The new Porsche 911 Cabriolet is bigger and more controversial than the last
By HANNAH ELLIOTT
More than a mere model-year update, there are enough changes on the 2020 Porsche 911 Cabriolet to cause an Instagram comment war. The Porsche 992 (as the brand calls it internally) is the most significant redo of the iconic sportscar since 2011. It may also be the last non-hybrid 911 ever built.
While test-driving it through sunny countryside near Athens, some of my fellow travellers described the enlarged rear end, widened by two inches and with larger rear tyres, as “ample” and “fulsome” — about how they’d describe Kim Kardashian. Others, however, called the new stance too big, a case of butt implants gone bad. If you can imagine them saying this right after sucking a lemon slice, you get the picture.
By the same token, as I dodged lazy dogs and Grecian potholes the size of kiddie pools down the rural roads of Attica, I loved the smooth screens of the interior and the quick shifter that replaced the conventional joystick setup of the previous generation. They felt fresh and modern, easy to read and use. But after reviewing photos from the drive, several friends (and when I say friends, I mean Instagram acquaintances) said those dual seven-inch screens erase the car’s “classic” spirit. They hated the shifter’s tiny “tic-tac” shape.
To which I say: Haters gonna hate. Better a car that causes a polarised reaction than no reaction at all.
The goal here, as with any new iteration of a well-known model, is to get the most out of the car, and on that front, Stuttgart’s designers and engineers have more than succeeded. If you are yourself considering a new Porsche convertible — and aren’t we all, at least in our dreams? — here’s how to further maximise that investment.
Buy the AWD Version
This is an easy one. If you’re at all worth your salt as a driver and sporting enthusiast, I imagine that: 1) you want to drive your fun car year-round, not just in summer; and 2) many of the roads you wish to transverse are not 100% serene and smooth — what you’d really need to push a rear-wheel-drive sports car.
The roads in Greece were narrow, with lanes tangled like a sidewinder, no roadside signage indicating upcoming curves, and only halfway paved, half the time — in other words, the opposite of a pristine German highway.
Drop the additional US$7,300 (RM29,784) on an all-wheel-drive (AWD) Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet (starting at US$133,400), and you’ll be able to drive confidently in dirt and snow and ice, with more contact and control on the road at every turn, whatever the season. The increased practicality will help you more fully embrace this driver-oriented car.
Get the Paddle Shifters
I realise this is a controversial suggestion. I realise it’s scary to let go of the idea that a manual Porsche is the only way to go. I can hear you now: “What will the other guys say when they see it at my Sunday cars ‘n’ coffee? They won’t respect my driving abilities as much, or they’ll think I can’t handle a stick shift!”
I agree with you: For any classic Porsche — and racing Porsches and Porsches you’ll want to drive like a demon, in general-go for the manual. It’s more fun and makes you feel more engaged as a driver. You’ll be touching history as the star of your own movie, like Steve McQueen for 2019.
But this is a convertible. It is made to be comfortable and accommodating and suitable for enjoying swooping vistas overlooking sapphire oceans while you (me) listen to The Kinks — and to maintain that attitude, even if you get stuck in the sort of inclement conditions that daily driving provides, such as pockmarked side streets, hilly neighbourhoods, and stop-and-go traffic. (Yes, those were all me, too, on this recent Athenian drive.) As anyone who has done it once, let alone daily, will tell you: Working a manual under these conditions is among the most annoying ways to spend your time.
Let the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) paddle shifters be your saving grace. The new eight-speed configuration has better fuel efficiency and enhanced performance in the lower gears, compared to previous seven-speed models — and it’s faster to drive than the manual stick, too. The 433hp 911 Carrera 4S hits 62mph (99.8kph) in 3.4 seconds; the rear-wheel-drive 911 Carrera S version gets there 0.1 second later. Top speed for the AWD 4S is 188mph, and it’s 190mph for the S.
From behind the wheel in Greece, I felt the car wrapping the road like a boa constrictor, hugging it so closely I never felt it falter or hesitate, even when I tried to push it past the Sunday Drive range.
Disengage the Start/Stop
I’m all for fuel efficiency, but oh, how I loathe the automatic start/stop function of most modern cars. Shutting off the engine the moment you roll up to a stoplight or are standing in traffic makes for slower starts off the line, and it’s especially jarring when you’re driving a manual. Half the time, I think the car has died outright.
In Greece, I spent an entire 12-hour test drive looking for the button to disengage it and never found it. Usually, it’s set in the centre console, in the steering wheel, or in the roof of the car, near the rearview mirror. Here, it’s buried in the infotainment system. Or if you have the Sport Chrono Package, it can be deactivated via the programmable Individual mode or by switching the car into Sport or Sport Plus mode when you start it. This multi-step approach is annoying, but it’s the unfortunate reality we’re dealing with here. (Fix this, Porsche engineers.)
