I’ve always craved old Speedsters and Targa tops, but Porsche 911 soft tops had never really been on my radar until I drove the 2021 911 Carrera S Cabriolet.
Not only does the topless 911 finally look as good as the coupe, the current Cabriolet arguably make more sense than the equivalent coupe if you live somewhere seaside drives and sunshine are the norm.
To me, the big issue with the 911 Cabriolet has always been what they cost, and what they’re likely to be worth on the used market. The same parameters are largely true of 992 versions, given the standard Carrera Cabriolet costs $22,000 more than equivalent coupe.
The improvements made over the previous-generation car are significant and holistic.
The soft-top has gained more advanced hydraulics and is now fast enough to be open and closed in around 12 seconds, to the point I found myself dropping the roof in traffic willy-nilly for open-air motoring. You can do that at up to 50km/h.
There’s a fully-integrated rear window, and the fabric top contains lightweight magnesium elements called to stop the roof from ballooning at high speeds.
Moreover, there’s an electrically-operated wind deflector and an extra layer of heating and noise insulation that actually works. And that’s just the roof…
There are a few other reasons the Carrera S is the best driver’s 911 soft top yet, including a raft of chassis improvements which make this car stiffer and more tied down than ever.
Expect to pay from $301,300 before on-road costs and options for the 2021 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet – a $21,700 premium over the hard-top.
There are substantial savings to be made by choosing the Carrera Cabriolet over its more powerful ‘S’ stablemate, given it wears a sticker of $263,000 and gets the same 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six tuned albeit with less power and torque.
I’d argue the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet has few rivals capable of challenging its sheer breadth of capabilities, although the Jaguar F-Type P380 R-Dynamic Convertible comes to mind ($191,800).
BMW has the M850i xDrive Convertible ($289,900), but it’s more a big grand tourer than outright sports car.
Lexus has the LC500 Convertible ($214,000) but again, it’s a heavy car skewed entirely towards luxury motoring.
Unlike the standard 911 Carrera, which gets an exhaust system with two tailpipes, S models get a system with quad pipes, which just look so much better.
There’s also Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, including a mechanically-locking gear as part of an electronically-regulated rear differential with variable torque distribution exclusive to S variants, and speed-sensitive with power steering.
You get larger 350mm front and rear brakes – compared with 330mm on the standard Carrera models – along with red calipers instead of black.
The same goes for wheels and tyres. Both the Carrera and Carrera S Cabriolet are equipped with split sizes, but the S is larger and wider at both ends.
Porsche offers a range of standard exterior colours including both flat (Black, White, Guards Red, Racing Yellow), and metallic paints (Carrera White, Jet Black, Dolomite Silver, Gentian Blue, Night Blue, Agate Grey, GT Silver and Aventurine Green).
Standard kit includes gloss black rear grille inserts, dynamic LED headlights, electric folding/heated/dimming door mirrors, auto headlights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control.
There’s 14-way powered sports seats with memory and heating, keyless entry and start, parking sensors with a surround-view camera, DAB+ digital radio, 12-speaker surround sound audio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
Infotainment in the Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet is combination of a 10.9-inch central touchscreen with factory navigation and twin-7.0-inch displays with an analogue rev counter in the centre.
Our tester was equipped with a Sports Exhaust and black tailpipes ($5470), the Sport Chrono package ($5000), and Satin Platinum painted wheels ($2500).
Additionally, there’s the two-tone interior ($1250), a heated GT Sports steering wheel ($570), the light design package ($1050), Power Steering Plus ($550), and the Porsche crest embossed on headrests ($470).
They effectively bump the price from $301,300 to $321,550 before on-road costs.
Porsche doesn’t crash test its sports cars, which includes the entire 911 model range, so there’s no ANCAP safety rating for Carrera S Cabriolet.
Standard safety equipment includes driver and front passenger airbags, a thorax airbag built into the side bolster of each front seat, and head airbags for each front seat.
There’s also an auto-deploying roll-over protection system that monitors pitch, roll, and lateral and longitudinal forces, and lane-change assist.
It might be a sports car with a soft-top, but the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet also gets a luxurious cabin with all the latest technology on board.
Just as the 991-generation 911 made huge gains on the 997 it replaced, the most recent 992-generation has taken another huge step forward.
The leather upholstery is top notch, as are the materials and switchgear.
The Braun shaver-style shift lever still takes some getting used to, but it’s actually quite intuitive after a while, and is crowned with jewel-like knurling on top.
Same goes for the 911’s round sports steering wheel. It may be a tad thicker than on the 991-generation car, but still feels brilliant in the hands. There’s also the convenience of a drive-mode dial, along with paddle shifters that are perfectly placed for quick shifting.
