What could be better than the open air freedom of Porsche’s 911 Cabriolet? How about the same car upgraded to Porsche’s S performance level? I’m talking about the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet. A clumsy name, perhaps, but definitely one very quick convertible. If a car wears the Porsche badge, it’s pretty much a given that it’s going to be quick, especially if it also comes with an S attached to its name like the 2005 911 Carrera S Cabriolet.
The S designation, first used on a 356 model back in 1952, always signifies an expanded engine and horsepower. In the new generation Carrera S Cabriolet, that means a 3.8-liter flat-six engine with dual exhaust for 355 horsepower. That’s 30 more than the standard 911 Cabriolet’s 3.6-liter, and 295 pound-feet of torque, up 22. And if you so choose, the optional Sport Chrono package, that triggers more aggressive engine mapping.
The S drivetrain is completed by either our test car’s 6-speed manual gearbox, or a 5-speed Tiptronic automatic with manual shift capability. The S Cabriolet also gets an upgrade down under. To the 911 Cabriolet’s already tight strut front/5-link rear suspension, the S adds Porsche’s Active Suspension Management. It uses active damping to switch between everyday and all-out settings.
Add in Porsche’s latest variable ratio steering, 19-inch wheels wearing low profile ZR-rated tires, a taller rear spoiler that deploys automatically at speed, and extra large cross-drilled brake discs with 4-piston calipers. Porsche’s super-strong Ceramic Composite Brakes are also available as an option.
Bolt it all together, and you have a car that even on a 100 degree day bolts to 60 in only 5.0-seconds, and rocks through the quarter mile in 13.5-seconds at 107 miles-per-hour. Overall that’s about a half second slower than the 200 pound lighter S Coupe.
Like all Porsche engines, the 3.8 is strong at the bottom end and then picks up steam even more as it climbs the rev band. Dump the clutch too fast, and you will get some rear wheel hop. But once it’s all rolling, engine, clutch and gearbox all perform flawlessly. As does the suspension. Athletic, nimble and lightning quick on turn-in are pretty much par for the Porsche course, and the Carrera S Cabrio does not disappoint.
Steering feedback is superb, and rear end grip may be the best of any rear-wheel-drive car on the road. And even the most aggressive maneuvers fail to trigger any flex in this rock-solid chassis. It’s hard to believe that this is a ragtop.
After such great acceleration and handling, we expect great brakes, and the S delivers, taking only 107 feet to stop from 60. Stability and feedback are also first rate, as the Cabrio sucks itself into the pavement. Yet after all that, this car is still capable of relaxed cruising. Set the suspension in its softer setting, and enjoy a ride that’s tight and Teutonic, but never uncivilized.
After so much performance, Porsche’s latest lightweight, power folding top is icing on the cake. Complete with glass backlight and defroster, one switch opens it in 20 seconds, and it can be safely raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 miles-per-hour.
Once uncovered, the cockpit of the latest generation 911 reveals itself to be most civilized, displaying Porsche’s uncanny ability to blend luxury with race car functionality. For instance, the 5-dial gauge cluster with its large central tachometer, and tight fitting sport seats, with serious support for enthusiastic driving - leather clad, of course.
Audio options include a 13-speaker Bose Surround Sound system with integral DVD-based navigation, while automatic climate controls include interior air and pollen filters. Safety features include side impact, and novel head protection airbags mounted in the doors, plus a rollover sensor that will automatically deploy twin supplemental safety bars if you go belly up. As with all 911s, the rear seat is strictly ornamental, only good for luggage, while the real cargo space remains the 4.4 cubic-foot well up front.
So, fancy a chance at a 911 ragtop? Well, the 911 Cabriolet starts at $79,895. Our hard-rocking S goes for $89,695. Rather have a true four-season soft-top 911? Then wait until November when the all-wheel drive Carrera 4 and 4S Cabriolets arrive.
While we think every Porsche is special, we found the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet to be something very special, one of the most exhilarating to drive convertibles yet devised. The name may be a bit clumsy, but it’s the only thing about this car that is!
Engine: 3.8-Liter Flat-six
Torque: 295 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.0 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.5 Seconds @ 107 MPH
60-0 MPH: 107 Feet