Iconic is a tired word. In the past, it was reserved as a word of reverence for ground breakers and revolutionaries that radically transformed the future. You know, the icons.
Today, nearly anything and everything, from toasters to the Toyota Tercel, is called iconic. But that isn't fair to the real innovators. Despite what marketers tell you, in the car world, there are very few cars that are actually iconic. The Porsche 911 is one car that deserves that title.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche wanted me to drive the 911 C2S Cabrio so bad that they dropped it off outside the office three days before some stupid bitch named Sandy came to visit New York.)
The 911 is pretty much evolution defined. If you park a brand new 911 next to the original from the 1960s, it's clear that these cars are closely related. But that's part of the appeal of the 911. Porsche has honed it over the years instead of constantly throwing it out and starting from scratch. You have to admire that.
For the 991 generation, Porsche made one huge change: They binned hydraulic steering and went to an electric setup. The steering is what made the 911 oh so magical in the past. Does the change impact the car negatively? I don't think so. At all.
Let's get this out of the way: The 911 is a handsome car. It's muscular, it's wide, it's chiseled. I like it a lot. The new soft top on the Cabriolet also maintains the 911's classic roofline, which gets rid of some of the ungainly look the Cabrios previously had. Consider me a fan.
But here's the rub: The 911 just doesn't look all that special. For a car that has a starting price of $100,000, it doesn't make you look twice and go "woooooowww." That's the problem with having the same styling for nearly 50 years, people get used to it. A car like the Audi R8 costs the same and just has that "holy shit look at that" factor that the 911 doesn't have. I want that in a supercar.
The spartan days are gone, replaced by an interior that seems to come straight out of the Panamera. This isn't a bad thing at all. Everything is at arms reach and feels super high quality. The center console is lined with buttons (something you don't really see from the Germans anymore these days), and I gotta say, I prefer them.
Not sorting through oodles of menus to adjust the heated seats is a welcome change. Of course, Porsche may have put a few too many buttons, since I wasn't sure what some of them did after repeated touches. Also, the backseat is still useless, unless you're transporting an infant gymnast.
The C2S has 400 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque from its 3.8 liter flat six. When it's equipped with the simply amazing PDK Gearbox (more on that in a minute), it can scoot to 60 in 4.3 seconds when you use launch control, which works like a charm.
It is not down on power anywhere in the rev range and mid gear acceleration is pretty much second nature. However, there was something that was lacking that I couldn't quite put my finger on. For some reason, I just expected it to be faster than it was. It sounds a bit pedantic, but the 911 just didn't "feel" as quick as it really is. I guess it's good that I always felt in control, but I wanted a bit of a surprise or a shock when I stepped on the gas.
Great brakes with a fantastic pedal feel. Not too soft, not too firm, but jusssssst right. I found performance to be linear and the pedal is solid and the brakes grab hard.
I honestly love them.
And yes, Porsche does offer a carbon-ceramic option for the car. The average motorist won't notice the difference, other than the squeakiness of the brakes and a wallet that's $8,520 lighter. Sure, there's less unsprung weight, but you could buy a used Miata for that price. Hell, you could have two used Miatas for the price AND still have a 911. For the regular guy, they just aren't worth it.
Sublime. I think Porsche's engineers may have taken at least one class in chassis dynamics. When the car isn't in sport mode, it's smooth, it's pliable, it's comfortable. The 911 is nearly a GT car in that setting. Put it in Sport or Sport Plus, and it becomes rock solid.
Now, a lot of the time, a car in "sport mode" feels like it has totally solid shocks. Not the case here. Porsche has made a car that manages to simultaneously pound the road into submission while working with it. It's an amazing combination that just works.
I had always heard that driving a 911 was unlike driving anything else, but I never really bought into it. I should have.
With the engine slung well over the rear axle, the weight bias is pretty far to the back. You'd think that'd be a recipe for disaster. It just isn't. I'd throw the car into a corner expecting to not come out the other side. Now, not only would I come out the other side, but I wouldn't be on fire while doing so. The 911 is neutral on turn in (except on uphill bends where the front end got pretty light and initial understeer was the order of the day), neutral mid corner, and, surprise, neutral on exit. I'm sure if you enter a corner too hot and get the rear rotating, you're in for a heap of trouble, but as it is, the 911 is simply great.
I expected the electric steering, which is the biggest point of contention for the 991 generation car, to be disappointing. It wasn't at all. I didn't find it annoying and I wasn't upset at years of tradition being thrown out the window. Instead, I was impressed at Porsche's ability to recreate the hydraulic experience in a electric setup. It isn't as good as the hydraulic setup on old 911s, but it isn't close to being bad, subpar, or even par. It's still fantastic.
I'll keep this short: PDK is the best gearbox on the market. Period. It's smarter. It's smoother. It shifts faster. I love PDK.
When you don't have the car in Sport or Sport Plus, shifts are smooth and slow, relaxing even. But when you put it into one of the two performance modes, the algorithms change and PDK comes alive. Shifts bang home with immediacy. It's better and faster than a human could ever be. Leave it in automatic, and it even knows better than you too. Porsche may have come a little late to the double clutch game in their cars (they essentially invented the technology for their race cars), but they arrived with the best possible competitor. It blows pretty much every other automaker out of the water.
Now we just need them to realize that the shift lever should be pulled back to shift up and pushed forward to shift down, and not vice versa.
My C2S tester was equipped with the optional Burmester stereo. With 837 speakers in the car, it sounded like Axl Rose was sitting right next to me, which is a terrifying notion.
As for the flack the 911 gets for an uninspiring engine note, I say pish posh. The flat six lets out a satisfying bark, especially at full wail. Because it was a cabriolet, my tester let in even more of that sweet, sweet flat six music.
Your neighbors might hate you after a while because every time you pull up in a 911 the growl invites onlookers, which invites revving, which invites even more sweet ass cylinder tones, which invites glares, which means no invite to their vegan BBQ extravaganza. So, double win.
Yes, it actually has toys. We've got parking sensors, satellite radio, reconfigurable displays, heated and cooled seats, a wind deflector, auto wipers, auto headlights, cruise control, PDK, and a very good nav system, among others. It also has a key that's shaped like the car. It's not a toy in the truest sense of the word, but I'm sure a little kid somewhere would find it fun.
Welp, it couldn't all be fun and games. The Carrera S Cabriolet has a starting price of $108,000. "Hey, that's not awful" you say. Well, be prepared to pay a lot if you want options. Our test car had $34,000 in options. That's right, you could have bought a Golf R for the price of the options on this car. Do you want the Porsche crest in color on your wheels? That only costs $185. That excellent Burmester stereo? That's a mere $5,010. Want the bottom of the mirror painted body color? Fork over $605.
The base price isn't bad for the class at all, but once you get a car equipped to the level you want, it'll really set you back.
So that begs a question: Is the 911 worth it? I say yes. The 911 may be nearing retirement age, but it drives like a sprightly youngster. Forget the evolutionary looks, this is a car with a purpose. And at the end of the day, do you want to look the part or actually perform? I'd rather perform.
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet