2012 PORSCHE 911 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Two-door premium convertible sports
Price: $294,250 (with PDK auto, plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.9 l/100km | tested: 14.4 l/100km
This is perhaps the best looking 911 yet.
It gets marks for style, but don’t stop ticking: the 991 model - Porsche’s internal designation - also brings more refinement, more speed, less weight and less consumption than ever before.
Purists will cry foul over the switch to electro-mechanical steering, but until you’ve hammered it though a series of S-bends, it’s wiser to refrain from any armchair criticism.
The 911 is still one of the sharpest and quickest naturally aspirated cars (in this price-point) available. But it’s a Porsche, and, to get the best from it, you have to learn to drive it with respect.
Quality: Little wonder Porsche considers its cars a blend of sports and luxury: inside this car are some seriously impressive trim materials, hides and craftsmanship.
The steering wheel, for example, houses a beautiful blend of chunky metal with soft leather; a theme which continues throughout the rest of the interior.
The door handles appear to be a one-piece metal casting, while the aluminium border on the lower edge of the dash fascia runs through onto the door trims.
The dashtop is swathed in soft hide, the gearshift-surround accented in metal; and buttons and surfaces are classy and soft-touch. It really is a fabulously built cabin.
Comfort: The optional 14-way electric front seats are nicely sculpted with the right padding, support and bolstering. The same cannot be said for the rear seats, however. They’re no use at all for adults - strictly for kids under ten years-of-age.
Ergonomically, the 911 feels extremely natural with all controls in easy reach. The HVAC controls at the base of the centre-stack however will take some familiarisation of the positioning.
Equipment: Porsche has a history of keeping its cars fairly basic and handing owners an encyclopedia of options to tick (and fork out for). Surprise, surprise; the 991 is no different.
Our test car came with over $20,000 worth of options, taking the price to over $300,000 before on-roads. Yikes.
What you do get is a very clever, electrically-operated wind deflector which stows away behind the rear seats along the cabin rim.
Porsche Communication Management (PCM) is included, a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, and there’s a 12-speaker Bose stereo as standard.
The stereo is nothing to write home about though, with a lack of clarity in both mid-range and treble. It’ll play MP3s and DVDs but only the audio track, which is very strange. There’s a USB input that also serves as the port for downloading performance data from the Sport Chrono pack.
Storage: Other than the back seats which could happily be used as small bag carriers, there’s a narrow but deep storage area under the bonnet of 135 litres, while at the back there’s a 155 litre area available.
Two cupholders are cleverly concealed behind the aluminium trim on the passenger side and there’s a small area under the centre armrest for a phone and wallet, while just behind the gearshift is a recess suitable for loose change.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 911 has always been a tricky beast to master, but it rewards if treated properly.
The steering is brilliantly accurate and while it may have toned down on the constant chatter of previous models, it’s still full of feel and is predictably linear. However, you have to remember that lashings of steering combined with bootfulls of throttle is never going to result in a quick lap time.
The engine is at the back, and while that helps with traction for getting off the line, it also means there’s less grip up front.
Consequently, unlike rear-wheel-drive cars, it doesn’t pivot around the engine (which is usually up front) when coming into a corner with the right foot buried. Instead, its propensity to understeer means this is definitely of the slow-in/fast-out variety.
Brake hard before the corner, guide it through – relying on that communicative steering to tell you what the fronts are doing – and then get onto the throttle after the apex. That’s the 911 way.
The thing is, it improves as the speed increases - meaning you can go deeper into corners under brakes the faster you go.
It’s a devastating track weapon that relishes sweeping corners and disciplined driving.
Helping its cause is the fantastic Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK transmission) which uses a dual-clutch arrangement supported by paddle shifters on the wheel.
Its response is comparable to Ferrari’s F1-Trac in response time, with both up- and down-shifts happening as soon as you touch the paddle.
In Sport Plus mode, the shifts are solid, with a decent shove in the back. Yet when left in full auto, the PDK is as docile as a regular auto.
