Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet: The sensible extravagance

August 5, 2008, 9:33 PM UTC

A two-seat convertible like the 911 Turbo Cabrio that accelerates to 60 miles per hour in four seconds and carries a sticker price of $154,050 would seem like an irrelevance in these days of $4 gasoline and difficult economic times.

Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet
Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

It is — except to two important constituencies: Porsche and its customers. Against all logic, the 911 line of rear-engine sports cars continue to be the most popular Porsches, outselling the less-expensive Boxster two-to-one. As the most expensive 911, the Turbo Cabrio thus becomes the flagship of the Porsche brand and an aspirational target for its buyers. If you are dying to have a Porsche, you might as well pop for the top of the line.

The “arctic silver metallic” car I drove recently effortlessly satisfield both parties. It is one of the most strikingly handsome cars on the road, with a tailored front-end, bulging rear flanks, and tasteful spoiler far more refined than those on earlier turbo models. The descriptive “whale tail” no longer applies. Inside, the black full-leather interior was purposeful, rather than indulgent, and Porsche is making strides by improving the appearance and utility of its interior controls (though you would never mistake them for a Lexus). The one-touch convertible top, which stows neatly in the rear deck, operates efficiently and unobtrusively.

The big surprise comes when you get behind the wheel, because the Turbo Cabrio is as comfortable as a well-worn leather glove. It is one of those rare super cars that is equally at home running errands as it is accelerating through the gears. The pedals operate easily, the shifter on the manual gearbox is a model of balance and performance, and the steering wheel responds to the most subtle of inputs. Once you get used to finding the ignition switch on the left hand side of the steering wheel (for those running Le Mans starts), it functions effortlessly as a daily driver. And at 15 miles per gallon city, 24 mph highway, the mileage isn’t horrible.

With its 480-horsepower engine revving at full throttle, the Turbo Cabrio is capable of scary high speeds, but you won’t find an analysis of its top-gun handling characteristics here. Absent hot laps on a race course or avoiding the police on some deserted highway, the Turbo Cabrio possesses performance capabilities that will be infrequently accessed by its owners. But that doesn’t prevent Porsche from charging top dollar for the car — or from its owners paying it. Both parties can feel they have exchanged fair value.