When you look at the last few batches of headline-grabbing McLarens, Lamborghinis and Porsches, they’ve had one thing to offer: lap times. Nürburgring records. Extreme track performance. I say unto you now: who actually gives a shit? One of the best and fastest cars I’ve ever driven is the 580 horsepower 2018 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet, and it will never see a track day, ever. And when you’re behind the wheel, you won’t care.
(Full Disclosure: Some stuff has been going down around here lately, so for mental health reasons I asked our Porsche contacts if they had anything with a droptop. They gave us one of these with a full tank of gas for a week. I feel much better now.)
With the soft top roof and without a roll cage, nobody will be tracking a 911 Turbo S Cabriolet, but that doesn’t matter. What percentage of high-end buyers really use their cars for that anyway? And with an apparent zero to 60 mph time of just 2.6 seconds, there’s a good chance anyone who looks down on this car for not being the most hardcore track-conquering 911 in the lineup won’t be able to keep up anyway.
It’s a crushingly fast supercar and hypercar killer that keeps its sense of joy, and maybe gets you a tan in the process.
What Is It?
Simply put, this is the fastest and most powerful convertible in the ever-expanding 911 lineup.
In general the Turbo S is the 911 you get when you decide the $161,800 911 Turbo just isn’t special enough, exclusive enough, expensive enough or good enough. (What a conundrum to have.) It comes standard with a ton of things that are just optional on the Turbo, and has more power, all for just $30,000 extra. It comes in fixed roof coupe and convertible versions, as does the “regular” Turbo. And with the 991.2 facelift, it comes with some impressive upgrades I’ll dive into momentarily.
It’s true that nearly all new 911s use turbocharged engines these days, but the Turbo nameplate is still reserved for the best and most powerful and most prestigious forced induction models.
The Turbo S Cabriolet has an air of glamor that the angry, humorless, track-focused GT3s and GT2s and RS-es don’t. When I took our Guards Red tester down New York’s Belt Parkway with the top down on a cool and breezy summer day, I felt like I was driving some kid’s dream poster car from the 1980s—all it needed was a whale tail spoiler to complete the image. Another friend who was in it said it felt like a star car from a movie.
If you’re going to get a really expensive 911, this may be the most purely fun one.
Specs That Matter
Regardless of roof situation, the Turbo S packs a water-cooled, 3.8-liter rear-mounted twin-turbo flat six engine. It puts out 580 HP and 516 lb-ft of torque, which is 40 horses more than the Turbo and an increase of 20 horses over the old 991.1 Turbo S. Fun fact: the Turbo S engine has its own turbochargers unique to that model, with larger impeller wheels and a modified housing to better process air. The body is unique to the Turbo and Turbo S models too, wider in the rear.
There’s the usual weight penalty that comes with a ragtop–this one weighs in at a claimed 3,736 pounds, while a hardtop Turbo S is about 3,500. The only way to get a Turbo S is with all-wheel drive and the PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automatic—no rear-drive or a stick shift here, sorry.
Other updates since this car became the 991.2 include a new front fascia with side airblades and LED front lights, tweaks to the active suspension and aerodynamics, and the Sport Chrono Package—which gives you a variety of driving modes and the go-fast Sport Response button—is now standard instead of optional.
Porsche claims a zero to 60 mph time of 2.9 seconds, while instrumented Car and Driver test says it’s more like 2.6 seconds. Let’s give that some context. That means this $205,740 convertible is as quick as a $1.5 million McLaren P1, nearly as quick as a $1.5 million LaFerrari, and about as quick as any $2 million-plus Bugatti Veyron from stopped to highway speed. In fact, behind only said Veyron, it is the second-fastest car your hardworking Jalopnik EIC has ever tested.
Its top speed is also said by Porsche to be 205 mph. So there’s that!
A lot. This is an impressive machine, and indicative of how Porsche has continually perfected the 911 recipe over decades.
