Porsche 911 Cabriolet review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Open-top 911 Cabriolet adds extra dimension, but has new turbo engine robbed it of some of that classic convertible character?

For: 
Looks. open-air thrills, usability
Against: 
Lacks coupe's dynamic ability, price

Like the 911 coupe, this facelifted Cabriolet model neatly integrates the firm’s new 3.0-litre turbo engine and gets a subtly enhanced look thanks to some styling changes. But while open-air thrills are on offer courtesy of that convertible roof, the 911 Cabriolet’s chassis lacks the poise and composure of its hard top sibling.

Our Choice: 
911 Carrera S Cabriolet manual

Removing the 911’s roof adds an extra dimension to the driving experience, putting the Porsche up against drop-top rivals like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster, the Mercedes-Benz SL and the Jaguar F-Type.

The 911 sits in the gap between the Mercedes and the Jag, as it’s not quite the focused sports car the coupe is, but still benefits from impressive performance – as you’d expect from any Porsche. 

Best convertibles

There’s lots of choice, with two different power outputs available from the new 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six unit in either Carrera or Carrera S form. There are transmissions options, too – a seven-speed manual is standard, while Porsche’s seven-speed dual-clutch PDK box is an option. Buyers can also choose from two- and four-wheel drive variants.

At the top of the range, meanwhile, there are the fearsomely powerful Turbo and Turbo S variants. These are four-wheel drive and PDK only, and they have some jaw-dropping numbers: 532bhp in the case of the Turbo, and 572bhp from the Turbo S.

Even if you discount these extreme editions, the facelifted 991.2-generation 911 Cabriolet spans quite a price range. The car starts from £76,412 for the entry-level two-wheel drive Carrera, rising to £99,684 for the Carrera 4S. Going for the PDK auto costs another £2,388 and marks a significant step, taking the 4S’s total price to an eye-watering £102,072.

The Turbo and Turbo S are another ball game altogether; the Turbo costs a cool £135,766, while Porsche charges a vaguely ludicrous £154,614 for the extra 40bhp that the Turbo S brings.

Those figures are all slightly higher than those of the pre-facelift editions, but there’s more standard kit available – including a revised infotainment system and Apple CarPlay – while the 911’s styling has subtly evolved, too.

There are new front and rear bumpers with bigger vents to help cool the engine, and the engine cover now gets vertical slats to channel more air towards those turbos.

Like all of Porsche’s updated models, there’s a four-dot running light design for the headlights, while the same light signature is present at the back on the new 3D cut-out taillights.

The changes might be minor, but they add up to give a focused look. The 911 is only marginally different to its predecessor, but the iconic shape – dictated by that rear-engined layout – remains.

As before, the Turbo and Turbo S get an even wider body with more air intakes just ahead of the rear wheels, and a large rear wing. 

Engines, performance and drive

4.1
New turbo engine adds extra flexibility, but losing the roof detracts from solid driving experience

Replacing a naturally aspirated engine with a smaller turbocharged unit might improve efficiency, but it unfortunately removes some of the theatre of revving out a spine-tingling engine to its limit.

Turbos work off the exhaust, with the waste gasses spinning a compressor to force more air into the cylinders, producing more power and reducing fuel consumption. But a by-product is that turbos reduce noise.

In a convertible sports car you should be able to hear the engine rasp, but in this new 911 Cabriolet that’s not quite the case. Push the accelerator and there’s an audible whoosh as the turbos build boost, but the 911’s traditional exhaust bark isn’t quite as loud. At least the Sports exhaust releases a few more decibels and a bit more character, but it’s a pricey option.

However, the Cabriolet still has enough bite, as with 365bhp on offer in the Carrera, 0-62mph takes 4.8 seconds. The Carrera S ramps things up with 414bhp, so the manual is another three tenths faster. The quickest Cabriolet on offer is the 4S with Porsche’s PDK box – with the extra traction off the line it rockets from 0-62mph in 4.0 seconds, giving it genuine pace.

But power is nothing without control, and by removing the roof the coupe’s stiff structure has lost some of its rigidity. It means over bumpy roads the Cabriolet shakes and shimmies as the suspension tries to cope with the body flex.

