2021 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet First Drive Review

In the summer of 2012, for reasons still unknown, a family friend and father to one of my old schoolmates threw me the keys to his then-new 997.2 2012 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet. He took delivery of this GT Silver over red streak just a few days before he jetted out of town for business, so naturally, he thought the best course of action was to entrust his fresh 493-hp super-toy to a college-aged ultra-dweeb for a few days.

That week of sublimating on-ramps and hosting high-speed joyrides with friends and family left this nascent enthusiast dazed and confused, like some sort of weird vehicular DMT bender. That wasn’t entirely because of the 911 Turbo’s wild performance. The sharpest memory of that weeklong blur occurred while charging around my friend’s quiet Dallas neighborhood—an unforeseen dip in the road sheared the front splitter from its side clips, causing the plastic lip to pooch out from either side of the fascia like dental headgear. Thankfully, the only lasting damage was $400 out of my savings and a scuffed ego. That, and now my neck always prickles when I see the yellow “DIP” sign.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet: Lip Service

The front aero lip on the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet I had a few weeks ago? It’s retractable! Now that’s progress. Also progressive is the new twin-turbo 3.7-liter flat-six engine’s mighty 572 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, up 32 hp and 67 lb-ft over the older 991.2 Turbo and matching the prior Turbo S in torque (though it’s down a paltry 8 ponies in power). Compared to its faster, stronger, and more outgoing sibling, clipping the “S” from the 992 Turbo rounds up 68 horses behind the barn and puts them out of their misery. It also sheds 37 lb-ft of twist.

It’s uncanny to describe such an excessive and outrageous car as lesser than, but such is the nature of the 911 genus. Before you get lost in the spec breakdown, know this: In no uncertain terms, the 992 Turbo—with or without a roof—is a supercar. Just like the 911 Turbos that came before, it suffers the same visual homogeny with the contemporary Carrera, but watch the driver of that McLaren 570S you just blew the orange paint off of scramble to find that extra suffix at the end of the “Turbo” script on your rear decklid.

They won’t find a thing, and by the time they realize the dusting happened at the wheels of a hum-drum S-less Turbo, you’ll already be a high-pitched whistle on the horizon. The majority of this Falcon 9-level of thrust comes down to the Turbo’s deadly drivetrain combo; the only transmission available is Porsche’s absurdly quick PDK eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. As is the case with every single 911 Turbo since the 993-generation, all-wheel drive is standard. The 992 shares its PDK with the current Panamera, meaning you’ve got eight forward gears to shuffle through on your way to the 199-mph top speed, so get shiftin’.

Unless you live somewhere where “street” is spelled “Straße,” you probably won’t ever see that digital speedo fall just short of the double-buck mark. You can, however, snap your neck and marmalade your eyes on the reg from stoplight to stoplight or corner to corner with the 992 Turbo’s preposterous acceleration. Porsche claims 0-60 mph is cracked in 2.7 seconds for the coupe or 2.8 seconds for the Cabriolet; translated from Porsche-speak, expect our test team to shave that down to somewhere in the mid to low 2s when they get their hands on one. After all, Porsche pegs the 0-60 sprint for the Turbo S officially at 2.6 seconds, and we cut that down to 2.3 seconds during testing, making it the second-quickest production car we’ve ever pounded down our test track.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet: Power Moves

That’s all theory. In practice, full throttle in the 2021 Turbo must be what it feels like to sit under an active hydraulic press; after a launch control holeshot, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the pavement behind me folded in Looney Tunes-style ribbons. From idle to redline, there’s no discernable turbo lag and no dead zones, only smooth, turbine-tier thrust thanks to nerdy-sounding stuff such as wastegate control, charge-air cooling, variable turbine geometry, and turbos that spin in opposite directions when spooled. Fascinating, but by the time you finish reading all that technogoop, I’m already three school districts away from where I started.

If I happen to hit one of those pesky school zones in the midst of this trans-scholastic blitz, the whistling Turbo instantly settles down to a dull wheeze, becoming as harsh to putt around in as a loaded Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe. In Normal mode, the ride, NVH, and general tractability are absolutely on par with a bog-standard Carrera, meaning you pay near-zero physical dividends for all that capability thrown on top.

