Test Drive Review: 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet 7-Speed Manual

 

A Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet 7-speed manual is only as good as the chap driving. Luckily I was the guy behind the wheel for a whole week. Mmm…

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When Porsche went about making the 901/911 all the way back in 1963, they set out to create something that was as good on the street as well as on the track. What they didn’t realize, I’m sure, was the amount of cult followers that would flock to it like teenage girls to a One Direction concert. We all scream, shout, say nothing’s better in this whole wide world -while Corvette owners cringe, grimace, and hate every car magazine who ranks the 911 higher.

With every generation the 911 gets better and better. More comfortable, easier to drive, better traction and chassis control. But when the 997 chassis came out, most of us thought the 911 Carrera couldn’t possibly get any better. I mean, how in the hell could a car drive better than a GT3 on a race track? Or be a better launch to 60 mph than the 2.9-seconds it takes for the Turbo S? What about more of a raw sense of belief in the existence of a God than the 911 GT2 RS? And my personal favorite, the GT3 RS 4.0… with its 500 horse and 339 lb-ft of torque, 4.0-liter flat-6 punching holes through every “manual transmissions are slower than a double-clutch” excuse you can make. Many still feel like the 911 started moving backwards after the 993 from 1993-’98.

But here’s the 991 911 Carrera S Cabriolet; a more exotic-looking, feeling, and acting car than ever before. Never at any time did anyone look inside the 911’s cabin and go, “Hey, now that’s classy! Look at those expensive materials.” Better than a Corvette in every way, yes. But it was no Aston Martin for the same price of an Aston, let’s be honest. (some will argue with this point and say that the Aston isn’t that nice on the inside, but I counter with the fact that it is a special experience by comparison.) Money was spent perfecting the chassis, brakes, steering, the pitch perfect gearbox, and the like.

And there sat the 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet with a wonderful 7-speed manual gearbox. In GT Silver with Yachting Blue interior and soft top, it’s a glorious looking machine that appears perfect for anything in Abu Dhabi. I must say, though, this isn’t your father’s 911. It’s cushy, soft, and somewhat pricier than it’s ever been. There’s now a Burmester sound system that’ll inhabit your ear drums and become nice and cozy while singing you soft, sweet lullabies; or blowing your brain straight out of your ears, if need be. But man is it still fast. Faster than ever, actually. When put against my personal 997.1 Carrera S coupe, the 991 Carrera S Cab is every bit as fast, while having 99 extra pounds attached to it. But it’s lower, wider, shorter, and a longer wheelbase. It also features a 400 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque flat-six that has a direct injected 3.8-liter carried over from the 997.2 911, versus the 3.8-liter unit making 355 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from my 997.1. (The 997.2 C2S first featured the all-new direct injected 3.8-liter flat six making 385 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.) Oh, and you’ll be able to hear plenty more of that perfect sounding motor via Porsche’s Acoustic Channel amplifier that opens up under the rear window when Sport or Sport Plus mode has been selected. It’s also completely organic, unlike BMW’s electronic amplifier in the M5 and M6.

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The new 991 911 Carrera S Cabriolet has cut down on weight like a runner saying he eats too many carbs. Basically, it’s already svelte like a European cut suit, but Porsche just wanted to make sure the main arteries weren’t getting clogged with fat. The 2013 Carrera S Cab weighs 99 lbs more than my 2007 997.1 Carrera S Coupe. However, it’s still lighter than the outgoing 997.1 and 997.2 Carrera S Cabriolets. Part of that is due to a strict aluminum and steel combination diet for the new 991, as well as an all-new magnesium hard top underneath the cloth top on the 991 Cabriolet. I’ve taken the liberty of jotting down the information on the weights of the 997.1, 997.2, and the new 991 911 models, coupe and cabriolet. All weights are if equipped with a manual gearbox:

