Porsche 997-911 Turbo Cabriolet - Wind down


The wind has become a wall of white noise. Wind in your hair? I have a freaking typhoon trying its darndest to rip up my poor salt-pepper. The motor, almost drowned in the wind sounds like its sucking vast amounts of air, feeding a duo of really hungry turbos, and my rapidly growing appetite for speed. I have a moment to reach back and flip up the mesh diffuser behind the headrests before I press on. The typhoon disappears and the storm has changed into a gentle breeze, the engine’s intake roar is the main soundtrack again. The Bose system tries to outshout the motor, but cannot (and I won’t let it, either). And all the time, I am pressed firmly into the seat, my hands are white-knuckled on the steering wheel and I have the accelerator pedal pressed down with steely resolve. In a moment, the needle says this is the fastest I have ever driven. Every extra movement from the speedo needle now means that I am creating personal history.

Moments earlier, I was trundling along at about 180 kph in the middle lane, looking at the odometer count up and frantically searching for a sign that displayed the speed limit. My search ended when I got passed by a black F430, going at a fair lick more than I dared. A local, I thought to myself. Indicating left, I pulled in behind the rapidly dwindling Ferrari and floored it. The tiptronic gathered up a handful more of revs, added a downshift or two and absolutely flung the yellow Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet down the autobahn top lane like a rocket-propelled grenade. I remember being pressed firmly into the seat, the sensation of an immense, towering wave of thrust, the narrowing of my vision and a fight to keep the eyes focused, once on the Ferrari and once on the speedo (one’s got to mark one’s progress, right?). 

Back to the present. The Ferrari’s indicated and pulled right into the middle lane. With my twin variable geometry turbos sucking in as much air as they can find already, I pull parallel and have the time to take a fleeting glimpse into the Italian supercar. A smiling face is framed by an arm cocked in a universally recognised gesture. No, he isn’t pissed (black Ferrari versus yellow Porsche ragtop? It’s a walkover), it’s your dirty brain. He’s telling me to, ‘go, go, go!’ Ahead stretches a long straight strip of autobahn, with no speed limits. Suffice to say, I do not restrain myself.Autobahn cruising speeds do not get boring in a hurry. But it does get white-knuckle interesting when you hit recently re-surfaced patches. The Porsche’s supple but sporty ride quality suddenly becomes borderline thrashy. But my hands relax as I notice that the bumps have entirely failed to affect the direction in which the super grippy convertible car is flying. This is amazing. And it is so simple, that a six-year old would manage this given enough space. And a set of keys. I am in love with Porsches all over again.   Adrenaline expended, I roll back into the middle lane, slow down to a more comprehensible, a more relaxed lope. With shaking hands, I set the cruise control and take some deep breaths. That was an amazing sensation. Most of the work was done by the engine. Identical to the one in the 911 Turbo coupe, this motor uses two variable geometry turbos to force air into the rampaging 3600cc flat-six that resides in the boot of the Cabrio. Just so you know, the variable geometry turbo is able to turn the vanes of its impeller, so that the effect of the turbocharging can be felt from lower engine speeds. This increases the effective range of the turbocharging in efficiency and performance terms, and most importantly, reduces turbo lag. It effectively works like as if had a soft-turbo that grows into a full-blown B-Rally type turbo as revs rise. In the Cabriolet, the sophisticated technology means a flat 62 kgm peak that starts from 1950 rpm, all the way to 5000 rpm. That’s a torque plateau only rivalled by the likes of the Bentley Conti GT and the Veyron in span terms. And there’s more. If you opt for the Sports Chrono Package (my car had one), you can use the sport button to receive a 6 kgm overboost, which mightily helps despatch reluctant Ferraris and could depress the odd Lamborghini or two. And the game isn’t over at 5000 rpm either. The horsepower peaks at 480 bhp a thousand rpm later,and there is still a bit more headroom with the engine redlined at 6750 rpm. The depth and width of the output from the motor will win you over, whether you’re doing the umpteenth run to the 310 kph top speed, or just laying into the throttle for a laugh from the traffic lights.

