If you’re anything like me, when you think 911, you think hardtop – especially at the higher end of the performance envelope. However, the 2020 Porsche Carrera S Cabriolet might just be the perfect drop-top sports car.
I know that’s a big call (even merely suggesting it might be ‘perfect’), but if proper sports car performance is your poison, and you like the idea of cruising round on a warm summer night with the top down, I’m not sure there’s a better option than a drop-top 911. In Carrera S guise, it’s got just the right mix of poise and performance, too.
We spent our week with the 911 Cab just before the lockdown took effect. The weather was warmer, but things had already started to slow down a bit and driving congestion was easing up. Just the right time of year to ease the roof down and head out of Sydney. Which is what we did, making a beeline for the rolling hills and beautiful roads in the Southern Highlands south of the Sydney CBD. It’s on roads like these where the 911 Cab is in its element.
I’m not usually big on green either, but the Aventurine Green Metallic, black cloth roof, and Mojave Beige interior is a stunning combo. The paint comes alive in direct sun and looks absolutely stunning out in the open. It’s different, too, and stands out from the other 911s on the road, whether they are hardtop or cabriolet. It’s just a gorgeous colour that makes the most of the 911’s bulges and curves, and chunky profile. We had plenty of admirers during our week with it, but without doubt, the colour attracted the most attention.
Pricing for the Carrera S Cabriolet starts from $286,100 before on-road costs. Our tester is fitted with the following options: Sports Exhaust ($5470), Sport Chrono ($4890), Interior Package in Paldao Dark ($3370), Satin Platinum wheels ($2500), Park Assist with Surround View ($2170), LED headlights with PDLS Plus ($2070), two-tone interior trim ($1250), heated leather steering wheel ($1140), light design package ($1000), Power Steering Plus ($550), and the embossed Porsche crest on the seats ($470).
That brings the total price to $310,980 before on-road costs. So, the 911 S Cabriolet isn’t for the faint-hearted, but on the other hand it packs a serious performance punch to accompany the undeniable style that only a 911 can bring to the table.
It’s hardly newsworthy that a 911 is an expensive car, but you’re buying into a legend, and if you walk into a Porsche dealer, you know exactly what you’re in for. The two options you would absolutely have to consider, though, if the full list is stretching the budget too far, are the sports exhaust and Sports Chrono – they are 911 non-negotiables in our book.
RWD v AWD? It’s an interesting question if money isn’t an object, but outside of the very fastest 911, I’ll take my drive to the rear tyres please. Especially for this specification, with a 4S-matching 331kW and 530Nm on offer. While the AWD 911 is, and probably deserves to be, the puffed-chest hero, there’s a purity to the RWD platform that entices, and the driving experience is sensational. 0–100km/h takes just 3.9 seconds, and top speed is 306km/h.
The combined fuel consumption claim is…. Actually who cares? If you’re watching the fuel gauge, you’ve bought the wrong car. Consider those numbers for a minute, though. Sub four seconds to 100km/h, and just over 300km/h top speed. The S Cab is a fast sports car – very fast in fact.
The 2981cc horizontally opposed flat six is of course twin turbocharged, and its effortless mix of off-the-mark power, mid-range torque, and surging redline urge remains one of the great driving experiences outside of a truly exotic supercar – some of which come from the same Stuttgart stable. Power is sent through the very best gearbox in the business – the eight-speed PDK – and still without peer in terms of precision and speed.
We’ve noted it before in various reviews that Porsche doesn’t do cheap or down budget. Even an entry-level Porsche, whether it be a Macan or 911, feels premium and beautifully executed from inside the cabin. This S Cab is no different. Thud the door closed and it’s insulated, quiet, serene. Certainly not what you’d expect if you haven’t driven a soft-top in a few decades.