  • 3319 lbs 997.1 Carrera S Cabriolet /  3330 lbs 997.2 Carrera S Cabriolet
  • 3130 lbs 997.1 Carrera S Coupe / 3142 lbs 997.2 Carrera S Coupe
  • 3229 lbs 991 911 Carrera S Cabriolet
  • 3075 lbs 991 911 Carrera S Coupe

Impressive, then, to realize that the 997.1 Carrera S Coupe swatted 60 mph out of its way in about 4.3-seconds. The 2013 Carrera S Cabriolet does that feat in just 4.1 with the 7-speed manual. Although, oddly, it doesn’t feel as immediate and urgent of a task as the 997 911s feel. A lot of that has to do with the fact that you’re more secure in this cabin. There’s more around you, and you’re cottled a lot more than in 911s of yesteryear. Sadly, the clutch and transmission also feel less connected to creating speed rather than driving every day.

But still, just like Paul Revere on his trusty steed, you’ll be galloping into town in yours. Except, rather than warning people about those dirty red coats, you’ll be shouting, “The summer months are coming! The summer months are coming! Lord behold, summer is coming!” But realistically, you won’t be shouting that. I mean, c’mon, you’d look like a giant weirdo. Instead you’ll let the 400 horses from the orchestral flat-six motor tell that tale for you; all while people stare as you go streaming by in your glorious GT Silver 911 cabriolet with its top down. Yeah, that’s part of what the 991 series 911 is all about, isn’t it? The status quo. The Kardashians of the world cruising around town in their super car-like German sports car. But that’s not the only message this 911 sends. You can have your luxury, your speed, but still retain your driving pleasure, too. Will diehard Porsche fans scream about the sad feeling the steering wheel sends to your fingers with its electric system? God yes. But trust me, Porsche will update it over the coming years, and it will be glorious. For now, it’s still damn good to drive.

Lest we forget that the new 991 911 is longer, wider, shorter, while having more leather and technology, and still manages to weigh less than both outgoing 997 models. The bullet points below illustrates the front and rear tracks, as well as the overall width, height and wheelbase of the 997.1, 997.2 and 991 models:

  • 1486 mm front/1511 mm rear track 997.1 Carrera S
  • 4427 mm length 997.1 Carrera S
  • 1486 mm front/1516 mm rear track 997.2 Carrera S
  • 4435 mm length 997.2 Carrera S
  • 1808 mm width/1300 mm height/2350 mm wheelbase 997.1 & .2 Carrera S
  • 1538 mm front/1516 mm rear track 991 Carrera S
  • 4491 mm length 991 Carrera S
  • 1808 mm width/1295 mm height/2450 mm wheelbase 991 Carrera S

The 991 Carrera S Cabriolet sits 5 mm lower, has a 100 mm longer wheelbase, and is 56 mm longer overall than the 997.2 and 64 mm than the 997.1. Thanks to a heavy dose of aluminum and steel together, Porsche have been able to both lighten and stiffen the chassis and passenger cell of the new 911, all while maintaining the abilities that have made the 911 the best damn sports car this side of perfection.

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With all of this new luxury and every-day drive-ability, I can’t help but think of the 2009 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster my parents once owned. At a brand new price of $131,000 it is easy to compare to this 991 911 with its as-tested price of $140,570. It certainly wasn’t the fastest; and it sure as hell wasn’t anything like a 911 to drive. But there was always something about it that just made it infinitely more special than any of the Germans. To me, it sounded better than a Ferrari F430 at full bore, and more sexy than a Lamborghini Gallardo at any db, it was just so unique. This German luxo-sportster sounds every bit as great when equipped with the PSE, or Porsche Sport Exhaust, especially on the over-run and when downshifting.

A Porsche is pretty exotic, and in the case of the new 991 Carrera S Cabriolet, about as much so as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster. The interior is much nicer, far easier to live with and use on a daily basis, and the overall feel of the car is much more friendly to anyone who wants to drive it to the end of the earth. With a 997 you’d need to get out and stretch your limbs from time to time. However, I feel you could live inside the new 911 like you could a Bentley Continental GT, that’s how much more luxurious it is.

