Conventional opinion among hardcore 911 fans is that the 911 Cabriolet is a lesser car than the 911 coupe. If the 911 is the world’s most accomplished sports car, why monkey around with it, especially when you know that taking off a car’s roof removes much of its strength. Without a roof a car becomes less rigid. You can strengthen the remaining body but you add even more weight back, reducing performance and agility.
So if the 911 coupe is for purists, surely the droptop is for hedonistic lotus eaters: those who rate style above substance, laughter above reason?
Porsche is a confident bunch and if its droptop 911 is to remain in the shadow of its coupe sibling, it appears no one has told it. Within weeks of driving the coupe around the hills of Santa Barbara, we take an early flight to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria before being deposited on a racetrack adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an impressive backdrop.
Within minutes we hop into a 911 Carrera Cabriolet and set off around the track. There is silence – and not just because we’re concentrating. An astonishing amount of tyre and wind noise is absent from the cabin. We switch drivers and repeat, then lower the roof and we’re off again.
Silence. This time because, really, the car is just as good as the coupe. Genuinely, just as good. Okay, maybe rally legend Walter Röhrl would notice the difference rather more than I do but for your average mortal, the new 911 Cabriolet, with its roof down, drives as close to the coupe as I can determine. There is no obvious deterioration in performance and no shake or vibrations; or, at least, there is so little in it as to silence the traditional purist argument.
We drive the 345bhp 3.4-litre flat six engine Carrera with a seven-speed manual gearbox on road and track. With a 0-62mph acceleration time of just 5.0 seconds (though 4.6 seconds is possible with PDK transmission and the Sport Plus package) this ragtop proves plenty fast enough on Gran Canaria’s public roads and it’s fantastically proficient on track too as it has loads of grip. And with the roof up, the car looks better than previous 911 Cabriolet models. Clever engineering has enabled the fabric roof to retain the exact shape of the coupe. This has greatly reduced the pram-like look of its predecessors, although the new sleeker nose of the latest 991 911 means that in droptop form the rear looks a little bottom-heavy. Still very beautiful, though.
Roof up and the car is surprisingly quiet and refined inside. Even with the roof down, there is almost no wind buffeting at all, thanks to the addition of a new electric wind deflector. One button push and it unfurls behind you: no more struggling to unfold a wind deflector manually (the automotive equivalent of a deck chair).
The interior is essentially the same as the coupe, which is to say it’s classy and far more comfortable than a sportscar has any right to be. The primary controls are within easy reach, which means even when you’re driving it quickly it feels effortless. It’s a fast and fantastically well-engineered machine. I can’t help but conclude that it has more personality than the coupe. The convertible has one further advantage too: the delicious snap, crackle and pop of its flat-six engine positively howls under hard acceleration, something that resonates even more deeply when there’s no roof to separate you from its sonorous pleasure. Maybe the hedonists are right after all.
THE FACTS: PORSCHE 911 CARRERA CABRIOLET
0-62MPH: 5 secs
TOP SPEED: 178mph
CO2 G/KM: 217g/km
MPG COMBINED: 31mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****