- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Combine a sports car with a convertible and what do you get?

If it’s Porsche’s 911 Carrera Cabriolet, the answer is easy: Twice the driving enjoyment.

You don’t have to be a Porsche fan to enjoy this nimble, sporty little car with a starting manufacturers suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $79,165.

Part of Porsche’s 911 line, the Cabriolet has a fully automatic power roof that convertible lovers can quickly come to appreciate.

All a driver has to do is push a button, and the side windows go down on their own, the top releases and folds back automatically, and even the boot for the top slides briskly into place without any need for the driver to get out of the car or fuss.

Putting the top up is merely the reverse process and, again, is done with one push of a button.

If a driver is a sports car enthusiast, too, the Carrera Cabriolet offers a speedy ride, thanks to a 315-horsepower, 3.6-liter, double overhead cam, horizontally opposed six-cylinder that’s at the back of the car.

Yes, Porsche continues with its unique powertrain configuration and installation.

Torque here is 273 foot-pounds at 4,250 rpm and comes on real quick.

I just pressed a bit on the Carrera Cabrio’s accelerator and the car jumped forward. If I pressed harder, my head would be pressed back into the head restraint.

I found myself having to watch how quickly I came up on other cars in city traffic, or I’d be on someone’s rear bumper before I knew it.

When I thought I was going 30 mph, I actually was going close to 50. I figure the fact that the test Carrera Cabrio was painted silver, not bright red, helped me avoid some tickets that I would have deserved.

A six-speed manual was the transmission in the Carrera Cabrio tester, and its short throws and easy-to-find gears made shifting a pleasure.

The clutch did require a good amount of effort, however, and this made congested, stop-and-go traffic a chore.

Porsche also offers a five-speed automatic with Tiptronic, which lets drivers shift gears without using a clutch pedal.

There are seats for four, sort of, inside the Carrera Cabrio.

Basically, the back two are small with very upright back cushions. Legroom is close to negligible back there, so its best to expect that only very young children might fit and even they might not want to ride for a long while.

Everyone rides close to the ground in the Carrera Cabrio. I had to drop down into it and then slide a bit on the sculpted leather seat to get comfortable.

At 5 feet 4, I didn’t feel confined at all. Thankfully, the center console isn’t some large thing that rises up high and broad as it does in some other vehicles.

What I did notice was the rather large size of the Porsche steering wheel for this small, sporty car and that the dashboard didn’t extend into the car very far from the windshield.

Porsche continues to put the ignition key slot in the Carrera Cabrio to the left of the steering wheel, rather than the right as it is in most other cars.

I got only 18 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. Premium is the recommended fuel.

The ride was noisy enough with the top down that several times, I found my turn signal still on after I changed lanes. There was wind noise as well as fun engine sounds and road noise from the tires.

The sporty Carrera Cabrio seems to have few body motions. The chassis feels stiff as the car travels over road bumps, and I noticed very little cowl shake in this convertible.

Most bumps aren’t jarring for passengers, but there is a healthy dose of vibrations coming through nearly all the time.

Power rack-and-pinion steering is precise. I needed to turn the wheel only slightly to get an immediate change in direction. It felt more like I wished the car to move slightly to the left or the right and it just did it.

And I sure enjoyed the small turning circle of this car — just 34.8 feet.

I put the top up and down several times on the test Carrera Cabrio and never experienced a whistle or air leak when the top was in place.

But with the top up, it can be difficult to see when backing up from a parking space, because of the large, blocking pillar at each side of the small, glass rear window.

Trunk space also is lacking, at 3.5 cubic feet in the oddly shaped front cargo area. Its better to fold the rear seatbacks down and put large items back there.

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