Many car brands have a storied past. But fewer have models that carry as much history as the Porsche 911. Giving credence to the saying that "a rolling stone gathers no moss," the 911 continues getting better and better to further burnish its reputation.
One of our all-time favorites, it is the immediate go-to vehicle should our Powerball boat ever come in. In the meantime, join us as we polish off our imaginary American Express Black Card in pursuit of vehicular perfection in a 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet.
Fifty-years young, the 911 has already gone through six model changes while utilizing only three platforms since its introduction as the 1963 Porsche 901. Subsequent years have brought along subtle but notable changes, resulting in the latest 991 platform Carrera 4S Cabriolet.
Since this is the 50th anniversary of the 911, Porsche will be holding a variety of official happenings around the world to coincide with the birthday, including free admission to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart for 911 owners who remember to bring their vehicle registrations. Lucky you.
What is it?
A two-seater with a pair of contortionistic rear seats, the 4S Cabriolet is the topless version of Porsche's venerable 911 sports car, this time with all-wheel-drive. A topless German hot rod doesn't always jibe with the weather, so we were thankful for a power ragtop roof that can deploy while the car is still in motion up to 31 mph.
Speaking of power, our tester was motivated by Porsche's 3.8-liter direct-injection six-cylinder engine that produces 400 horsepower at 7,400 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque at 5,600 rpm. It is a naturally-aspirated boxer-style engine that is the latest version of water-cooled models. For those who believe in more never being enough, Porsche offers an optional Carrera S power kit that boosts the underhood (undertrunk?) genies to 430 horsepower. And for those really suffering from a bad case of one-upsmanship, there is always the Turbo Carrera or the GT3.
Our tester came with Porsche's seven-speed automated-manual PDK transmission. Added to that kit is Porsche Torque Vectoring for inside-turn braking as it cuts a corner. Also equipped with a Sport button, it remaps the throttle, stiffens the springs and quickens the shifting response for an even more exhilarating kick in the pants. Launch Control, which comes as part of the Sport Chrono package, decreases the naught to 60 sprint time by 0.2 seconds.
Porsche's Active Suspension Management also made it onto the list of available options included on our example. In addition to the constant monitoring of the suspension kit, it also causes our 911 to ride almost an inch lower than a standard model.
The all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S Cabriolet is further equipped with Porsche Traction Management, which moves the torque from rear to front in a matter of milliseconds. It knows to decouple when it senses the '4S is coasting in an effort to squeeze every last inch of mileage out of a drop of petrol. An eco stop/start switch is now part of the mix, but it's disabled when the sport buttons are selected.
The Carrera 4S can be as digital or as analog as its owner desires. While our tester was loaded with alphabetical acronyms, our favorite aspect was how a push of the Sport button increases accelerator pedal responsiveness, but better yet, activates the Sound Symposer and its band of demons.
What's it up against?
As a two-seater, the 911 Carrera 4S competes head-on with the Audi R8, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Chevrolet Corvette and the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class.
How does it look?
At first glance, our Carrera 4S appears to be a continuation of the previous 997 series that was discontinued in 2011. But under closer examination, the new, internally-coded 991 is lower, longer and seemingly sleeker than the model it replaced. Its bodywork is also nearly 2 inches wider than the regularly configured 911 to accommodate wider tires and wheels.
Carrera 4S bodywork includes new front and rear fascias with redesigned splitters and side skirts.
A new lightbar spans the rear decklid and offers a sense of connection between the two LED-equipped taillights. Above it sits a combination ventilated rear deck and spoiler, which automatically deploys when the car reaches speeds in excess of 70 mph. An engine cover raises just a smidge so fluids can be added as needed.
To keep things quiet when the urge to doff your top is overwhelming, an automatic windscreen can be activated to keep things in the cockpit down to a mild roar.
And on the inside?
The traditionally button-heavy Porsche layout is here again, requiring some acclimation. But the same can't be said about the seats. Hop into our tester, and you will find them fitting like a glove and, with a flick of a switch, keeping you cool through forced-air ventilation.
The left side ignition switch returns, this time with a permanently installed dummy key since the body-colored ($350) proximity fob would normally be residing inside your pocket. With the key in that position, you can pretend to be Steve McQueen flicking the switch of his Porsche 917 Le Mans race car. Or not.
Aluminum paddle shift levers are the only extravagance found on the steering wheel. The lack of redundant controls emphasize the performance characteristics even further, as all other switches, from radio to climate control functions, remain on the dashboard. The center console is also home to the one-touch control to open or close the canvas convertible roof.
A mid-level Bose audio system helps to muffle the sound of the 400-horses under the rear hood. That's if you desire them to be muffled.
Overall, the cockpit offers everything an enthusiast driver could possibly ask for. Oh, and did we mention it had buttons?
But does it go?
A stellar road warrior, the Carrera 4S cabriolet is gifted with blistering acceleration from the flat six engine that effortlessly propels this nearly 3,400 lbs. topless wonder. The Cabriolet is a loud car but one you can still have a normal conversation in.
The PDK transmission lets you to tear around slower traffic by exercising the monstrous flat-six cylinder engine (monstrous in a an absolutely great way) and manages to produce like nobody's business, because it has the ability to make torque for days on end.
The steering is about the best electrically power-assisted unit we have ever tested, offering every bit of road feel that was found in the last-gen's hydraulic system. There is no mistaking its provenance one bit. Fearful calls of selling out from Porsche faithful are without merit.
The Carrera 4S offered us a very flat and stable experience behind the wheel, thanks to the PASM system that measured road conditions and adjusted accordingly. With the flick of a switch we went from a firm sport-touring ride to a package that would feel right at home during the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Paddle shifters offered additional engagement (spelled: enjoyment) to get us involved with the car once again, even though the double-clutching PDK unit offered rapid shifting through its preloading functions.
With the PDK kit, our Cab went from zero to sixty in 3.9-seconds, topping out at 182 mph.
Speaking of numbers, the EPA says the 911 manages to offer moderately good fuel economy of 19/26 mpg with a combo of 21 mpg. Your mileage may - as ours did - vary.
Leftlane's bottom line:
The thing about the Carrera 4S Cabriolet is that it's all about how it tickles your senses. From the sound of the engine, especially after disengaging the baffle, to the taste of the wind in your face to the kick into the seat, the tingling of the cold air up your back and how you wear the Cab' like a glove all tell you this is one exceptional sports car.
Forget the fact it's drop-dead gorgeous in its own way. This car, as is the case with most Porsches, allows you to be the car through the actions you take. To us, that is the most alluring part.
Of course, Porsche's pricing structure has become a cliché of its own: A frugal shopper could have ordered a base 4S Cabriolet and two Chevrolet Sonics for the nearly $151,000 as-tested price.
2013 Porsche Carrera 4S Cabriolet base price, $117,530. As tested, $150,850.
Includes: Aqua blue metallic paint, $710; Black leather interior, $3,690; Sport exhaust system, $2,950; Porsche PDK transmission, $4,080; PDDC, $3,160; Adaptive Cruise Control, $2,490; Park assist, $270; Sport Chrono, $2,370; Power Steering Plus, $270; Folding mirrors, $490; Sport design steering wheel, $430; Power Sport seats, $2,320; Bose Audio system, $2,420; Black painted wheels, $1,635.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.