Speaking of top, the Turbo Cabriolet loses none of its 911-ness with the roof down. A Turbo of any configuration will slither through the curviest slice of road you can find with the same level of ferocity as it would streak down a main straight; standard rear-wheel steering makes turn-in alarmingly quick, complemented by the absurd levels of baseline mechanical grip and that ever-present Porsche confidence that turns even the meekest of drivers into back road menaces. Even if you have feet of stone and catcher’s mitt hands, hammer the throttle whenever, wherever—Porsche’s wickedly clever all-wheel-drive system will shoot you out the other side of the apex like a railgun. This level of performance isn’t this accessible anywhere else at any price—except in the Turbo S, of course.

As expected, mobbing canyon roads in a top-down 911 Turbo is a distinctly different experience than doing so in an equivalent coupe. Cowl shake doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore, with only the slightest whiff of flex when you’re truly hustling through the tighter stuff. The Weight difference between the two cars is limited to a relatively scant 155 pounds, but that’s the same as a Turbo coupe with a passenger.

I’d like to say that you’re treated to the sweet tones of Stuttgart’s finest with nothing above or behind your head to stifle the sound from that 3.7-liter hanging over the rear end, but a hard pull in this heavily muffled Euro-market press car is like plugging your ears with a pair of Hoover vacuum tubes and hitting the power switch. Aside from enough turbo twiddles and toots to make a Nissan 240SX drift missile blush, there’s only intake roar, perpetual whoosh, and the vague suggestion of a six-cylinder buzz. Your mileage may vary with the more unplugged U.S.-market car, but a sophisticated sound has never been the 911 Turbo’s greatest strength.

If the speed does get a bit spooky for you, stamping on my test car’s optional carbon-ceramic brakes will glue your tonsils to the back of your incisors and will ensure Porsche’s excellent suite of driver aids working behind the scenes to keep everything shiny-side-up won’t sap the brakes prematurely. It’s frustrating to repeat this refrain ad nauseam on every single Porsche review and test, but all inputs—whether that be brakes, steering, throttle, or shift paddles—possess a preternatural level of perfect heft and feedback. Even when you’re not ripping around like the star of an L.A. police chase, every interaction feels like the platonic ideal of how a car should feel to drive at any speed and in any environment.

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet: Money Matters

So a truly tremendous car—but who’s this for? If you’re after the Turbo’s performance and you have a wallet fat enough to stomach the $184,000 base price for the Cab, I don’t think it’s an outrageous assumption that an extra $33,000 for the Turbo S Cabriolet shouldn’t break the bank. All right, so if you’re only interested in the prestige of driving a 911 Turbo, wouldn’t it make sense to spring for Turbo S if it’s status you’re after? Better yet, if you’re one of the many Porsche customers who stroll into the dealer and ask for the most loaded-out, optioned-up car on the showroom floor, a Turbo S fits that bill better than a regular Turbo ever could.

Even the person who wants the Porsche experience and speed with some top-down fun, the 2021 Carrera S Cabriolet hits 0-60 mph in right around 3.0 seconds. Not enough? Wait for the forthcoming 992 GTS Cabriolet. The argument can’t even really be made for increased comfort in the non-S Turbo; the ride quality variance between the Turbo and Turbo S isn’t really enough to make a noticeable difference. Again, I ask—who is this for?

Aside from the Carrara White paint, this Turbo Cab test car is the spiritual twin to that 997.2 Turbo cab I drove nine years ago with minimal performance options and a rich oxblood interior, and that gives me a bit of a hint. Although this Turbo carries the aforementioned carbon-ceramic brakes and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), the Sport exhaust and PASM sports suspension were left on the factory shelf. Instead of go-faster accoutrement, this Cab is decked out with Exclusive Manufaktur leather upholstery and interior trim, making this a bit of a Miami Meteor and Newport Beach Bruiser, bringing the total price up to a whopping $228,000—or $12,000 more than a base-level Turbo S Cab.

It’s a cynical 911. This is for the “I don’t care, I just want an expensive Porsche” crowd, the clueless, and for the Porsche curious. That family friend of mine was in the latter camp, the 997.2 Turbo Cab being the first Porsche he’d ever owned. Now? He’s buzzing around the same city in an Emerald Green 1972 Porsche 911S. I’ll have to drop him a line next time I’m in town and show him some photos of the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet I had for a week. Who knows, maybe he’ll toss me the keys to his green machine—but only if I stay away from dips.

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