2008 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet | road test

Posted on Jun 2, 2008 by

There is a fundamental argument against driving
convertible sports cars and purists will snort their derision at the
‘hairdresser’ cruising past in this 911 Turbo Cabriolet. But that is
old-school thought and that supposed know it all laughing at the new chop-top
flagship is simply proving how little he knows about the modern Porsche
landscape.

Yes, the original 930 Turbos of the 1980s were
fearsome beasts that specialized in slamming over ambitious stockbrokers into the
trees. They were real sports cars and commanded respect on the limit, but those
days are gone.

The Turbo has evolved into the limousine of the
line-up, the everyman’s, everyday supercar. So far from being the moron’s
choice, Porsche’s soft-top is actually a logical conclusion – the last word in
luxurious speed. That’s the way it felt diving into a bend at 100mph with the
wind in my hair and the sun on my back in any case.

It 911 Turbo was always going to be fast, thanks to
that 3.6-litre twin turbo engine that blasts out 480 raging horses and 457lb/ft
of torque from as low as 2000rpm. That’s thanks to Variable Turbine Geometry which
helps the engine fire on all cylinders at low and high revs, and helps send the
Porsche down the road as if it was pulled by elastic. It could do with a little
more volume, though, as the speedo is the only true indicator of speed, the 911
Turbo Cabrio is almost too calm for its own good and I could easily have found
myself pleading ignorance with the police – such was its composure.

The manual version of the Turbo Cabriolet fitted
with the Sports Chrono kit with overboost hits 60mph in four seconds, 0.2s
behind the computer controlled Steptronic, and keeps going all the way to
192mph thanks to controlled boosts to 501lb/ft of torque. Even though the
manual 911 is a slower Porsche it’s still the one to go for, as the clutch is
no more troublesome than the softest hatchback’s and the payoff on the back
road is ultimate control.

Cars like this simply obliterate free space and it
wasn’t long before the middle pedal came into play and the ceramic brakes
hauled outrageous speeds from the clock and gave a brief time to reflect on the
balance of the Turbo Cab.

Incidentally those Porsche Ceramic Brakes are still an
expensive way to ruin the experience and a relaxed; finger light car like this
deserves brakes that match the character. That’s the perfectly weighted steel
units with red calipers, not the optional yellow ones that cost the Earth and
offer a snatchy, hostile bite in return.

The soft-top Porsche weighs just 70kg more than the
Coupe and 5kg less than the outgoing 996, thanks to a lightweight 31kg, triple
layer hood, bracing in the side sills and rollover protection in the back of
the seats and the window frame. Most of that extra weight is designed to
eliminate scuttle shake and tuners have taken this shell up to 910bhp without
too many traumas, so this is undoubtedly a stiff car.

Those 1655kg can’t disappear in the corners, and at
the first sign of trouble the Cabriolet shares the load with the front wheels
thanks to the computer controlled viscous clutch-controlled four-wheel drive.
There’s a host of other electronic goodies going on, too, with the giant
electronic brain applying the brakes, squashing the suspension to the road and
doing everything it can to keep the man with the money to buy this car through
to the next service.

 

 

Underneath the skin, the 911 Turbo Cabriolet is a
technological masterpiece. The car works so much faster than the driver ever
could that it will fix almost any problem before antiquated concepts like
opposite lock even matter. While it won’t engage as much as Porsche GT3, it
also has no sting in the tail, and crucially, no shudder in the chassis even
through the most challenging bend. It will simply push wide under duress, the
nose drifting gently off the line before cutting into the tarmac once more.

Over the years Porsche has found a way to get
downforce at the rear so through the high speed bends this car is every bit as
effective as the hard-top sibling. But to test that theory you’d have to push
the local law enforcement to the very limits of their understanding, and had it
not been our job to do so the character of the car would really have encouraged
a more conservative approach.

Yes it’s face-twistingly fast, but it’s also a
long-distance cruiser with deep, comfortable seats that are far more suited to
the public road than the bucket offerings in other super sports cars. Most of
the Turbo’s life is spent on standard roads, doing standard things; this Porsche
is no trackday warrior and doesn’t pretend to be.

As for the looks, well the LED warpaint on the nose of
the 911 Turbo Cabriolet is a little vulgar. Overall the Carrera is more
elegant, but we have all been intrinsically programmed to recognize the Porsche
flagship on sight. This is, after all, a shape that has been distilled over
four decades and the 811 has become a design icon in its own right.

Wide hips allow those big intakes to feed the engine
and the subtle rear spoiler stays out of things until the car is going fast
enough to need the bi-plane downforce. At the rear, the famous italic letters
and gaping exhausts, together with more vents, mark this car apart from the
rest of the breed.

The only image problem it faces is one of its own
making. The price of this Porsche is not far shy of a Lamborghini Gallardo or
Ferrari F430 and both have that exclusivity that the Porsche simply cannot
match. However, the Italian alternatives also have catastrophic depreciation
and nowhere near Porsche’s record for reliability, so you pay your money and
take your choice.

But on the road the loss that once marked the
Cabriolet out as the hairdresser’s choice is now only on paper, a theoretical
margin we never get to explore. People whose particular needs go beyond that
point buy the GT3 and a trackday season pass.

The Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet is now a completely
different car for a different sector, one that will be happy to cruise round
town with the wind blowing through their immaculately coiffed hair. Purists
will scoff, but what do they know?

 

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