Few cars would seem more counterintuitive than the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet – a brutally fast sports car that allows the discerning driver to take their top off.
Does anyone need a convertible at this end of the performance spectrum? No. Does that matter? Almost certainly not. The trump card that the Cabriolet plays is the fact that you really lose nothing by offering a convertible option.
No Porsche is ‘cheap’ in the truest sense of the word, but then Porsche doesn’t really do ‘cheap’ either, so it’s relative. Even a base Porsche of any kind, SUV or otherwise, doesn’t feel low-rent. Pricing for the Cabriolet starts from $494,500 before on-road costs. Add some options and those on-road costs, and you’re on the far side of 550 grand. Exclusivity is pretty hard to price up on a spreadsheet, though, isn’t it? You’re not going to see a Turbo S Cabriolet on every street corner.
Pricing is such an interesting argument to have. A ‘regular’ Carrera drop-top starts from $258,200 before on-road costs. Is the Turbo S twice as good? On paper it certainly is, but you can’t possibly discern that on-road at regular speed, so the argument moves away from money and into the realm of how special the car is, and what it’s capable of.
It’s a gorgeous thing to look at, too, roof up or down. The broad haunches, fat rubber, air intakes and scoops, and the light signatures all remind you how beautifully elegant the 911 shape has always been. Like a fine wine it gets better with age, and pumped up in Turbo S guise it looks sensational.
Speak to anyone in the engineering department at Porsche, though, and they will tell you one thing – the 911 brief starts and, in many ways, ends with its beating heart. The engine is, quite simply, central to the philosophy of any Porsche that wears a 911 badge. The engine is perhaps the main reason the 911 has always been so revered.
As such, and as you’d expect, the new 3.8-litre engine in the rear of the new 911 is a masterpiece. It might be the same capacity as the previous model, but it’s all new internally. Somehow, the 911 makes the prodigious power and torque that it does while still meeting incredibly strict global emissions regulations. It’s truly mind-boggling what six-cylinders are capable of, and a remarkable testament to where modern internal combustion engineering is at.
The twin-turbo 3.8-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine thunders out 478kW and 800Nm through Porsche’s renowned eight-speed PDK and AWD. There’s little doubt you need AWD to handle so much power and torque safely, too. 0–100km/h? 2.8 seconds for the Cabriolet. Top speed is 330km/h. Porsche claims 11.7L/100km on the combined cycle, and after what we'd call 'normal' driving, we used 13.9L/100km.
|2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet|
|Engine||3.8-litre twin-turbocharged petrol flat-six|
|Power and torque||478kW @ 6700rpm, 800Nm @ 2500–4000rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||11.7L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||13.9L/100km|
|Boot volume||128L (Front)|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Untested|
|Main competitors||Audi R8 Spyder, Lamborghini Huracan Convertible, McLaren 720S Spider|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$494,500|
While GT2 and GT3 variants might be a sharper scalpel on-track, they won’t match the Turbo S in a straight line, and we in the CarAdvice team frequently refer to it as the ultimate getaway vehicle. In the real world, at pace, a Turbo S is so easy to drive at warp speed that if you were on a bank heist, there’d be no better escape car.
The point that needs to be made with any Turbo S is this – the numbers don’t do it any justice. You can’t understand the power and speed, you can’t get your head around how truly epic the performance ability is, unless you’re in it. The numbers might be eye-watering, but they really don’t do the car any justice.
The savagery with which the Turbo S launches is something you need to get used to. As we saw when we drove them on the runway at Sydney Airport a few months back, you need more than one launch to really get to grips with how rapidly a Turbo S gets off the line. It thumps you back into your seat, and keeps you pinned there on the run to 300km/h. The first time you try it, it will likely blur your vision and feel like a rollercoaster – it’s that savage.
As you’d expect, the Cabriolet is a little heavier than the Coupe, but the soft-top, which retracts in 12 seconds, is worth the price of admission. If only for the fact that it lets the quite technical soundtrack assault your ears a little more effectively. It rides beautifully, too, as nearly every 911 tends to, and is in effect a luxurious GT.
With 18-way electric seat adjustment, a quality Bose audio system, 10.9-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the cabin of the Turbo S is more luxury than it is racetrack, despite the performance on offer when you open the tap. There’s no doubt that Porsche continues to own the liveable supercar title. You could easily drive a Turbo S every day. An optional nose-lift system means you aren’t chewing your front splitter to pieces on nasty driveways and speed humps either.
The comfort of the ride means you aren’t getting crashed around the cabin on a rubbish road, and it makes for an effortless cruiser when you don’t feel like the white-knuckle thrill ride the Turbo S is capable of. There's precious little scuttle shake when the top is down, even on the nastiest of roads, so rigid is the chassis itself.
It’s the same story with the gearbox – smooth and precise around town, almost imperceptible in the way it selects its chosen ratio. However, it’s lightning fast and rifle-shot accurate at speed as the revs rise. The AWD system plays its part here, too. You never for one minute feel unhinged or insecure behind the wheel of the Turbo S, no matter how wet or diabolical the road surface.
When you do find your favourite section of twisty B-road, the savagery with which the Turbo S builds pace is at odds with the seemingly digital, unfluttered nature of the car. It’s as if you blink, and all of a sudden you’re doing warp speed. The chassis is responsive and sure-footed, balanced and willing to be pushed as hard as you dare.
Porsche steering remains as good as it gets, and that’s despite the assistance being electric. Beautifully weighted and responsive, the steering wheel talks to you as you flow from one corner to the next, and the broad cross-section front rubber bites hard into the tarmac as you load it up. Few cars at this end of the performance spectrum are as easy to drive fast as the Turbo S.
Some criticise the AWD platform claiming it has a tendency to understeer, as many AWDs do. I’d weigh in with the reality that you have to be pushing well beyond stupidity to find that point, and it’s effectively impossible on the road. Yes, the current 911 is weighed down by the technicality that is required of it, not to mention emissions and safety. Porsche offers the Cayman to fill the void felt by those hankering for the lightweight purity of the original 911.
The current 911 is now a very different car to the first. It takes its place as the technological tour de force that showcases the very best Porsche can deliver. Hardtop or soft-top, it matters not. The Turbo S is the cream of the crop. Stupidly, mind-bendingly fast, but incredibly refined and luxurious, it’s the one to lust after with good reason. What you're looking at here is the most complete and versatile super sports car money can buy – with a folding roof.