There’s quite a lot of piano black on the centre console, as well as real wood trim on the dash and door cards, though there are plenty of options to replace it. I’d go for a brushed alloy look in a 911 drop-top.
The integration of the infotainment touchscreen and driver’s display is very slick (flush with the dash lines), and the clarity and resolution are crystal clear.
We like the analogue rev counter, and the frameless digital displays flanking it. It’s a clever mix of new and old technology paying homage to early 911s.
The roof itself is beautifully fashioned with a premium look and feel, now with an extra layer of insulation and sound deadening material said to dial the ambient noise down by around 10 per cent.
911 seats have always offered a blend of comfort and support, even without being particularly thickly cushioned.
Those in the latest 911 offer more of everything. Suffice to say, it’s more luxurious than ever and capable of comfortable, cramp-free long-distance travel.
Technically, the 911 is a four-seat sports car, but don’t expect an adult to spend any time back there. Even small kids will complain about legroom. Headroom, of course, is a non-issue with the roof lowered.
A better use of the rear seats is the bench that opens up when the seat backs are folded. You’ve also got the front boot, which is large enough to swallow a couple of soft bags.
The Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet relies on a 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six with 331kW of power at 6500rpm and 530Nm of torque from 2300 to 5000rpm.
The two turbochargers are symmetrical and larger than those on its predecessor, as are the charge air coolers, resulting in better airflow and throttle response through the rev range.
Performance is up, with the Carrera S Cabriolet now able to clock the 0-100 sprint in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 306km/h.
By way of comparison, the 4S Cabriolet needs just 3.8 seconds thanks to its all-wheel drivetrain, while the standard 911 Cabriolet scoots from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds.
Long before I got behind the wheel of the Porsche 911 Cabriolet I’d received solid feedback from a buddy in Southern California, who’d driven it extensively in and around the Malibu Canyons.
As a hardcore GT3 owner, I was a little surprised by his enthusiasm for the 911 with a folding roof, going so far as to call it the perfect daily for the perennially sunny SoCal.
The must-have Sports Exhaust gives the Cabriolet genuine character even at low speed. You need that in the 992-generation car, because engine refinement is up and decibels are down on the naturally-aspirated 991 versions.
I’ve not driven the less powerful Carrera Cabriolet, but the S is undeniably quick, needing just 3.9 seconds to reach 100km/h. In the real world it feels even quicker when you nail the throttle.
If there’s any low-down lag it’s fractional, and not worth a mention. When revs build there’s so much go in the mid-range thanks to the two turbos, which makes my own 991-generation Carrera S feel like a classic.
It’s not just that pace that excites. The chassis is so well balanced (despite the rear-engine set up) and the car feels utterly tired down you immediately start to seek out uncluttered twisty roads to test its mettle.
The eight-speed PDK transmission is flawless in its speed of shift and refinement. You’ll find yourself pulling gears in manual mode, just to hear the flat-six music it makes.
Listening intently for any scuttle shake, chassis shudder, or signs of weaker structural integrity reveal none.
Instead, the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet is rock solid, even over cracked roads and broken edges. It makes you want to attack the local roundabouts on the commute in lieu of sweepers on a race track.
Pedal weights are near perfect, allowing minute throttle and brake increments for when the enthusiast in you takes hold.
Grip levels are seriously high, and even if you’re pressing over rubbish roads it’s utterly composed.
It’s the same story when it comes to ride comfort. The Cabriolet soaks up the bumps without compromising compliance; but that’s what Porsche does best.
Then there’s the sheer joy of driving this car without the roof. Just 12 seconds and you’re effectively driving a Speedster, at least that’s what it feels like to me.
So easy and pain-free is the electric roof mechanism you’ll find yourself dropping the roof on a whim, just because you can, and enjoying the rays at the same time.
Porsche offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty across the board, as well as a three-year paint warranty and 12-year coverage for rust.
Service intervals are 15,000km or 12 months (whichever comes first), while service charges vary by dealer.
Porsche claims 9.6L/100km on a combined cycle using 98RON, with a 64-litre fuel tank for the Carrera S Cabriolet (same as the entry Cabriolet).
You’ll get close to this figure if you’re light-footed, but drive it with any intent and consumption is likely to rise.
I’ve never quite understood why the 911 Cabriolet costs more than the Coupe sibling.
The 992-generation could change things up entirely. There are very few flaws in the new 911 Cabrio.
It offers refined open-air motoring in the best 911 ever built, and when it gets too cold or starts to rain, it effectively morphs into a coupe in 12 seconds.
My mate in Southern California is spot on. If you’re not buying a Porsche GT car, buy the 911 Cabriolet and thank me later.
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