DRIVEN: 2010 911 Carrera S Cabrio

£72,000. That’s what I reckoned this car would cost. Not even close. After a check on the Car Configurator, adding all the options this baby is clocking up just shy of £92,000. Wow!

This is the latest Porsche 911. The Generation 2 model of the 997 with LED running lights, fussy rear lights and a more powerful engine (385bhp and 0-60 in 4.5 seconds). Porsche have kindly (finally!) leant me a 911 for an extended 24 hour test drive and being a demonstrator model is stocked to the rafters with toys and noise. It is also a cabriolet – a welcome surprise as I’ve missed the roof down action from my previous Boxster.

As I settle into the car my immediate thought is to drop the roof. However, with the revised 997 roofs, I couldn’t find the manual catch lever – or the auto buttons to lower the roof so my first journey is one in a closed environment. It’s a nice place to be too, with full leather interior and the more luxurious sports seats it is a cosseted, yet distinctly sporty ride.

A little more on those optional toys; We have the PDK 7 speed double-clutch gearbox, Sports Chrono, switchable sports exhaust, heated leather interior, phone preparation, Bose Sound system and a curious button labelled “Sports Plus”.

First things first – that Exhaust button gets pressed. The exhaust note is good as standard but with the option enabled has an additional raspy effect. Deep and throaty indeed it is. Marvellous!

Travelling on the road, I hit the Sports button. The transmission immediately drops a couple of gears, keeping itself closer to the optimum rev range for immediate speed. It also sharpens up the dampers which unfortunately is too fidgety for the unsmooth British roads. I suspect this is aimed more at those who favour track days; thankfully you can disable this option to keep the ride more comfortable. Does that make me sound old?

Putting the boot down is just a marvellous experience – and with Chrono enabled a face-grinning superlative experience is guaranteed. The pace pick up is rapid – rather bonkers quick, with the exhaust spitting its most aggressive growl it gives you an instant “want one” feeling.

I’ve driven a PDK model before in the Cayman and thoroughly enjoyed it and the 911 provides a similar experience. If you put your foot down hard, it will drop a couple of gears ready for lift-off. However, if you’re really put the boot in the gearbox acknowledges the immediacy of your request and finds the perfect gear for maximum takeoff.

The result of all this means you can go from meandering to blistering speeds with a mere squeeze of the go pedal. When you do, the acceleration is wonderful – the noise is addictive and the push back into your seat is fantastic. At a set of traffic lights I floored it and looking behind I was astonished to see just how much ground I had covered, with other motorists transformed to just dots in the mirror.

So quick is the 911 PDK it doesn’t taker more than a few seconds to be breaking the laws of the land so unless you are risking a ticket, this wholesome noise – and your satisfied grin – is relatively short lived on a long straight. You need a few bends to break up the drama and allow for some handling experience.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet

The 911 handles effortlessly and although doesn’t generate quite as much feedback through the steering as a Cayman it certainly isn’t lacking. The driving ‘feel’ also informs you of the heavy lump that is hanging around at the back of the car and I would imagine that if you gave this a good boot on any moderately slippery surface you’d find yourself sideways in quick time. Thankfully I didn’t find any of that on my test and a dashing of rain gave me a chance to turn off the Sports options and just cruise.

In this mode the 911 is a great GT car. You’ve got toys a plenty, a wonderful stereo system, a Sat Nav which knows all of the traffic hotspots – even showing you maps of the affected areas – and heated seats to keep your bum warm in the cold.

Before long the sun is back out again and I start on the convertible roof again. After much confusion followed by internet help I discover how you drop the roof. Unlike the Boxster of old, there is no manual catch – the whole operation is now simply automatic. Press and hold the button near the handbrake and the roof lowers in full in around 30 seconds.

Topless motoring is fantastic and with the 911 it allows you to hear all of its vocals undiluted. If you have left the 911 Cabrio buttoned up in a car park, you can lower the roof on your way back to the car just by holding one of the buttons on the remote control. Very flash!

The only downside to convertibles, even new ones such as this is that they have a habit of generating rattles and squeaks at random inside the cabin when the roof is up.

This particular model has the two-tone leather, with a half black/beige dashboard and sand-beige seats and door cards to match. I like it, but Sand is a colour that isn’t favoured by many – including my good lady. “I’m not sure about all this brown business” she says when first introduced to the car! 🙂

This model also has the clear glass rear lights and the optional 911 logo on the boot, much to the delight of passing youth on their bikes; “Woooow! A 911!!” one exclaims as we park up on the driveway.

And what of the Sports Plus button? I have to admit, I didn’t get chance to try this out too much – when pressed, it drops the gears even lower but I’m not sure what else it does. That is until I was a few hundred yards from returning the when I realised it is used for the Launch Control. Doh! I would have loved to have played with that, but apologies in advance that it didn’t occur to me! So many sporty options in sports cars nowadays….

So how does it compare to the Cayman? It is noticeably faster and louder too – in a good way. It has back seats but no boot so that could be concluded ‘a draw’. It’s also infinitely better than the 996 model, which I never really bonded with. But at £92,000 you’ll needed some pretty deep pockets and some mega depreciation balls to take the plunge on this car. For that money, you could actually buy a used 997.1 Coupe, a Cayman, Boxster AND Cayenne – and still have plenty of change to run and insure the whole fleet.

Has the 911 now made it onto my to-do list? I’m pleased to say that this 997 is enough of a step away from the other models in the range (Cayman, Boxster) to warrant moving up a cog come change over. A truly fantastic flagship sports car that really can be used every day – heading to the shops, sitting in traffic or blasting around a track at silly speeds it is the do-all companion for any motoring enthusiast.

My only criticism is those rattles with the roof up (accepted though for a convertible, almost certainly won’t be heard in a coupe) and that it feels a little too vibratey when idle – I suspect this is the auto transmission balancing the clutch when stationary.

If my next car is once again a Porsche – it will likely be a 997 911. But personally, I’ll be in .1 edition – until the PDK models come into my budget, as £92,000 just makes my eyes water…!

Great car!

September 2010