Put a Premium on Safety
The 992 model line has a new night vision system (US$2,540), dynamic chassis control (US$3,170), park assist (US$1,430) and side mirrors that fold in automatically when the car is parked (the latter’s US$370 cost is a pittance, given how often they saved me problems on narrow streets during innumerable breaks for strong, dark espresso on this test drive).
The lift kit that raises the front nose (US$2,770) also saved my bacon several times negotiating odd inclines on driveways and park paths. When you consider that these all can help avoid some serious collisions, it more than pays for itself.
And for your own good, consider the US$2,720 Sport Chrono Package, which adds two driving modes-Sport Plus and Individual, which lets the driver create a personal vehicle setting configuration — to the standard Normal, Sport and Wet options. The latter is special, too, a new standard feature on all 2020 911 models. It monitors the level of water on the road and automatically adjusts the throttle, rear differential, rear spoiler and ABS of the car, and warns the driver of potential hydroplaning. It’s worth getting even if you, like most, will never put this car on a track.
Choose the Options That Matter
A big part of the fun in getting a new car — any new car — is making it your own. And the new 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet is a fantastic canvas.
Here’s what I’d do: Get the cool Carrera Exclusive Design wheels (US$2,630) painted in Jet Black Metallic (US$1,290); the ceramic composite brakes painted in high gloss black (US$9,860); a bespoke paint job to match my cocaine-white personality (US$11,430); a bright red tachometer dial (US$420); and black leather (US$1,260) and carbon-fibre trim (US$2,100) with personalised illuminated door-sill guards in carbon fibre as well (US$1,640).
Extras such as the US$400 ioniser (just put down the roof!), the US$1,060 lane-change system (just open your eyes!), and especially a US$690 leather pouch for your key fob (for the first time ever, the car doesn’t even use a key to start the engine; you turn a nubbin on the left side of the steering wheel), seem a waste of money to me.
Skip the Sport Exhaust
Do us all a favour, speed racer, and leave the US$2,950 sport exhaust in the shop window. You want your neighbours to stay friendly, right?
And Keep the Top Down
Have you ever seen a car that looks better with its rag top up? Neither have I.
The top of this Carrera has new magnesium layers to make it stronger and quieter in the cabin when the roof is in use; sure, it comes in four colour options (please avoid the brown one) and is probably more durable than your average canvas flap. But it still looks pretty bad when it’s up. Soft tops inevitably ruin what often is an otherwise-beautiful body line. They look cheap when the rest of the car looks well-made; even after all these years, many leak wind and rain, flutter in the wind, and generally disintegrate over time while the rest of the car remains stoic.
(To really see my point on what soft tops lack, look no further than the new McLaren 720S Spider — at twice the price of this Porsche, it’s not in the same league, but its glass roof is incredible.)
If you have the cash to buy a convertible, you might as well slap on some sunscreen and drive it like one.
Embrace the Infotainment
Porsche’s redesign of its infotainment system to be quicker and more intuitive spoke to my inner, impatient New Yorker with no proclivity toward nor interest in technology.
If you’re smarter than the average bear, you’ll be able to connect to Bluetooth in less than a minute. (Finally!) Of its new comfort and convenience functions, I appreciated the 911’s “100% connectivity”, in which you can ask the car to find gas prices, parking garages, even hotel and restaurant ratings, or plot your destination via “Voice Pilot” without having to manually type an actual address.
One note: The placement of the steering wheel — even when adjusted — blocks the two new seven-inch screens that form the dashboard gauges behind the wheel. This is unfortunate; I found myself ducking a bit in my seat to see the indicators behind the wheel as I drove.
Make Delivery an Experience
Ensure that the first minutes behind the wheel are as memorable as possible. You can pick up your car at the Porsche Experience Centres in Atlanta or Los Angeles for US$525 or US$550 respectively. Each has a track, lounges, a restaurant and a historical component where you can learn more about the brand that produced the car. Or pick up your new car for free (minus flights and accommodations, of course) at factory headquarters in Leipzig, Germany and Zuffenhausen, Germany.
Most of All, Get Out and Drive
It’s tempting to keep mileage low on new cars, like keeping a new pair of shoes in the closet to ensure they’re pristine. But no one likes a garage queen! Cars are meant to be driven.
With the Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, Porsche has updated an icon, making it appealing enough to those who want a shiny new sports car while maintaining enough of its original body and soul. The 992 combines the best attributes of a sports car, a daily driver and a grand tourer. You might as well enjoy every inch of its voluptuous glory. — Bloomberg