In the standing start acceleration mode, having the tiptronic is a great thing. Stand on the brakes with left foot, pick up revs with the right one, and when the green come up, just lift the left foot off. With the Porsche’s excellent and largely non-intrusive traction management system and all-wheel drive, there won’t be any chirruping wheels. You’ll hear the angry intake roar that is the hallmark of the car, the wind pick up a bit and see the world take a U-turn and head the other way very rapidly. The tiptronic, ironically, is the faster Cabriolet. The five-speed automatic will get you to 100 kph in 3.8 seconds, 0.2 faster than the best driver in the six-speed manual version. I did get to drive the manual as well, of course, and I can tell you that the clutch effort and shift effort is very low. The throws can be lightning quick when needed and the stubby lever travels a sporty-short distance to slot into the next gear. Lovely really, but I am now a confirmed button pusher, and the tiptronic remains my favourite of the two.And in the middle of all the speed, is a cocoon of calm in the cockpit. Porsche claims that the Cabrio has the same aero profile as the Coupe. Which isn’t hard to believe when you note that the 310 kph top speed is achievable with the top up or down. The congruence of the aerodynamic profiles of the coupe and the cabriolet are a Porsche first. Among the tricks is the split wing at the rear, which rises 30 mm higher than on the coupe at 120 kph. It lowers itself again when you drop below 60 kph. As I mentioned before, the diffuser thing really works. It looks like a mesh-fabric screen, but once up, it sits behind the headrests and virtually eliminates any flow of turbulent air from behind the car into the driver’s coiffeur.   The Cabriolet is also identical to the coupe in driving feel as far as I could tell. The new ragtop is one of the stiffest in the business and for what’s it is worth, it bent my mind, but I entirely failed to bend it. Yes, that was a very poor joke... er, sorry. Anyway, the usual chassis bolstering has been done exceptionally well, and the light (42 kg only) fabric roof, pop-up roll-over bars and stronger frame around the windshield (front half of the roll-over safety cell) are the primary additions. More experienced journos at the launch said the Cabrio felt remarkably similar in driving terms to the coupe, which is a huge compliment.For my part, I understood this car’s handling when I saw a kid’s pedal-kart parked next to one of the Cabrios at the lunch stop. Despite the superb ride quality and host of electronics, Porsche have got it just right. Somehow, and I’m not suggesting this was a fluke by any means, they’ve managed to make all of the technologies add up. And yet/therefore, the car feels as direct and intuitive as that kiddie-cart. The feel from the road is transmitted to your brain without any filtration, turn-in is sharp and accurate and it all just feels right. More than once, when I ‘forgot’ to slow down for a corner, I felt that the 911 Turbo Cabrio felt just like a go-kart. One with luxury fittings and a marvellous engine in the back. Oh, and just a word about the brakes. Ultimate.

So, here’s a car with a superb engine, great dynamics, good looks, the same level of presence as Brad Pitt. It breaks new ground on many fronts, and is one of nicest super-ragtops money can buy. And I love it, there’s no shame in that. But that isn’t what makes it great.Consider the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet from another angle, an angle closer to home. My back of the napkin calculations say the 911TC (I’m sorry, but I’m tired of typing Cabrio/Cabriolet/911 Turbo Cabriolet), will be about 20 per cent cheaper than say, a Ferrari F430 Spyder. Got your attention? There’s more. I can imagine the following scene. I am driving to work in my Cabriolet. It’s a rainy day, I have the top-up, the 12-speaker Bose system is displaying the higher reaches of a Placido Domingo opera with perfect precision, aircon’s set for a cosy 24 degrees. Car’s in D, but not moving at the moment, stuck firmly in the crawl that’s a current fixture outside the chaotic and busy Mumbai domestic airport, but the car certainly won’t be the one to complain. I can imagine flaying the throttle when I can, having memorable drives on the weekend. And I know I won’t worry about ground clearance and other mundane stuff like that. Somehow, I cannot imagine any of that in the Ferrari. There’s still more. Porsches are the daily user’s supercars. The service intervals are longer, the charges are lower... Oh, and did I mention that the 911TC would whup the F430 Spyder in performance terms?