The first 911 convertible was introduced exactly 30 years ago, and, ever since that day, has been regarded as not quite the real deal. Despite it having been at launch the fastest convertible in the world, the softtop was a 911 in over-romanticised soft-focus. A 911 is supposed to be sharp. Well, the new Cabrio is, at last, the real thing. (At least it is as long as you're not one of those swivel-eyed purists who refuse to accept the 991 itself as a real 911.)
An illustration of how real it is. At the prototype stage, there was a high-speed test at VW's Ehra-Lessien track. A good place for going fast, as our friend James once proved in an orange Bugatti. The engineer who knows more about the 911 than anyone, product chief August Achleitner, had been rattling around the high-speed course in one of several prototypes lined up. When he came to rest, he got out and only then noticed the canvas roof. He thought he'd been in a coupe. The convertible loses so little, either in dynamics or in roof-up refinement, the man himself couldn't tell.
In fact, the roof is a whole lot more than your normal piece of canvas tentage. The overhead section is made up of three lightweight magnesium panels that exactly match the corresponding silhouette of the coupe's roof. Linked by aluminium pantograph hinges, when folded away, they nestle on top of one another behind the rear seats. When erect, the canvas stretches over them and hides the joins. Because the side sections are canvas-only, it's lighter and more compact than a folding hard top, but offers most of the protection, and is amazingly quiet and insulating.
The wind-blocker is no longer one of those self-willed fold-up pantomime deckchair contraptions that stores in the boot. Instead, a switch commands a neat frame to motor up electrically from the hood well, pulling the net like a roller blind. Meanwhile, a second arm flips into position to tauten the blocker into the required L-section above the rear seats.
All told, then, it works brilliantly as a cabriolet. When the roof's up, it's quiet as the coupe. As with the coupe, the awful road noise of the 997 is vastly attenuated, too. Roof down, there's little wind bluster even at big speeds, and to keep you motoring in the open when it's chilly out, the heater and bum-warmers are as hot as Hades.
Now here's a thing. Depending on the version, the 911 Cabriolet is up to 60kg lighter than the old one, and it's more powerful. And it's a Porsche 911, for pity's sake. The force of acceleration ought to make you feel like you've been kicked over Niagara in a barrel. I always thought a non-S 911 was quite fast enough, but in getting to know the 991, I start off in a non-S Cabrio and I'm wondering where the poke went. Sure, it's quick, but to get it you need to be really attentive with the manual seven-speed 'box, keeping the revs on the boil. The new, downsized 3.4 engine needs more revs to hit peak power, so you do have to be more deliberate in accessing it. Not that this is any hardship or anything, not listening, without the acoustic isolation of a fixed roof, to the magical and charismatic six-cylinder doing what it loves to do. So I switch to the 3.8-litre S, which is torquier and more willing. With all the Chrono options, it'll hit 62 in a staggering 4.3secs.
But there's another more subtle reason it still doesn't feel brutally, hair-raisingly rapid. The rest of the car copes so very well. The 911's chassis is much more placid now. The nose hoovers its way along the roadway, instead of maintaining a semi-detached relationship, because it's not being levered upwards so much by the engine. It's the same in corners - you don't have that feeling of a hammerhead out the back. It's all the result of moving the rear wheels backward - so the car is less exaggeratedly rear-engined - and of widening the front track. So now you're sitting in a stable and deep-keeled boat, rather than a bobbing, weaving punt. It gives you much more confidence to use the power. Maybe there's less feedback, but that's mostly because the messages are consistent and reassuring, not manic and spooky. I used to be happy with the Carrera; now, that's merely the gateway drug, and I find myself needing a fix of the S.
It's not just me, either. I mentioned it to Achleitner, and he says that, during development, it wasn't unknown for test drivers to come back and complain that one or other of the prototype engines was down on power. They'd investigate and find it wasn't. It's just that the rest of the car is up on capability.
3800cc, 6cyl RWD, 400bhp, 325lb ft, 31.7mpg, 210g/km CO2, 0-62 in 4.3secs, 187mph, 1465kg
Imperceptible compromise to handling and civilisation, and when the roof's down, you get an even speedier sensation. The 911 to have