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Drive of The Month: Porsche’s Bottom Line

Cars like this are generally not designed to be everyday machines, but the 911 is a revelation

October 15, 2014 | By:

In the first of a series, our new motoring editor Jeremy Taylor puts the spotlight on the Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet. And, if you don’t have the $102,930, there's a worthy, sporty alternative

Porsche_911_Cabriolet_12_620If the shapely backside of a 911 isn’t enough to turn heads in the street, Porsche has very thoughtfully offered Cabriolet owners the automotive equivalent of Viagra.

Tickle a button on the dashboard and the sport exhaust system opens four sound ports on the tailpipes, emitting a noisy rasp of appreciation whenever you feel the urge.

An expensive gimmick for show-offs? Well, maybe. But apart from a couple of overcomplicated cup-holders squeezed into the dashboard, there is little else not to like about this remarkable sports car.

The latest Cabriolet is compact, athletic and bulging in all the right places. It comes 50 years after the original 911 gave the motoring world a firm trunk to the derrière.

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Nobody could say the 911 has suffered a weight problem over the course of time – but with the roof down, this Cabriolet definitely has bottom. Nothing offensive, of course; just an eye-catching rump.

You don’t need to follow Formula One, take the racing line through every corner, or know all the 911 model designations (this one’s a 991, the previous model was a 997). No, after just a couple of hours in this car, I guarantee you will be transformed into a motoring god.

The vital statistics stack up, too: 0-60mph in just 4.9 seconds, top speed is 173mph and fuel consumption a creditable 32.5mpg.

The 3.4-liter non-turbo produces 350hp and 205 g/km. And though it seems vulgar to talk about price with a car that will give you a better day-to-day driving experience than a Ferrari, $102,930 is the start of the bottom line.

If you add on must-have extras such as Park Assist, heated front seats and a Bose audio upgrade, you can easily slip into six figures.

Thankfully, the Carrera 4’s four-wheel drive system means this is a convertible anyone can enjoy without fear of coming unstuck on a mud-splattered road.

Unless you try very hard indeed, I guarantee your nerve will go long before the car loses traction. Just three tanks of unleaded into my week with the 911 and I was certain I’d been driving the Porsche for years.

My wrist flicking through the seven-speed gearbox with abandon, I found the perfect driving position and the three-stage heated seat showed Porsche taking as much care of my rear end as their own.

To reduce road noise, the four-section hood has magnesium panels sandwiched between the canvasses. And then there’s the automatic wind deflector.

It pops up when the roof is down, so you don’t have to haul one out of the trunk and then fight to unfold it yourself, like a wayward deck chair.

If you subject yourself to the horrors of urban driving on a regular basis, my one and only suggestion would be to opt for the seven-speed PDK automatic.

The manual clutch is notoriously heavy and you need the constitution of a Polish shot-putter to operate it during a lengthy daily commute.

Supercars like this are generally not designed to be everyday machines, but the 911 is a revelation.

You can trundle along in seventh gear in slow-moving traffic; use Launch Control to be a hooligan at traffic lights; and afterwards, older readers could even pack two squealing grandchildren in the back seats.

What’s more, with the rear-mounted engine, there’s still enough room in the front luggage compartment for a spontaneous weekend away.

Better give the kids back first, though.

Tailgate: the Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe press pic 620x349

The Mazda MX-5 Miata

If you don’t have $102,930 plus burning a hole in your pocket, the iconic MX-5 Miata is still the convertible to beat. And with the safety and security benefits of an electric folding hard-top, the Roadster Coupe also trumps the 911 Cabriolet in those categories.

At prices from $23,970, the current version offers all the style and performance most people will ever need, wrapped up in a stylish body that has Mazda reliability stamped all over it.

Opt for the 158bhp, 2.0-liter engine model, and the six-speed gearbox is a delight. The ergonomics in the cockpit are first class, with low-slung seats and a straightforward dashboard showing more expensive sports cars just how it should be done.

There’s a lumpy six-speed automatic option but this is a two-seater that loves to be worked through the gears. It will reward you with top-down glorious fun on sunny days.

Unlike the 911, the MX-5 doesn’t boast a wind deflector, so bring a warm hat (though the high-backed sports seats do help to prevent neck drafts).

The heater is better than some hairdryers, while heated seats are standard on top-of-the-range versions.

It may not have the logo on the hood but you’d be foolish to dismiss the two-seat Mazda as a poor man’s Porsche.

It really is open-top, no-thrills motoring at its very best.