The vicious speed. The style. The fact that it can be your daily driver, easily. The fact that the top goes up or down in just 13 seconds. The wonderful machine gun baritone under heavy acceleration. Sport Response. Handling. Sunshine. Back seats, even if they’re small. A frunk.
For one, the interior doesn’t feel nearly as premium or fancy as the 2019 Panamera I tested a few months back. It lacks the landscape touch screen, the piano black center console and a few other upscale touches to put it on par with its more luxurious brother.
The 991.2 is nice inside and extremely functional, but it’s still a heavy update of a car that’s been around for most of this decade, and its 992 replacement will probably be more Panamera-ish. (Panamerish?)
I was also pleased to see the Volkswagen Group’s proud tradition of blank buttons extends to even models such as this one. Tell me, Porsche, how much more do I need to spend to get all the damn buttons to be functional?
Also, I would tell you to opt for the zero-cost multifunction steering wheel so you can control your phone and audio from that. The buttonless one does the car no favors.
The infotainment system too feels dated and clunky, with an unattractive menu design. I can’t harp on that too much on a test of a 911 that does 205 mph because it’s not the point, but it’s not this car’s strong suit.
Finally, there’s the gear selector. The detent points on the PDK stick feel really weird, and you have to give it an extra long, hard push to shift into park. More than a few times I found the car was actually in reverse when I went to park it. A minor quibble, but an annoying one.
As a practical concern, I will also say that any normal aggressive driving behavior—trying to catch a light, honking, etc.—is exacerbated times a million when you’re in a $200,000 bright red Porsche 911 Turbo S convertible. You will look like an asshole in this thing.
Try to be on your best behavior here. Unless no one is looking.
What’s most shocking is that in spite of all that bluster, one of the most powerful 911s you can buy is an amazingly livable and daily drivable machine.
I kept the adjustable dampers in their comfort setting most of the time because I live in the pothole-filled hellscape that is New York City, and the Turbo S never beat me up. It isn’t nearly as harsh as, say, the last few BMW M cars I’ve driven. I’d say it’s on the firmer side of “comfortable.” The seats are fantastically bolstered and supportive, too.
One big upside to having the engine out back is that the front end of the car is so short. You can basically see where the front end stops, and that makes it super easy to point through traffic, and to park. Drive it long enough and it becomes vastly more preferable to a car with a long hood. The 911’s rear-engine layout may mostly be done for historical reasons at this point—there’s a reason the Cayman and Boxster have theirs in the middle—but it still draws advantages from that.
As I mentioned earlier, the top is quick up or down at the touch of a button, and with the top up the Cabriolet is quite pleasant, even quiet. It has none of the coffin-like qualities of the Mazda Miata and does a far better job insulating the cabin from road noise. I kept the top down as much as I possibly could, because I love convertibles and I had this car during one of the few cool summer weekends in New York, but the few moments it was up it performed admirably.
It’s practical, too. At least for a sports car. The front trunk is pretty deep and generous, even if it lacks a rear compartment like the Cayman and Boxster have. The addition of a back seat makes the 911 thing infinitely more useful than a two-seater car, too. It’s not great for anything more than a small child, but it’s something.
I took three Jalopnik staffers for a ride and they fit back there just fine, even though they complained the entire time because they are whiny babies who complain about everything!
But you aren’t dropping two hundred grand on a 911 Turbo S because you wanted a nice ride quality and a good back seat. You’d buy a used Chrysler 200 if you wanted that.
No, what the 911 Turbo S does best is convince you that your two hundred grand went to exactly the right place, which is making you go very, very, very fast. And it’s very convincing.
Beyond the mind-bending stats—the quarter-mile happens in 10.6 seconds and 100 mph arrives in just over six—the feeling of speed is incredible here. The Turbo S delivers some of the most crushing acceleration I’ve experienced in any car, ever. For those high-speed runs, there’s also an extending rear and front spoiler, which can be toggled at your leisure. Launch control? Absolutely.
