2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet in Guards Red, front 3/4

Honesty time: Much like Editor-in-Chief John Neff, convertibles aren't really my thing. Oh sure, I love having a good droptop for a week every now and then, but I just can't see myself ever plunking down the cash to own one.

But whereas Neff cites specific areas of compromise as the big reason for not owning a cabrio, my argument lies mostly with design. Simply put, I can't think of a single convertible on the market that doesn't somehow look slightly worse than its coupe kin. Exceptions can be made for droptop-only models like the BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK and the lovely Mazda MX-5 Miata, but again, there are no dedicated hardtop versions of those cars to compare them to. And when you're working with a shape as iconic and precision-cut as the Porsche 911, lopping the roof off just doesn't do it for me.

So while I would never buy this Cabriolet over the beautiful coupe, there's still a lot to love about the wind-in-your-hair 911 experience. And as I learned over the course of a week, there's a whole lot of praise to be given to the Porsche's base powertrain, as well.

Driving Notes
  • I've spent a bit of time with the Carrera S and its 3.8-liter direct-injected flat-six, but even with 50 less horsepower and 38 fewer pound-feet of torque on hand, this 3.4-liter mill is still quite impressive. Even in 3,197-pound, two-wheel-drive Cabriolet form, the smaller engine's 350 hp and 287 lb-ft are more than enough to keep things interesting.
  • That's especially true when paired with the seven-speed manual transmission. I was initially worried that I'd be spending a lot of time changing gears, but thankfully, there's enough power available in each gear for most passing situations. Even so, with a nicely weighted clutch and a gearbox that's perfectly placed for quick steering-wheel-to-shifter movements, frequent use of the seven-speed stick is quite sweet.
  • One more word about that seven-speed unit: The actual action of shifting into seventh gear is neat, but the weirder feeling is downshifting into sixth. And since seventh gear really acts as a full-on overdrive, seven-to-five shifts are more appropriate for moments of power on demand.
  • The chassis of this 911 Cabriolet feels every bit as solid as the Carrera S coupe I drove earlier this year. Sporting convertibles are tricky business, but Porsche has absolutely nailed it here with this 991 generation. You really don't feel any sort of dynamic sacrifice by losing the added rigidity of the hardtop.
  • The best part about the roof-removed experience is being able to hear the 911's excellent exhaust note at full volume, especially with the sport exhaust in full swing. Push the button on the right side of the center console and you'll be treated to nothing but aural delight during acceleration, as well as that snap-crackle-grumble-burble wind-down when you let off the throttle. It's simply intoxicating.
  • Overall, topless driving is actually quite pleasant. Don't want to be in a flurry of wind noise? Flip up the electronic windscreen and the front passenger compartment becomes a place where you can actually hold conversations with your shotgun-rider at higher speeds. And since those rear seats are really only usable as parcel shelves anyway, the screen gives added protection for your shopping bags, as well.
  • Going back to my design discussion for a moment, the big area of offense is what happens to the coupe's sloping roofline when the top was chopped off. Basically, instead of a svelte, fluid design, you're left with a sort of hunchback over the engine when the soft top is folded. Things look fine with the cloth top in place, but if you are paying extra for the Cabriolet, you'd better be dropping that top as often as possible.
  • That said, I think the 991 generation 911 might be my favorite yet. I love specific design elements like the slim taillamps and LED accents up front, and while the 20-inch Carrera Classic wheels ($2,730) look one inch too large to my eyes, they're seriously handsome.
  • As tested, this 911 Carrera Cabriolet stickers for $119,530 including $950 for destination. Yes, that price includes lavish options like the Guards Red seatbelts ($540) and full leather interior ($4,120!), but even so, the cost of entry is still $93,700.
  • Considering the fact that you aren't really gaining any sort of functionality with those totally useless rear seats, I just don't see the argument for owning a 911 Cabriolet over a $60,990 Boxster S. It's arguably a more sporting performer – lighter, more powerful and will sprint to 60 miles per hour in the same 4.8 seconds as this 911 C2 Cabriolet – and with its two-seat roadster-only design, the whole package looks more appealing to my eyes, as well.