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Thu 21 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Losing its head

With a 480bhp flat six the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet promises to be right handful, but Tom Bird is not entirely convinced.

With a 480bhp flat six the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet promises to be right handful, but Tom Bird is not entirely convinced.

Riving at speeds well north of the limit with nothing above your head is one of those experiences to be savoured. You have to put all your faith in the car's aerodynamics to stop it from flipping at any moment.

The only limit to how fast you go is your nerve and how good your eyesight is the CTS responds!

Thankfully, the split rear wing at the back of the 911 Turbo Cabriolet rises gracefully when you breach 120kph - a speed which takes around five seconds to reach from standstill - and keeps you firmly planted into the road.

So how far north of the limit can the rag-top Turbo go? Well, the official top speed is 310kph and it'll charge towards that speed without hesitation.

The only limit to how fast you go is your nerve and how good your eyesight is as you frantically try and scan the road ahead on the look out for other traffic, humped wildlife, or - and I'm speaking from experience here - a tight left hand corner that's masked by a road mirage.

Thankfully, the brakes are mighty six-pots at the front which bite into chunky 350mm drilled and vented discs and are capable of shedding copious amounts of speed in no time at all. Not that you need to lose too much for corners though, the four-wheel drive system gives the Turbo spectacular amounts of grip.

It's beautifully balanced through even the fastest of curves, and you really have to manhandle it to get anywhere near to breaking traction. It just digs in and throws you out the other side. The steering could do with a bit more feel - it's especially wooden around the dead centre and it's no way near as communicative as something like a rally nutter special Evo.

And whilst the Turbo is more than capable of stratoscopic feats at the top end of the speed scale, it's a little disappointing off the line. The two turbos only really come into play after 3000rpm, so moving off can feel a little pedestrian at first, though once the two turbos spool up things get fast very quickly indeed.

Overtaking slower traffic is helped with the optional Sports Chrono package which gives an extra 44lb ft of torque when the throttle's fully planted for a maximum of 10 seconds.

With the roof down, air deflector in place and the windows up, the cabin is a very calm place to be - too calm really considering the speeds you can all to easily find yourself moving at.

The worst part of the Turbo Cabriolet is the Tiptronic S gearbox. Though it's actually an option, most 911s in the region are fitted with it. And whilst it may be marginally quicker than the manual in the acceleration run, it's just not nice to use. Unlike most other makers of supercars, Porsche doesn't use paddles mounted behind the steering wheel to change gears, instead it uses toggle buttons which you have to press up or down.

Unfortunately they have the tactility of a calculator and are ultimately unsatisfying - especially during ‘on it' driving moments.

Driving the 911 Turbo is more a matter of self restraint than anything else. It will obliterate most other cars on the road - 100kph comes up in just 3.8 seconds. There just isn't a faster convertible for the money - you'd have to stretch towards something like a Pagani Zonda or a Koenigsegg to get your hair ruffled any faster.

That's not to say the 911 Turbo Cabriolet is cheap, far from it, you'll need more than $140K to get one in decent spec. Two thirds of that will get you a well-sorted Carrera 4 Cabriolet which isn't exactly slow and is actually more enjoyable at lower speeds as it isn't riddled by turbo lag.

The Turbo Cabrio is the most showy Porsche around - a car that shouts out your bank balance to other road users as you burble past. If that's not your thing, then look to the GT3 or GT2 for pure unadulterated driving pleasure.

Need to knowPrice:$132,970

Engine:3600cc twin turbo flat 6, 480bhp @ 6000rpm, 457-501lb ft @ 1950rpm

Transmission:Six-speed auto, four-wheel drive

Performance:3.8sec 0-100kph, 310kph, 11.1Litres/100

On sale:Now


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