997 Turbo Cabrio

Falling for the un-911, the new Turbo cabriolet.

October 4, 2007

Also from Issue 159

  • V2: Paul-Ernst Strähle’s Famous 356
  • Patrick Long Helps Porsche Win Le Mans
  • How Porsche is Buying Volkswagen
  • Light Flyer: 914-6 GT on Track
  • Emil Pupilidy: Porsche Pioneer
  • Family of 911 Racers
  • Market Update: 911 Turbo and 912
  • Sensible Speed: A Fast 930, Well Bought
  • Eight is Enough: 968 V8
  • Porsche Icon: 968 Turbo RS
  • 356 Restoration Part 19
  • Cheap fix for 911/914 steering
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I feel dirty. Why? I’m going soft for a 911 that’s got just about none of the purity I crave. Soft for a soft “911,” one packed with excess gear, technology, and luxury features. For the 997 Turbo Cabriolet, a car that weighs 3,726 pounds according to its spec sheet and probably something closer to 4,000 in reality — or roughly twice as much as the first coupe to wear Porsche’s iconic badge. But that’s not the worst of it. No, here’s the shocker: for the first time ever, I think I prefer the driving dynamics of a convertible 911 to those of its coupe counterpart.

Yes, this fast “first drive” is marking itself out as an experience very different to those I’ve had at 911 Cabriolet introductions over the last decade. Usually, the most impressive aspect of any new open 911 is how well Porsche engineers have managed to make it go, stop, and handle like the coupe — giving you most, if not all, the fun plus the ability to stow the top. Weissach has a tradition of turning out top-drawer cabrios, but hit new highs starting with the from-scratch 996- and 997-based Cabriolets. Any lamentations over extra weight, softer suspension, and/or less structural rigidity were offset by the usual al fresco driving experience along with the realization you were giving up very little precision, performance, and pace to get it.

The 997 Turbo Cabriolet accomplishes the same feat, but adds something more. More pleasure, more feedback, and more fun. As someone who generally prefers coupes when it comes to focused driving, the idea that the open version is a better drive is nothing short of a revelation…

W ith a slick six-speed manual in hand and a delectable uphill section of winding road ahead, it’s time to dissect the German country lanes just outside Frank-furt. With two variable-vane turbochargers spooled up and blowing hard, the wave of torque is overwhelming, shoving the car forward towards the entry to a fast right-hander. Dipping into PCCB brakes lightly before leaning on them and then tapering off sets the nose nicely, allowing the Turbo Cabriolet to slice its way over to the apex with surgical precision.

First impression: this might be the best Porsche Active Suspension Management setup I’ve sampled on a 997. Softer tuning with more weight works out to more compliance and, with it, more predictability. Turn after turn, this green machine glides over bumps big and small. You can’t deny this 997’s fantastic, effortless ability to take a back road apart with surgical precision. It doesn’t give you the neck hair-raising thrills a GT3 will, but it isn’t meant to. While the Turbo Cabrio isn’t as involving or ultimately rewarding as a GT3, it’s deeply satisfying in the same way any tool that’s a cut above tends to be.

More satisfying than the Turbo coupe? Yes, and for two distinct reasons. First, the Turbo Cabriolet’s chassis feels beautifully judged in a way the coupe’s just doesn’t. Part of why might be because its chassis isn’t as stiff. Cut off the tin top and, even if you’re Porsche, you’re going to lose both longitudinal and torsional rigidity. Talk to a Weissach chassis engineer, however, and he’ll tell you that measuring what you’ve lost isn’t as easy as comparing those two parameters because there’s a third one to consider: dynamic rigidity, which takes the engine’s oscillations into account via the motor mounts and the rails they sit on.

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