The switchgear is premium and solid, everything has that signature Porsche carved-from-stone feeling. We noticed a squeak once in the course of our week of testing – with the top down – and it didn’t return once we had fixed the roof back in position, and then lowered it again. Aside from that, it’s solid execution wherever you look, and Porsche isn’t perfect here either. Just like any other manufacturer, there can be the odd fit or finish issue, but we didn’t find any with this specific tester.
I love the transition from exterior to interior in terms of colour contrast. I think it works stunningly in this vehicle, whereas it might not in a Turbo or Turbo S. It certainly does work here, though. Likewise, the mating of beige trim to subtle woodgrain finish as well. It looks tasteful rather than kitsch, and perhaps the fact that the timber trim is matte rather than gloss helps here, too. Regardless, if you don’t like the mix, the colour choices are plenty. Do us all a favour, though, if you do buy a 911, dare to be different.
Porsche has done a tasteful job of integrating smartphone connectivity to the infotainment system and the touchscreen itself is sharp and responsive. The reduction in buttons and switchgear through the main section of the centre console has smartened up the cabin, too, and the reductionist vibe is no bad thing for mine. The steering wheel switchgear and the driver display are purposeful, neatly arranged and driver-focused. The sense is that there’s nothing fussy or that doesn’t need to be there.
The staggered 20x8.5 and 21x11.5-inch wheels are both attractive and effective. They house 245/35ZR20 and 305/30ZR21 rubber that bites relentlessly into the bitumen to provide the utmost grip you could expect. And they do so repeatedly, without protest – grip even on a cool, early morning strip of blacktop is prodigious. Heat the tyres up, and they just get better.
The 911 Cab driving mandate is a simple one. Find your favourite piece of twisty road. Select Sport or Sport Plus. Choose a time when no-one is on it, or the traffic will be light at best. Rest assured, you won’t need to be doing warp speed to sample the precision that the 911 Cab can offer. The speed limit – draconian as they are on some of our roads – will be fine for what you need/want to do.
Next, drive your choice of blacktop with the roof up. Sample the engine noise, the fizzing urgency of the turbos, the tautness of the chassis with the roof in place, and the fact that you’ll soon forget it’s a convertible at all. Then turn around and do it again with the top down, trying to wrap your head around the fact that none of that precision or tautness has gone anyway. And the noise has simply become more visceral, reminding you why, if you own a convertible, the top should really be down at all times. Unless it’s raining.
Yes, removing the structural rigidity of a fixed roof and adding weight has an effect, but when you’re starting from the integrity of a 911 shell to begin with, you’d need to be Walter Röhrl or Mark Webber to feel it. And therein lies the appeal when you get right down to it. Buy a 911 Cab and you really do get the best of both worlds – the soft-top is as good as they get when it’s closed, and you also get to run around topless when the mood takes you – while smiling smugly in the knowledge that the outer reaches of the performance envelope are closer to ‘super’ car, than ‘sports’ car.
The steering and braking are sensational, too – Porsche continues to set the standard in the face of increased competition, and the way the steering particularly tells you what is going on beneath you is both reassuring and enjoyable. The way the 911 Cab switches character is something we never got sick of. Cruise around town in regular mode and it’s just a beautifully built cruiser. Roll that dial round to Sport or Sport Plus and it gets an angry edge to it that is utterly addictive.
After a day of shooting video out in the sun, wind or rain, one thing is for sure. We, as presenters (we call ourselves the un-talent) and the video crew (they work a lot harder than we do), are generally more than happy to wrap up the day’s proceedings. Early start, all day out in the elements, multiple takes to get the right shot, it’s a long day in the saddle, and it’s always a relief to know you’ve got what you need in the can.
Not this time. The 911 Carrera S Cabriolet is the kind of car that has you looking for excuses. And that would be the case whether you owned it or were simply custodian for a week as we are. Sure, you’d be happy just to wander into your garage and admire its curvaceous rump, but this car is all about the driving. Sitting still is hardly its forte.
“Hey Lucas, just set that in-car gear up with the audio again, mate. I’m going to have one last run at the twisty section to see if I can nail the piece-to-camera a little better…”