The 3.8-litre, 294kW flat six is a purposeful instrument with a metallic growl that outdoes any V6 for engine-note.
Mated to the PDK, it propels the 911 CS Cabriolet from 0-100km/h in a scant 4.3 seconds (when the Sport Chrono package is fitted). Putting that in perspective, that’s as quick as the Aston Martin DBS with its 6.0-litre V12.
While it doesn’t feel super quick at the low-end of the rev spectrum, it builds with exponential force until - when singing at 7000rpm - you understand why the 911 is so quick.
With the Sport Plus button selected, the optional sports exhaust has flaps which open and the downshifts bring a “whap!” followed by loud crackles on the overrun.
Refinement: While the 991 is improved on previous generations, there’s still a gruff attitude lurking behind the leather and metal. Start the engine and it rattles away, like a typical 911, however the PDK keeps the engine in its sweet spot and the shifts are perfect.
The convertible roof keeps the cabin nice and quiet, though there’s a little tyre roar evident. The chassis is also ridiculously stiff with no creaks or scuttle shake.
Suspension: The Carrera S is fitted with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) which constantly alters the damping force to suit the road, and dependent on whether Normal or Sport modes have been selected.
To be honest, there’s little difference between the two, except for Sport mode making things a little more jittery – certainly road-holding at normal speeds is unchanged.
For those hankering for tech-specs, the front features a lightweight spring-strut axle with longitudinal and transverse links and stiff aluminium cross-members, while the rear is of the multi-link variety.
Braking: The front wheels house six-piston aluminium monobloc brake callipers, with cross-drilled 340 mm discs which are 34 mm thick, while the rears employ four-piston aluminium monobloc brake callipers with 330 mm diameter and 28 mm thick discs.
The pedal feel throughout its travel is perfect and it remains such at any speed. If it’s a good braking system you’re after, the 911 Carrera S has got it.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: Being a convertible, the 911 features pyrotechnic rollover hoops which fire into place in the event of rollover. Even if the fabric roof is up, the hoops will activate, leaving nothing to chance.
In addition, the 911 features the usual suite of driver aids such as ESC, EBD, ABS and six airbags, including head airbags. Unusually, a provision is made for an optional Isofix point for the front passenger seat so a child seat can be fitted.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Two years/unlimited kilometres with a factory extension of one year optional.
Service costs: Intervals are every two years and vary in price depending on kilometres.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Aston Martin V8 Vantage S Roadster ($294,900) - The Vantage S has a much nicer sounding engine, is almost as quick and is sublime looking. But the gearbox is nowhere near as refined. (see Aston Martin reviews)
Audi R8 Spyder ($299,900) - A refined, well-built cruiser, it’s more show pony than circuit warrior and is more expensive than its VW Group stable-mate. The 4.2-litre V8 is a peach, though. (see R8 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
There are some let-downs in the 911, most notably the stereo and the price of the options.
But the drive experience makes up for it. In spades. This Cabriolet loses nothing in driveability and handling.
Some droptops might fit the label of “cruisers”, but the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet is all sports car with serious track ability.
It’s not for everyone, but treat it with respect and the 911 shows how a superbly engineered sports car can really deliver.
There is only one problem for the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet. And its sitting there in the Porsche stable.
It might not be as quick, but it’s also a convertible and just as rewarding at the wheel – the Porsche Boxster S. And it’s half the price.
The 911 may be the original, and the Carrera S Cabriolet a super drive, but when it comes to value for money, it looks a little full of itself next to its sharp little brother.
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- Carrera Coupe - manual - $229,900
- Carrera Coupe - PDK - $235,850
- Carrera S Coupe - manual - $263,100
- Carrera S Coupe - PDK - $269,050
- Carrera Cabriolet - manual - $255,100
- Carrera Cabriolet - PDK - $261,050
- Carrera S Cabriolet - manual - $288,300
- Carrera S Cabriolet - PDK - $294,250
Note: prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer deliver or on-road costs.