Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet perfect for fall
By JOHN STEIN Automotive Editor October 11, 2012 1:40PM
2012 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA CABRIOLET
ENGINE: 350-horsepower 3.4-liter six-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: seven-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: rear-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 20 city/29 highway
BASE PRICE: $94,650
AS TESTED: not available
The 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet is the kind of vehicle that manages to get better while still staying true to a strict sports car heritage created over 50 years and remaining within screaming distance of the wishes of an even stricter enthusiast base.
When the top goes down, 911 fans will recognize the rear-end hump is not as pronounced as the previous model, a visual trick more than any engineering ingenuity. While it may appear the deck-lid height was lowered, it was not — the beltline was raised to compensate for larger wheels, which streamlines the body sides and the rear end in the process.
Featuring the signature rear-mounted flat-six engine, this Porsche embraces its heritage and pays homage to the 1965 original. The new Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet delivers a longer body and a more powerful output than previous models and amazingly it manages to shed weight and, expectedly, gain fuel economy in the process.
The purists will not want to hear this, but driving this 911 Cabriolet over a period of a week made me feel like I was riding upon a touring-car platform, though there was never any mistaking the performance DNA that was just a pop of the accelerator away from putting a big smile on my face.
On the exterior, the 911 Cabriolet says soft-top; however, that is where such basic descriptions are shed. The 911 needs to fly and, unlike other drop-tops, shedding weight was of the highest importance to Porsche engineers, who crafted four rigid magnesium panels into the skeleton that defines the shape of the fabric top. This lightweight treatment not only makes the Cabriolet profile look more like the coupe, but the cabin noise is significantly reduced.
Inside the cabin you have four seats, of which only two are worth talking about. Fine leather covers the seating surfaces while the placement of gauges becomes the star of the show. Straight-forward speedometer and tachometer placement as well as oil and fuel are perfect, though I did appreciate the small digital speed readout at the six o’clock dash position.
Once I adjusted the power seating positions, the shifter seemed to be fit exclusively to my hand, although that shifter does seem to get in the way of adjusting audio controls. It is easy to overlook when you are enjoying the ride so much. Convenience goes out the door in the 911 when space is at a premium, and cup holders and space for personal items just do not exist. I found the panel door compartments to be the best place for storage of a cell phone or wallet.
Porsche’s horizontally opposed six cylinders deliver 350 horsepower in the Carrera and 400 horsepower in the Carrera S. Porsche claims efficiency to be up 15 percent, which is even more impressive when you consider they do it without turbochargers.
My 911 Cabriolet delivered outstanding performance with on-demand acceleration and an instant pull that peaks at 7,400 rpm while dancing with the silky-smooth seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission.
If looking cool and really fast were not enough, my 911 Cabriolet tester’s optional sport exhaust system ($2,995) transformed a rather refined expelling note to an aggressive culmination of sputters, pops and gargles amid a constant audible canvas of throaty rumbling. If they did not see me coming, they very well may have heard me first.
The 911’s first-ever electric power steering system has gotten a lot of attention from the critics, who believe the feedback from prior systems is essential to the pure driving experience of Porsche. While there is some tangible merit to the claim, most of 911 Cabriolet buyers are not looking for that as much as they are expecting an effortless driving experience. I found this system to deliver responsiveness and a clean feel on virtually every surface I drove upon. During some high-speed maneuvers and dives into hard turns, the 911 Cabriolet remained flat, composed and graceful.
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet offers all the sophistication and refinement that defines luxury cars, but the performance DNA and legendary look make it a statement vehicle equaled by few others on the road. At a base price of $94,650 to $108,950, you can bet your expectations will be met.
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