Throttle back and there’s a lot to enjoy in the 997 Turbo. Top up, the standard full-leather interior is hushed, comfortable, attractive. As with other 997s, it’s a big step up from the 996 generation. Materials are top notch, the basic seats offer excellent support, and the gauges are near perfect. Our only gripe inside is that the standard steering wheel is too skinny. We know some prefer thin steering wheels, but we’d order a thicker optional wheel.
Outside, the Turbo Cabriolet only looks big if you insist on an early 911 perspective. Compare the 997 Turbo to its marketplace rivals and it’s remarkably compact. By and large, it’s a handsome car, though the busy venting details and foglights from the coupe do the Cabriolet no favors. Also, deleting the signature sweep of the 911 coupe’s roofline introduces a blockiness to this Cabriolet that’s odd because there’s nary a straight line on the car. Avoiding light colors helps quite a bit in this regard, though — the best looking Turbo Cabs on the press launch weren’t the ones painted white, silver, red, or yellow.
Speaking of colors, Porsche introduced three new metallic hues on the Turbo Cab: a cool green called Malachite Green, a dark brown named Macadamia, and a darker red called Ruby Red. Brown 911s are back, then, but Tobacco/Copper/Nou-gat Brown Metallic fans may be disappointed to learn Macadamia is hardly subtle. It’s a good brown, but Porsche chose to follow Ferrari’s suit by giving it the big-flake sparkle of a 1970s speedboat.
As for options? Well, the Turbo Cabrio comes loaded in the first place, with Por-sche Communication Management, DVD-based GPS navigation, and the just-okay 325-watt Bose sound system with 13 loudspeakers. The $1,145 adaptive sport seats are nice and are a better deal here than in less-expensive 911s, but we feel the no-cost sport seats are a better way to go for those thin enough to fit them. Interestingly, racy shell buckets should be available for 2008, which PCNA says will save a significant 31-40 pounds per car and describes thusly: “The new optional sports bucket seat with folding backrest and integrated thorax airbag features glass and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic in its construction. The folding backrest allows the 911’s back seats to still be used. This will be U.S. compliant.” And, paradoxically, “not available on (the) 911 GT3 and GT3 RS.”
We remain fans of the $8,840 PCCB ceramic-composite brakes for their feel and initial bite, but feel less equipped to render a judgement regarding the optional $950 limited-slip differential for manual-transmission Turbos without driving two examples equipped with and without back to back. The fact Porsche is still offering a $650 six-disc CD changer as an option says someone in the audio department is hopelessly out of touch. Porsche should have had either full iPod integration or, at the least, an “auxiliary in” jack years ago.
Porsche lists the base price of the new Turbo Cabriolet at $136,500, or a bit more than the usual $10,200 up on the coupe version (the Turbo coupe is $122,900). We still see it as a good value against marketplace competition from Aston, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, and others — especially once versatility, performance, and driving fun are taken into account. On the other hand, Porsche’s own Boxster S is more involving than the Turbo Cabriolet, offers most of its comfort, and costs less than half as much. In fact, you could buy the brilliant $55,500 Boxster S 3.4 and the equally wonderful $72,400 Carrera coupe for less than the price of one 997 Turbo Cab. Our guess, however, is that the typical prospective customer wouldn’t consider that Porsche pairing as an alternative to a single Turbo Cabriolet.
No, the Turbo Cab is a flagship kind of car, chock-full of features and technology that make it fast, capable, accomplished. It’s a supercar for any season, reason, driver, and road — one that’s eminently enjoyable in use. As an answer to the SL55 AMG or BMW M6 convertible, the Turbo Cab is more fun, offers more bang for the buck, more performance, better economy, and a better use of space. And, based on our European drive, at least, it’s more fun than the Turbo coupe.
Some will say comparing Turbo coupe to Turbo Cab is an exercise in futility, that a 911 coupe buyer isn’t a convertible buyer, and vice versa. A fair point, perhaps, but there’s a subtle satisfaction to this droptop 911 that’s hard to pin down, one that, for this writer at least, makes it more desirable. It feels better resolved in its mission than any 997 bar the basic Carrera coupe. At the polar opposite end of the spectrum it may be, but this Turbo gels in a strangely similar way. With its top stowed, its twin-turbo flat six playing a fine song to the backs of your ears, and scenery rushing past its windows, the Turbo Cabriolet suggests just how far convertible 911s — and convertible sports cars in general — have come. And it’s a long, long way.