracting dive, will help you overcook your entry speeds to an extent that even torque vectoring can't cure, with sudden understeer and a looming gravel trap prodding you to find some new visceral way to keep track of your velocity. The carbon brakes, with larger rotors on the Carrera S, are absurdly competent. Lapping the rather tight loop, at not one time did we think, "This is excellent for a convertible." We just realized, "This is excellent."

We also tried out the Porsche Entry & Drive system, which allows you to hold your hand over the front bumper to open the trunk. In other markets, but supposedly not America, E&D will also let you open and close the top using a button on the keyfob. Something about U.S. litigation being a little too eager means no such convenience for us, though. About the only other thing you won't get on the topless 911 besides a steel roof is the -20 Porsche Active Stability Management package that lowers the car by 20 millimeters. Not an option.

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet rear 3/4 view

In every other way, though, Porsche has delivered with its new convertible the same advanced experience that critics have been singing about regarding the coupe. It isn't like they had to. Based on the 911 Cabriolet demographic, instead of flying us to all the way to Gran Canaria, Porsche could have held the launch in Monaco, with a drive route from the Casino to Marina, where we'd celebrate our 1.2-mile jaunt partying on a superyacht with slick-haired, Ray Ban-wearing waiters and Junoesque, zaftig women with strange accents and impossibly high heels at the ends of impossibly long legs.

But we're glad Porsche didn't do that, and instead gave its all to shrinking the already-small compromises one makes for choosing the open air. The new 911 coupe has redefined what that car is. The convertible didn't just remove the roof, it has rewritten a few definitions of its own.


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  • 26 Comments
      TBQ
      • 2 Years Ago
      I seriously wanted to hate that absolutely tacky red interior -- but I don't think I do. Can someone explain? Amazing car.
      SYE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Not a fan of those wheels or red calipers with the red interior.
      Harry
      • 2 Years Ago
      Stunning car, I ADORE 911s. Best sports car ever, bar none.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        lewazzinaroillus
        • 2 Years Ago
        wife LOVES the rag-tops too,...me, not so much,..so we alternate,...her "years" are coming up!...[we keep 'em for 2-3 years],..but i'm REALLY having trouble falling in love with this new one!,..love our "997",...so far,..it's our favorite 911 we've ever owned,...can't seem to warm up to this new "991" generation,..i guess it'll grow on me?,..maybe not,...just seems like porsche is really starting to lose the mark,..so to speak,..getting all too cushy and squishy for us "old-schoolers",..but hey,..least they're still makin' a manny fer us!...
      Sleestack
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've never really "gotten it" with the 911... I've driven them, driven in them and driven around them, but never really understood why someone would drop 80 or 100k on it? It's nice enough, but really doesn't get my attention the way a Mustang GT or better does. Ok Porsche fanboys, let the down-thumb voting being.
        AcidTonic
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Sleestack
        You only care about straight line acceleration. You completely missed the point of this car. Don't go quoting magazing Mustang lap times either. That's not the point here.
      Jai302
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yawn. BMW ftw.
      Cool people
      • 2 Years Ago
      Porsche just make it, cute. That's all the chicks that drive it care about.
      JC914
      • 2 Years Ago
      "it's not that soft..." They lost me when they went water cooled, and now this? *******!
      Monsieur Oblong
      • 2 Years Ago
      *yawn* I'll take a 993. I just can't care about Porsche's latest GT cruiser.
        biopsea
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Monsieur Oblong
        oh i wish everyone had to post what they drive before making a comment. yawn? i love a 993 but....
      Ross DC
      • 2 Years Ago
      New Boxster looks so much better compared to this
      Mohd Faiz
      • 2 Years Ago
      There's 1 problem with the review. You state that it's a 3.4, but the engine cover states it's a 3.8. So..... what now?
        EB110Americana
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mohd Faiz
        Yeah everything in the photos seems to support the 3.8 as it is the Carrera S and not "a plain Carrera." The only excuse is if the photo car was not the test vehicle, which is often the case, even with major auto magazines.
      Craig Storm
      • 2 Years Ago
      So basically we get a video of the top going up and down? How about a few runs to redline to hear that thing scream?
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