The word cabriolet comes from the French; it was first used in the middle of the 18th century to describe a two-seat carriage drawn by a single horse. What was unique about a cabriolet compared to other two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicles was that its roof could fold back, providing an open-air carriaging experience for its occupants. Cabriolets were the first convertibles.
The same principles are at work in the new 992-generation Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, minus the horse and plus a couple rear seats. Compared to the standard 911 Carrera, the cabriolet has the same engine, transmission, tires, and brakes, but just how different is an open-top 911 from its coupe counterpart? I had a chance to drive both through the tiny villages and rolling hills south of Porsche’s home in Stuttgart; here’s what I can tell you about the differences between the convertible and hardtop.
Difference #1: Price
The 911 Carrera is far from a cheap car, starting at $98,750, but the cabriolet carries a noticeable price bump. It starts at $111,550, a premium of $12,800 over an identical coupe. What’s interesting is how coupe and convertible 911 pricing compares to the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman.
Like the hardtop and convertible versions of the 911, the open-air 718 Boxster is mechanically identical to the 718 Cayman, it just has a folding fabric roof. In terms of the 718, a base convertible only costs 3.6 percent more than a base coupe—$60,250 compared to $58,150. With the 911 though, you’ll pay a lot more for your open-air motoring experience. A Carrera Cabriolet costs 13 percent more than a standard Carrera.
Difference #2: Looks
These things are subjective but I’ve always hated the way convertible 911s look. Convertibles don’t look right to me when the rear of the car is higher than the front, and the 911 Cab might be the worst offender. Not only does its rear end sit higher than the base of the windshield, the 992 cabriolet adds wider hips and considerable visual bulk under its full-width rear tail light.
It looks like some sort of bulbous, ass-heavy insect and I’m just not about it. In terms of aesthetics, I prefer the coupe all day.
Difference #3: Weight
Convertibles are typically heavier than their slick-top counterparts. It’s not only because of a (usually) powered folding mechanism, but because when you remove a car’s roof, it requires additional chassis bracing to replicate the structural rigidity a roof would provide.
The 911 is no different—the cabriolet tips the scales at 3,472 pounds, according to Porsche. That means it’s carrying an extra 154 pounds compared to an identical coupe. And keep in mind, all that weight is up high, which raises the car’s center of gravity and adversely affects handling. Ah, the price we pay for driving a drop-top.
Difference #4: Smell
Out in the rural farmlands of Germany, perhaps the most noticeable difference in driving these two cars was the smell. You see, there are a lot of cows and a lot of sheep south of Stuttgart. Driving the cabriolet, there was a certain… let’s say barn-like smell that I didn’t notice behind the wheel of the coupe.
This won’t be a problem for most buyers. That being said, if you live in an area with a lot of animal husbandry or your commute passes through the mushroom capital of the world in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania (mushroom farms smell like poo), a 911 with a fixed roof might be a better choice.
Difference #5: Efficiency
If eking out the last fraction of a mile from every drop of fuel is your jam, the coupe is the way to go. The EPA hasn’t published its findings yet but based on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), the Cabriolet takes a slight hit in terms of fuel economy. How slight? After converting Porsche’s numbers from liters per kilometer to miles per gallon, the coupe delivers 26.14 mpg and the cabriolet manages 25.57 mpg.
But these cars have the same engine and transmission, don’t they? What gives? We attribute the slight disadvantage in efficiency to increased weight and compromised aerodynamics.
Difference #6: Sound
You know how sometimes you’ll put the windows down so you can hear your car scream through a tunnel? Driving a 911 Cabriolet with the top down is sort of like that, but a lot better. And especially with the optional sport exhaust, the Carrera’s 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six makes one hell of a sound. Wind noise is up compared to the coupe, but that’s to be expected.
Difference #7: Speed and Acceleration
For the same reasons the 911 cabriolet is a touch less efficient than the fixed-roof coupe (extra weight and compromised aerodynamics), the coupe is a bit faster at top speed and a sniff quicker to accelerate. According to Porsche, the coupe will hit 182 mph but the convertible tops out at “just” 180 mph.
In the race to 60 mph, the coupe edges out the cabriolet by 0.2 second. The Carrera will hit 60 in 4.0 seconds compared to the cabbie’s 4.2 seconds. Adding the Sport Chrono pack to either car drops its 0-60 time by 0.2 second.
Keep in mind, though, that one of the best reasons to drive a convertible is the sensation of speed, not the speed itself. The Carrera Cabriolet might not be quite as quick as the coupe, but with the wind in your hair and engine note in your ears, it feels every bit as exciting.
Difference #8: Head Room
I have something to admit. I never tried driving the Carrera Cabriolet with the fabric roof in place above my head. But come on, it was a gorgeous day in southern Germany driving someone else’s six-figure drop-top 911, would you have been driving with the top up? Even at 6’1″ I had plenty of space above my head in the coupe, but no car with a roof can beat the 93 million miles of head room you get in a drop-top.
Differences between the Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe and the Cabriolet
- Difference #1: Price
- Difference #2: Looks
- Difference #3: Weight
- Difference #4: Smell
- Difference #5: Efficiency
- Difference #6: Sound
- Difference #7: Speed and Acceleration
- Difference #8: Head Room
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