It reduces comfort when cruising while another consequence is less grip when driving faster compared to the coupe. It’s no surprise, as the roof rails add plenty of strength, but push harder and the Cabriolet’s extra flex over the coupe means the steering isn’t quite as precise either.

There’s still just enough feedback on offer to let you know what both ends of the car are doing, but even with Porsche’s Active Suspension Management now fitted as standard, it lacks that last layer of composure. 

PASM also means the 911 is now 10mm lower than before. However, the switchable dampers widen this car’s breadth of ability, so it’s more comfortable in Comfort and offers extra focus in Sport. We’d suggest sticking to the default Comfort setting though, as the stiffer damping in Sport worsens the body wobble.

The 911 redeems itself with its seven-speed manual. The light shift action is mechanically precise, so you can snick through the gears. It’s helped by a new twin disc clutch, which is lighter in traffic and therefore easier to use. Go for Porsche’s Sport Chrono pack and you get a rotary control on the steering wheel to select driving modes – in Sport or Sport Plus it gives the engine a delicious blip on the way down the ratios. 

Of course, the PDK paddle shift option does this too, and adds lightning quick upshifts into the mix for extra performance, effortlessly switching cogs when cruising around town or on the motorway in auto mode. 

If you go for an S model Porsche’s rear-wheel steering option is available, borrowing the tech from the high-performance GT3 and Turbo models. At low speed this actually turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts to increase agility. 

Increase the pace and at high speed the rear wheels go in the same direction as the fronts to improve stability. It’s clever tech that really works, giving crisp turn-in. However, the big deal here is still the engine.

The Turbo Cabriolet has devastating cross-country pace, thanks to its 710Nm of torque and various modes that can make the gearbox shift more quickly and aggressively. Frankly, it's hard to think of more than a handful of vehicles that could keep up with the Turbo, which can reach 62mph from rest in just 3.1 seconds.

The rest of its drive isn't quite as sweet as the regular 911s', though; the steering in particular is affected by the four-wheel drive system, so while the Turbo and Turbo S are the peak of the range in terms of pure performance, they're not top dogs when it comes to driving pleasure.

Engines

Throttle response can sometimes be a problem with a turbo engine, but Porsche’s engineers have worked hard to make sure when you push the right-hand pedal the 911 leaps down the road instantly. 

As a result maximum torque is made from 1,700rpm all the way to 5,000rpm 450Nm in the standard Carrera and 500Nm in Carrera S models), which makes this a very flexible unit. There’s minimal turbo lag in the base model, but the S responds more crisply still. 

Whereas you might have had to rev the old Cabriolet’s naturally aspirated unit hard to extract the performance, the added mid-range shove of this 3.0-litre power plant makes for more relaxing progress. It’s lost some top-end fireworks compared to its high-revving predecessor, but the car is now more usable day-to-day.

With the Sport Chrono pack you also get Porsche’s new Sport Response feature. It’s only for PDK-equipped models, but push the little red button in the centre of the drive mode selector and the gearbox down changes to the right gear, priming the engine for a burst of acceleration for 20 seconds. It works well for rapid overtakes.

The engine in the Turbo and Turbo S editions has also been upgrade for the facelift, but it's closer to what we knew before, with 3.8 litres and twin turbochargers. It does get more advanced systems designed to lower the amount of 'turbo lag' - the delay between pressing the throttle and boost being delivered to the engine - but demand performance in a higher gear and you'll still find yourself waiting for a moment or two while things crank into life. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4
Turbocharging vastly improves fuel economy and CO2 emissions, but it could still be costly to run

Running a high-performance sports car like a Porsche is never going to be cheap, but the manufacturer’s move to a turbo engine has improved fuel consumption and reduced CO2 emissions.

The Carrera Cabriolet manual returns official figures of 33.2mpg and 295g/km CO2. Go for the auto and this improves to 37.7mpg with an impressively low 172g/km CO2. It means £265 and £205 road tax respectively.

Unsurprisingly, the figures aren’t quite as frugal for the more powerful S model, but it still returns decent numbers, with 32.1mpg and 202g/km CO2 for the manual, and 36.2mpg with 178g/km for the PDK.

The Cabriolet also comes with four-wheel drive, so the extra drag on the engine here means it has to work slightly harder, resulting in a slight decrease in fuel consumption.

