Sweetest Dream | Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

BY Azfar Hashim

Is the Carrera 4S Cabriolet the ultimate hairdresser’s car or just a boulevard cruiser?

Photos by Azfar Hashim and Joel Tam

You rarely hear praises being sung for cabriolets simply because there’s this weird belief that cars with chopped tops are structurally compromised. Now perhaps cabriolets from the past were, excuse the language, crap in quality which caused drivers to deduce that cabriolets are more for poseurs who happen to have too much money to spend.

But times have changed and there’s a long list of advances made by most car manufacturers to simply prove that cabriolets are as rigid as their coupe brethren (which most cabriolets are based on). And they actually spend real money over the years to develop cabriolets that are fun to drive with or without the roof.

I’ve never been interested in cabriolets while growing up though, because I’ve always had this series of strange imagination. Either I would be, again please excuse the language, crapped on by birds while driving along without a roof. Or if I were to ever crash, I would be thrown out of the car and end up on a tree. The other fear my overly imaginative mind had was how accessible I am to being sucked up by flying UFOs.

All that changed though, after given the keys to the Peugeot 206 CC in my early years of motoring journalism, which was exactly 1,317 years ago. It doesn’t matter the 206 CC takes about 23 years to get from standstill to 100 km/h, or the sophisticated metal roof that takes six months to put on and then eight months to fold away. What was most important? Just how happy it made me driving with the roof down, even if it meant I was labeled s-l-o-w and had to contend with messy hair. Something only cabriolet drivers, or anybody who’ve had the slight chance to experience that wind in the hair sensation, can understand where I’m getting at…

Which then brings me to this car: Porsche’s 911 Cabriolet C4S. You probably won’t expect much out of this car. Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, “Why on earth do I want this car when I could buy other cars that’d be more fun to drive?”

For about $700k, the list of 'fun-performance-and-damn-I-would-look-hot-driving-it' cars worth considering is definitely a long one. But I reckon you should park it all here, on this car — because it has a lively engine, responsive transmission and melodious exhaust system. And even with the roof down, its ride and handling remains unnerved, focused and sharp; qualities that are typical of a Porsche 911.

This car gets power from a 3.8-litre Boxer powerplant placed at the rear of the car, and paired to a 7-speed PDK 'box, power output is a remarkable 400 bhp with maximum torque standing at 440 Nm, available at 5,600 rpm onwards. But despite weighing in at slightly more than 1.6-tonnes (no thanks to the all-wheel drive system and roof mechanism), this 911 Cabrio can still go from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds and maxes out at 294 km/h.

Left to run on it’s own, this car feels quick off the line in its attempt to outrun everything else; gears shift up smoothly with the engine cooperating willingly. Even driving with the roof down along the expressway is a relaxing affair despite knowing how relatively stiff its suspension set up is.

But as you exit the expressway to find a twisty set of road, the 911 Cab turns into a different animal altogether while you get ready for maximum attack mode: press the Sport Plus button, select the sport suspension, activate the sport exhaust and put the gear selector to manual to shift gears manually like the good old times. And my word, despite driving with the roof down, it (a) feels agile, (b) shows no indication of chassis flex, (c) steering response is sharp with good feel and (d) not a single creak from the roof mechanism. Even if things start to get messy, the car’s traction control will quickly sort it out for you; in fact, it felt as if the car was doing some of the driving with my input being perhaps only 65 percent. It is safe and clinical, the presence of all-wheel drive deeply appreciated too; I’m not complaining, really.

During all this action-packed driving, the one thing you would highly love is the engine bellowing all the way to the 7,600 rpm redline in second and third, with the exhaust farting and singing away; it’s dramatic, and I love it. Especially with the roof tucked away, there’s so much going on, from all the right noises it’s making, to the brilliant handling — wow Porsche, wow.

The 911 Cabriolet’s interior is no different from its coupe brethren, meaning you get a driver-focused cockpit, logically placed control buttons and body-hugging seats that provide perfect grip when driven in a sporty manner. The steering wheel is nicely sized as well.

Build quality is your typical Porsche with the optional carbon-fiber inserts and red stitching maintaining a sports theme for the cabin.

So there you have it, the 911 C4S Cabriolet retaining Porsche’s ethos still. As a cabriolet, it's simply complete. There’s nothing to fault this car, as everything is well thought out, engineered and put together with no compromises at all; till now, I am still highly impressed as to how Porsche can manage to sort out the entire chassis and make it a solid package - in more ways than one - just to cope with demanding drivers.

The downside to this car? Driving with the roof up can be quite a chore, seeing how the canvas 'C-pillar' provides you with zero vision as you attempt to merge with traffic or change lanes; which was why I spent my time driving with the roof chucked away whenever the weather permits. Oh on top of that, the GPS system is the least user-friendly…