July 9, 2007
Toronto, Ontario – Increasingly (and especially in my corner of Southern Ontario) it’s getting harder and harder to exercise a sporting vehicle on public roads. Not that I’m condoning irresponsible driving, but short of a few bursts of acceleration, or the odd off-ramp hi-jinx, there’s precious little fun to be had around here.
In reality, keeping a high performance sports car in this environment is akin to caging a cheetah or confining Shaque to shooting hoops in your driveway..
Which is precisely why the 2007 $136,900 355-hp Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet make so much sense.
Huh? Bear with me dear reader.
For sure, this iconic 911 all-wheel drop-top has serious tarmac-chewing capability, but for those times when you’re not attacking your favourite back road test loop, it does a fine job of creating the illusion of speed.
Case in point: With the top down and my youngsters squeezed in the back “seats” of this Guards Red tester, we made a run to the shops. “Dad! Slow down!!!” they squealed in delight. I looked down at the big digital speedometer. It read 65 km/h.
Okay, so I had reached that speed in an eye-blink, but had we been in an equally swift sedan, my kids wouldn’t have flinched.
In the Porsche, the firm ride, the rushing air, and of course that marvellous 3.8-litre flat-six snorting away inches from their backsides conspired to make the little tykes think Dad was going for his best lap at the Nurburgring.
And isn’t that what the sports car experience is all about?
Driving this al fresco Porsche allows one to take in every nuance of the DOHC 24-valve engine. And what a repertoire it has. Just off idle it gurgles and spits like Tom Waits after a night of drinking cleaning products. Around 2000 r.p.m. the big six clears its throat and from there it builds from a baritone warble to a mellifluous wail as the 7200 r.p.m. red-line rapidly approaches.
And then there’s second gear.
My tester was equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, which shifts with a firm and precise manner. Similarly, the clutch requires a manly prod and the steering has a meaty feel at low speeds. As in all Porsches, the feel and operation of the major controls are wonderfully integrated, and become more so as your speed increases. The standard leather seats with powered backrest are a paragon of comfort and firm lateral support. Height and for-aft adjustment is manual. If you want them powered or heated, have your wallet handy. Although the rear seats are tiny, they are usable for small children and, as I discovered, those few adults who will suffer anything just to get a ride in a Porsche.
A big tach is central in the five-gauge instrument cluster, with the numbers illuminated in a crisp, eye-friendly white. The digital speedo readout in the lower half of the tachometer benefits from the big white numerals too, which is a good thing. Believe me, you want to know how fast you’re going at all times in this road rocket, and the small speedometer to the left of the tach, with it’s markings in tight 50 km/h increments, is no help.
My tester was fitted with the $1950 optional Bose High End Sound Package which sounded good – but not spectacular. But really, the only song you want to hear (and most of the time it’s you’re only choice) is the lusty mechanical symphony of this ass-engined rocket.
Once free from the city confines, the C4S Cabrio comes into its own. I prefer the all-wheel-drive 911s, as they feel more planted and have a more neutral disposition when negotiating the twisties. Which is not to say the steering doesn’t come alive in your hands and the back end can’t be coaxed into some gentle over-steer like in the rear-wheel drive cars. For those into heel-and-toe downshifting, the pedals are perfectly placed for your dancing pleasure. The vented and cross-drilled discs squeezed by four-piston fixed alloy calipers provide the expected Porsche stopping power.
All “S” model Carreras, which carry a 355 hp and 295 lb.-ft. “VarioCam Plus” 3.8-litre aluminum flat-six, beyond the rear axles, also come fitted with Porsche Active Suspension Management. This two-stage damping system takes the chop out of the ride but firms things up the instant you get playful. When PASM is put in sport mode, the suspension buttons down, throttle response quickens and the PSM allows for more sideways fun before it intervenes.
As far as structural rigidity goes, the C4S get a B+: rough surfaces will send some quivers through the structure. It’s not bad, but the standard in convertible stiffness has risen considerably in the past couple of years, and the 911 falls behind such robust roadsters as the Jaguar XKR, M-B SLK and even its baby-brother, the Boxster.
But the occasional shake is a minor price to pay for the dividends received in visual and aural stimulation. Maybe it was the Cabrio’s red paint and tan leather interior, or maybe it was the fact that this was our first truly summer-like weather, but the during my week of piloting this Porsche C4S Cabrio I received more smiles, more thumbs up, and more people yelling “Nice car!” than in any press car I can remember.
While pulling up to a stop sign in my neighborhood, a wide-eyed young whipper-snapper on a bike hollered, “Awesome Porsche! Gun it!” Which I did. Up to 65 km/h. I saw him grinning like the Cheshire Cat in my rear-view mirror.
Pricing: 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Base price: $136,900
Options: $ 7,270
(Sand Beige floor mats $160, self-dimming mirrors $540, heated front seats $680, wheel caps with coloured crest $260, extended navigation module $$3180, Bose high end sound $1950, windstop deflector $500)
A/C Tax: $ 100
Destination charge: $ 1085
Price as tested: $145,365
Manufacturer’s web site