The highlight is the Carrera 4 PDK at 36.7mpg and 177g/km CO2, while the worst is the 4S manual at 31.7mpg and 204g/km CO2. However, for cars boasting 365 or 414bhp, these figures are incredibly impressive and similar to some hot hatchbacks. Just don’t expect to achieve them if you want to use any of the Porsche’s performance.

The Turbo and Turbo S models are created for those who really don't have to even look at the price tag, so it's no surprise that their efficiency figures aren't as rosy. Both cars return 30.4mpg and 216g/km of CO2 emissions.

Stop-start is standard on all models, while there’s also a coasting function to help eek as much from a tank of fuel as possible. The 911 also features some clever aerodynamics to reduce drag – including active aero grilles at the front that open and close – using less energy to cut through the air and therefore improving fuel economy.

Insurance groups

High running costs will also stem from the Cabriolet’s high insurance group ratings. The scale runs from one to 50, with 50 being the highest – every 911 Cabriolet variant comes in at group 50, so expect to pay a significant amount for 12 months’ cover on your car.

This is similar with rivals, however. Cars at this level of the market, costing this much and with similar performance to the Porsche, will all likely be rated at group 50, but with new safety tech on the 911, it should help to keep premiums reasonable.

Depreciation

Residual values for the 911 Cabriolet range hover around the 50 per cent mark, according to our experts, which means the open-top 911 is expected to hold onto around half of its value after three years/60,000 miles.

This does mean you’ll lose a minimum of around £42,000 on the least expensive £85,253 Carrera Cabriolet.

Interior, design and technology

4.2
Extra connectivity tech improves 911's appeal inside

The 911 Cabriolet’s interior is carried over from the coupe wholesale, except for the fact that the roof retracts electronically, adding some open-air enjoyment. Push the button on the centre console and it takes 13 seconds for the roof to raise or lower, which can be operated on the move at up to 31mph.

There’s also an electronic wind deflector that you can put up behind the front seats, which does a good job of reducing buffeting at speed inside the cabin.

The cabin layout will be familiar to anyone who’s sat in the pre-facelift 991-generation model, as the high dashboard and cossetting centre console put the focus on the driver. Material quality is excellent and there’s a surprising amount of space for a sports car.

However, the real change for this facelifted 911 comes with the infotainment system. The seven-inch touchscreen now accepts swipe and pinch gestures, just like a smartphone or a tablet, so it’s easier to use.

Sat-nav and real-time traffic info is also standard, as is Apple CarPlay. However, there’s no MirrorLink function for Android users. Porsche has also developed a new Car Connect app, which lets owners check their car’s security status or fuel level remotely.

This new generation of 911 also features a narrower diameter sports steering wheel, which takes design inspiration from the 918 hyoercar. It looks better, but it’s also more functional, making the 911 feel eager to change direction. If you want, you can also tick the GT steering wheel option box – this is even narrower again. 

Other on-board tech includes an optional front axle lift system so the 911’s nose doesn’t scrape over challenging speed bumps, as well as rear-wheel steering on S models to further improve agility and stability at low and high speeds respectively.

Adaptive cruise, adaptive LED lighting and lane keep assist are also optionally available to improve safety.

The Turbo and Turbo S editions, meanwhile, get fully electric and heated sports seats as part of an extensive standard kit list; there's also more widespread use of leather throughout the cabin, and a GT sports steering wheel.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The new PCM 4 touchscreen infotainment system is a big step on over the previous unit, and it’s much easier to use.

Being able to pair your iPhone adds extra options, too. However, as we mentioned, there’s no Android connectivity option as yet. Porsche says the majority of its customers use Apple products, so at the moment it has no plans to branch out into developing an Android Auto system.

Bluetooth is standard, while the USB socket has been moved out of the glove box and into the central cubby, improving functionality.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

3.5
911 Cabriolet offers surprisingly useful luggage space and has USP compared to rivals

Most sports cars are strictly two seaters. However, the Porsche 911 has always had an advantage here, as its two small rear seats allow enough room for children or offer extra luggage room, meaning this is a surprisingly practical car given its sloping roofline and curvaceous silhouette. 

Under that low bonnet is a 145-litre boot in the two-wheel drive version. This drops to 125 litres in the four-wheel drive car due to the front differential eating into space, but in either configuration there’s still enough room for a few overnight bags. 

