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Porsche 911 GTS vs Audi R8 Spyder

  1. This is a cabrio supercar eclipse, the moment where two cars of different orbits overlap for a spectacular instant. The R8 Spyder has always traced a loftier financial loop than the 911 Carrera cabrio - the V10-powered R8 drop-top starts at £116,660, while you can get a box-fresh 911 convertible for £74,958 - but with the launch of this, ahem, budget-version R8 V8 and the top-of-the-line 911 GTS, two German giants have aligned neatly. True, there’s long been the 911 Turbo to tempt soft-top buyers who simply wouldn’t consider opening their chequebook for less than a six-figure sum, but for a proper, rear-wheel-drive 911 cabriolet, the £85,249 GTS is unchartered territory.

    Words: Sam Philip

    This article was originally published in the May 2011 issue of Top Gear magazine

  2. The GTS is, remember, a last hurrah for the 997 Carrera range before an all-new 911 arrives this autumn. Its naturally aspirated, 3.8-litre flat six now puts out 402bhp through the rear wheels, meaning the GTS gives away just 22bhp to the V8-engined R8. Out on the road, the two cabrios are devilishly closely matched for pace. Both will crack 62mph in 4.8 seconds, both will get within a sneeze of 190mph. In a straight-line test, you’ll run out of road and licence-points before you can squeeze a Rizla between them. But on a bendy B-road, most of us will go quicker in the R8. It’s an astonishingly easy car to drive fast right from the off: simply point the nose at the apex, trust the supernatural balance and grip, and fling out the other end on a wave of surprise at your newfound talent. Sheesh, this car is good.

  3. Threading the 911 through a corner is a more complex proposition. Traction from the huge rear tyres is near infinite - the GTS shares its wider rear track with the 4WD Carreras - but there’s a little initial vagueness from the front end as you tip into a bend, requiring a couple of stabs at the wheel before locking onto the right line. That’s partly because of the GTS’s twitchier steering, far wrigglier than the Audi’s more passive, motorway-friendly set-up. At the very limit, the 911 gives you more feedback, but at the expense of a little fluency. It’s clearly a hugely talented car, but one that takes a while to feel comfortable on the limit. In the R8, you’re an instant hero.

  4. The Audi’s a worse option if you’re a contract killer or serial introvert. The familiar silhouette of the 911, proportions unchanged since the 1760s, allows it to melt anonymously into the British roadscape. No chance in the R8, especially not in Hollywood-dental-treatment white. The R8 has been on sale for four years, but it still draws a crowd like few other cars. Your audience won’t be disappointed by the noise, either: on full throttle, the R8 emits a NASCAR bark that the 911’s chattery, rorty six simply can’t match.

  5. The old-timer Porsche can still trump the upstart R8 in a couple of departments. Seats, for one. And economy - the six-speed manual 911 returns 26.2mpg and 254g/km of CO2 to the R8’s 19.6mpg and 337g/km. But buying a supercar for its practical seats and economy is like ordering a lapdance because your legs are a bit chilly.

  6. The GTS is one of the very best of the cabrios in Porsche’s baffling 911 line-up - quick and engaging with a beautifully judged ride. But shell out your hard-earned on it, and I guarantee there’ll be a moment every so often - maybe once a week, maybe once a month - where you’d think, “Damn, wish I’d bought the coupe.” The 911 is slightly compromised in soft-top form: a bit blurred round the edges, a little unsure of its purpose. The R8 feels even better than its hard-top sibling. It’s a bona fide supercar, as good in V8 form as V10. Eclipse that.

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