A manual option would be cool, but we’re past the point where PDK invites any real criticism. It’s smooth, it’s fast and it does everything you want it to. I honestly can’t say I missed the clutch pedal here. The enormous brakes, too, make all other brakes I’ve sampled in recent months feel soft and complacent.
And while I can see where a 580 HP rear-wheel drive 911 would be fun—maybe the word I’m looking for here is lethal—I can’t discount the drama-free acceleration advantages of all-wheel drive. This thing just goes, and hard, without so much as a microsecond of hesitation. I was consistently amazed this thing only had six cylinders.
It still errs on the side of that livability I mentioned from the outset, so I kept it in Sport Mode nearly all of the time, a setting that also dialed up the exhaust and engine noise. It’s a 911, you want it to have an edge even in regular driving.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sport Response, the button that for 20 seconds fully maximizes engine and throttle response for the fullest feeling of acceleration available. On the much heavier Panamera Turbo S, it’s hilarious. On this thing, it’s downright scary—when it’s engaged the 911 Turbo S feels like it’s trying to outrun the apocalypse. Sport Chrono is standard on this model, but if you’re buying a 911 you should absolutely spring for it.
It was a far better handler than I expected, too. A lot of critics I know say the modern 911 has gotten too big and too heavy, preferring the smaller Cayman and Boxster instead despite the power deficiency, but I found this to handle like a grand tourer when you needed and a true sports car when you wanted. Porsche’s steering is still too numb—something painfully apparent to me after a day spent in some vintage BMW M3s and a Honda S2000—but it’s still pointed and direct. The car feels smaller than it is in the corners and on good twisty roads. With that short nose it’s easy to aim it wherever you want it to go.
Thank the AWD and wide track for this, but it’s also remarkably neutral despite the engine living out back. Porsche’s ironed much of the wild tail-happy qualities out of today’s 911s, and the result is something that doesn’t ever feel ass-heavy or like something you could totally lose in the turns.
And then there’s the sound. Man, is it good. Just a deep and piercing howl from the flat six, the pronounced whooshing of the turbos, and a crackling exhaust that’s satisfying without bordering on obnoxious like a Jaguar F-Type or something similar.
It is easy to see why, even after all these decades, the 911 is still probably the gold standard for high-end sports cars.
Our 911 Turbo S Cab tester came in at an eyebrow-raising $205,000. The only options were lane change assist and vibrating seats. But context is important here.
Think of all the million-dollar (or two-million-dollar) supercars and hypercars this thing can keep up with or straight up outrun. It’s a LaFerrari fighter, a Bugatti chaser, with one fewer zero in the price tag. And it’s quicker and far more livable than a lot of supercars in the $300,000+ range, including some McLarens I’ve driven.
Somehow, that makes $205,740 look like almost a bargain. The only cars that are better speed-deals per dollar are the Nissan GT-R and the really crazy higher-end Teslas.
A weird thing happens when your job means regularly driving cars that are vastly more expensive than you can afford. At least, it does to me. Dropping the top and being seen in public comes with extreme self-consciousness. You wonder whether you deserve to be in something like this at all, if everyone else can spot you for the fraud you are.
Call it rich guy cosplay; it’s best to just lean into the fancy car and enjoy it, and its silliness, for what it is. (For the full effect, if anyone gives you shit, hang out the window and scream “Do you KNOW who my DAD is?”)
But I didn’t have to lean into anything with the 911 Turbo S Cab. I legitimately enjoyed driving this thing, every moment I was in it. I got it and it got me, in such a way that I was truly sad to part with it—though relieved this $205,000 machine encountered no damage in my care. I drove it as much as I possibly could in the week I had it, and it never failed to impress me as an everyday driver and as one of the fastest cars in the world right now—which it is.
To me, this is a more compelling and usable package than most mid-engined supercars, because I don’t give a shit about lap times on my personal vehicle. I care about going fast and looking extremely rad and having at least some degree of practicality for day-to-day use, and I’d like to enjoy open-top fun while I can before Earth’s surface temperatures hit 130 degrees on the regular.
I can think of worse ways to work on my tan.