Fold down the seat backs to those small bucket seats in the back and there’s a further 260 litres of luggage room on offer.

Other practicality features include that nose lifter, improving ground clearance for steep ramps and speed bumps, as well as the view out. The low bonnet gives a great view forward, while unlike some rivals such as the Jaguar F-Type, the 911’s shape means you can see out of the mirrors and the rear screen easily.

Size

It’s no surprise the 911 has grown over the years as buyers want more practicality to go with the performance, but this is still a relatively compact sports car compared to some of its rivals.

The rear-wheel drive Cabriolet is 1.8m across its widest point – the rear wheel arches. This excludes the door mirrors, though. At 4.5m long and 1.3m tall, it’s a sleek, low sports car. 

The Carrera 4 and 4S are 40mm wider due to the extra width across the rear wheels, so the body has grown to cover the increased foot print, while an LED light bar connects the cut-out 3D rear light clusters to accentuate the car’s extra width. The Turbo and Turbo S are a further 30mm wider again.

To put the 911’s size into perspective, a Jaguar F-Type is 1.92m wide and nearly as long at 4.47m. However, the Jag’s chunky C-pillars and more claustrophobic cabin mean visibility isn’t as good.

With Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management now standard, the 911’s ride height has also dropped by 10mm. That means the car sits even lower to the ground, but despite this it’s still relatively easy to get in and out of. That’s because the door sills aren’t too wide.

As you’d expect, access to the rear seats is easy with the roof down, but even with the long doors, if you’ve got the roof up it’s more of a job to clamber into the rear. One benefit of the 911’s rear-engined layout is that when the roof’s folded it doesn’t impact boot space like in some other convertibles.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Space in the front is good – you sit low, so the dash seems high, and despite the rising centre console the 911’s cockpit doesn’t feel cramped.

The glove box isn’t huge but is large enough to offer decent storage, just like the pop-out door bins. There’s a shallow cubby under the central armrest while the pair of cupholders that pop out of the dashboard are a neat solution.

In the rear legroom is limited, as is headroom with the roof up. Adults will feel very cramped, but then Porsche doesn’t claim the 911 is able to carry four people. The seating layout is described as ‘2+2’, so the back seats are really for small children or extra luggage space.

Porsche offers an Isofix mounting point for the front passenger seat if you’ll be carrying a child seat.

Boot

Luggage space in the nose is limited, but then again, the Jag F-Type Cabriolet only has a 196-litre boot. Combined with the extra luggage room in the rear of the cabin, both the rear- and four-wheel drive Cabriolet models boast more space than the Jaguar.

Another benefit is that the luggage bay is a nice, square shape, so there are no awkward intrusions in the area where you’ll stow your bags.

Reliability and Safety

4.2
Extra safety tech and strong reliability work in 911's favour

Porsche always performs well in our annual Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Last year it finished in sixth place overall, while its dealers scored a strong result in eighth.

This new generation of 911 has brought with it a number of safety improvements, so post-collision braking is now standard to reduce the effects of any secondary impacts in the event of a crash, while a brake upgrade gives extra stopping power.

The S models feature larger discs again, while Porsche’s ceramic-composite brakes are also available as an option to really haul the 911 down quickly, resisting fade well.

There’s a new mode for the ESP system, called PSM Sport. This is a half-way house between on and fully off, which lets you have a little more fun. However, if you brake hard enough to trigger the ABS the stability control automatically cuts back in to help you out.

Euro NCAP doesn’t crash test the Porsche 911, but with a strong structure and pop-up roll over bars that emerge from behind the rear seats to protect passengers in a crash, we’d expect the 911 Cabriolet to be relatively safe. However, you have to remember this is an open car, which means inherently it’s not quite as safe as the coupe.

Warranty

All Porsche’s come with a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, which is the same as its major rivals and standard at this level of the market.

Servicing

Porsche hasn’t released servicing prices for the latest 911 yet, but going off prices for the previous model, it’s not going to be cheap to maintain. A minor service is predicted to cost around £485 while a major service will be around £615. This is the same for all 911 Cabriolet variants.

One saving grace is that the car’s service intervals are every 20,000 miles or two years – whichever comes first – so depending on how much you use your 911, it might not have to go in for routine maintenance quite as frequently as you’d think.

Last updated: 11 Feb, 2016