And then there’s the speed thing. I mean, does anyone really need to question the potential speed of a Porsche 911? While I feel the 7-speed manual gearbox lacks quite a bit of feel and precision -I kept longing for the action and throws in my 997.1 Carrera S- it’s still a proper transmission that isn’t nearly as bad on a daily basis, and it’s based on the 7-speed PDK that’s now almost standard on every Porsche product in this world, with just slightly different ratios in 3rd and 7th gears. You’ll get used to it, and probably grow to enjoy it. But you’ll miss older 911s. The steering also takes some getting used to. Again, less sensation when looking at past 911s, but you won’t have a single problem when the corners get tight and you’re mowing along. It firms and tightens up with enough authority at speed, so you’ll definitely find it easy to get used to after a few months of ownership.

All of these things are more personal preference, though. Some will like the steering and gearbox, and others will care more about the technology that involves you more in the driving experience. There is, for the first time on a standard-911, an active aero rear spoiler that pops up at 75 mph (the same as 911s before it), but this one, depending on being in Sport or Sport Plus, the rear spoiler will automatically adjust its pitch for the best blend of speed and stability during sporty driving. You also have PDCC, or Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, an active anti-roll system that works to keep the car flatter during corner (some have reported increased understeer on the track, however), and Porsche Torque Vectoring, or PTV (PTV for manuals with mechanically locking rear diffs, PTV Plus for PDK with electronically locking rear diffs), that aids agility by lightly squeezing the brake on the inside rear wheel while giving more power to the outside rear wheel to drive the rear of the car into the corner, making control with your right foot much easier instead of using more steering angle mid-corner. But by far the most substantial help comes from the Dynamic Engine Mounts, which are standard affair on GT3s, GT2s and Turbos. Now the Sport Chrono Plus optioned 911 features them, too. These are helpful in keeping the engine from moving and vibrating during any kind of driving. This makes the 911 feel less like it’s pushing you through the corner because of the heft of the motor out back.

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Remembering the exotics pleasures of the Aston the entire week I drove the new Carrera S Cabriolet allowed me to realize that, while an Aston Martin is a truly special car, I couldn’t see anything in the rear-view or side mirrors when the top was up. Also, no one but me could manage to put the e-brake down. In the Astons the parking brake is on the left side of the driver’s seat by your leg. To engage, pull the lever up like any normal car, and once it catches the top cogs to lock the rear brakes it falls back down to the floor so you can get out of the car without tripping. The only bad part about this was that I always pulled the brake a few extra locks to the point that no one could get it back down with one hand. The new 911 Carrera goes around this by eliminating any type of lever all together, which I hated. Instead you had a tab by your left knee, which was very inconvenient. You can’t find the thing when you’re just trying to get to it quickly and drive away. No, why would Porsche make it easy for us to just drive off? This caused so much hate that I just started leaving the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet in gear instead of pulling the parking brake.

Regardless of the slightly vague and sad transmission and clutch, the disappointing steering rack (that still shockingly put this 911 Carrera S Cabriolet exactly where you put it), and even the quirky e-brake, the new 991 911 Carrera is as good as ever, and in many ways far better than ever. It’s a Porsche, damnit. So how in the name of Captain America could you have ever doubted them? Go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.

As a Post Script, I’d like to show you this video I made for fun with my brother and his brother-in-law at a BP gas station to showcase the amount of space in the front trunk of the Carrera S Cabriolet, aka the Frunk:

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2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet VITAL STATS

Engine: 3.8L flat-six

Power: 400 HP / 325 LB-FT

Transmission: 7-speed manual

0-60 mph Time: 4.1 seconds

Top Speed: 187 mph

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive

Curb Weight: 3,229 lbs

Seating: 2+2

MPG: 19 City, 27 Hwy

Base Price: $108,000

Price as tested: $140,570

[Photos by Corey Privette and Josh Lewis]

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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