Driven: Why the 2020 Porsche Carrera S Cabriolet Is the Ideal Weekend Weapon
Think a convertible 911 is only for poseurs? Think again.
Consider yourself a Porsche enthusiast? Good, because I am, too. And if you're like me, you dedicate a sizeable chunk of bandwidth—5.0 GHz and/or mental—to the specification of an imaginary fleet of Porsches of differing shapes, sizes, and financial weight. If I were to stroll among this lineup of gleaming candy-colored machinery, I expect to find a window sticker on each car wearing an option list replete with manual transmissions, carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon-fiber trim, sport seats, sport suspension, sport radio, sport a/c, sport carpets, and sport gloveboxes. Not on my imaginary list of models is the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet, because most convertibles just aren't for the hardcore.
Sound about right? Hey, welcome to the Club for Helpless Porsche Dorks! Come grab a mug of doppelbock and let's talk about the benefits of picking the Touring package on the 991.2 GT3 or the wheel choices we prefer for the new Cayman GTS 4.0. Eyes forward; don't peek into that Porsche showroom where a traditional, common-breed Porsche customer just picked up his or her 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet without consulting the online configurator, calling the factory, or getting Paint-to-Sample. No, they're about to drive a 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet just like the one I drove around recently for a week.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet: The "Normal" 911
As difficult as it may be to realize, us spec-sheet analyzing, manual-transmission hunting, sport-seat sitting, graphics-deleting, low-option special-order dreamers make up only a fraction of Porsche's customer base. I don't need to remind you how sales of the Macan, Cayenne, and Panamera vastly outnumber the combined amount of Porsche coupes sold each year, likely more than twice over. Distilled further, of those who did buy a 911, you have to wonder how many of them simply walked into a dealership and requested a well-equipped coupe or Cabriolet within a certain price range. Color, wheels, brakes, and exhaust likely were of no consequence, as long as the car didn't clash with the Cayenne Coupe already parked in the driveway.
All of this—sorry for the long lead-in, but it matters—brings us to the aforementioned 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet I romped around in for a week. As far as I can tell, this PDK-equipped silver-over-red drop-top 911 is exactly the type of car typically snapped off your local dealer's lot by someone looking for a fun-ish weekend convertible to putt up and down the California or Florida coastline, or midwestern country roads. It's one of the "other" 911s—a configuration that appeals far more to the casual cruiser than to pedants concerned with the finish on the wheels' Porsche crest.
If you're again nodding in agreement, you're actually missing out, as I came to discover. After a few high-speed jaunts in the California canyons, it's clear that even in a Ft. Lauderdale-friendly configuration, the newest drop-top 911 is an impeccable open-air sports car, regardless of banality or lack of enthusiast expression.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet: Option It Right
This well-spec'd press loaner arrived with the requisite $5,460 Sport Package, which includes the Sport Chrono package, shouty exhaust system, and a sport tune to the now-standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Perhaps, then, my praise would not extend to Carrera S Cabs sans goodies. Other options included the exceptional Carrera Classic wheels, plus Porsche's rear-wheel-steering system that sets the Carrera S a sizeable distance from the base Carrera on the subject of fancy footwork.
Elsewhere, it's the same Carrera S we unanimously crowned a 2020 Automobile All-Star. This means power comes from the 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six, chugging out a meaty 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque through the eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission. A seven-speed manual, is available, but since we've yet to drive the 992 with a stick, we can only speak for the efficacy of the bonkers-quick PDK.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet: Slower? Yeah, Right
Decollating the coupe hardly effects the Carrera S' excellent performance. With the Sport Chrono package, zero-to-60 mph in the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet takes a scant 3.5 seconds, and the manufacturer says the car tops-out at 190 mph if you find a long enough straight. Blame the extra 0.2-second to 60 mph on the extra 110 pounds of additional body and chassis bracing the Cab lugs around compared to the coupe, though neither is particularly a featherweight to begin with; the Carrera S Cab cracks the scales at 3,537 pounds.
Still, regarding the straight-line scamper, it sure doesn't feel like 3.5 seconds—more like somewhere in the low-threes, as per Porsche's longstanding practice of underrating power, acceleration, and top speed. As best I figure, the quote of 3.5 seconds refers to what an average driver could hope to achieve on less-than-great pavement during a heatwave. Sure, sure—all I know is the pressure exerted on my x-axis during a full-throttle blast smudged the chalk line between just right and oh-my-God.
With the top down—achieved in just 12 seconds—your ears can't escape the mechanical gnash and zing happening over the rear axle. The death of natural aspiration in the 991.2-generation Carrera through Carrera GTS jerked many tears from the insufferable and the anorak among the Porsche faithful, but one ramp blast in a roofless 911 proves these 3.0-liters possess a different strain of aural excellence.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet: Roof Off? Time to Sound Off
If you're after pure volume, full throttle is borderline cacophonous. The baseline baritone rip sounds kind of like plunging a chainsaw into a bucket of ball bearings, accented well by a noticeably audible turbo whistle and tremendous intake rush. Framed against a retaining wall or cliff face, the intake pressure was so distinctive, I can only imagine this is what it feels like to drive on the very edge of a tornado.
Get out of the straight and narrow, and Porsche proves you don't have to have a rigid coupe for dynamic excellence. As we've experienced in essentially every permutation of the 911 since the 996, Porsche's flagship sports car is an exercise in effortless, unshakable confidence. Differences between coupe and Cabriolet are subtle enough to necessitate back-to-back drives, but the drop-top undoubtedly loses a smidge of sharpness over the whip-crack Carrera S coupe we drove last year.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet: Input Perfection, Output Pure Fun
When I say "loses a smidge," it really is measured in almoast imperceptible differences. Steering, braking, and throttle inputs are preternaturally well-balanced to the point where it's almost—but not quite—frustratingly perfect. As excellent as hotshot BMWs, Mercedes-AMGs, and Corvettes can be, there's just something intangibly exacting about Porsche input tactility; it makes me want to dump a crate of 911 parts on each automaker's doorstep with "FIGURE IT OUT" scrawled across the box in sharpie.
Nothing new to report on the world-class chassis either, though the new PASM setup for the 992-generation allows the engineers to start with softer damping that ramps up significantly in Sport mode without being unduly harsh during the day-to-day slog. With no roof to channel jolts from the suspension, convertibles usually suffer from disruptive rattles and body shakes more than their coupe counterparts, but the 992 Carrera S Cab rides beautifully over broken pavement and expansion joints without so much as a judder.
When you're done hoovering up squirrels and grapefruit-sized rocks with that intake suction, the Carrera S Cabriolet settles down to a distant whistle in Normal mode, playing every bit the top-down riviera cruiser Porsche designed to be. With the top up, extra wind noise is unavoidable, but thanks to extensive sound deadening and magnesium paneling in the soft roof itself, any extra noise is muffled enough that you don't even think twice about it after a few seconds on the highway.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet: Sunny Superstar
It admittedly took me a bit to figure out what type of enthusiast would gravitate toward the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet, outside of the aforementioned pay-in-cash, pick-it-off-the-lot today superstar, but after some mixed use, I figured it out.
If you're getting a 992 coupe, stick with a well-optioned base Carrera unless you're made of money. I stand by my prior assessment that the Carrera is genuinely all you need for 911 magic, but if you're after some toupee-tousling wind, make the jump to the Carrera S Cabriolet and skip the base Carrera Cab. Now, I haven't driven the base Cab, but I can put the pieces together: With nothing to block you from that 443-hp stunner out back and the chassis upgrades levied on the "S" trim, I reckon the Carrera S Cab packs more thrills than the base coupe, especially for a weekend ride.
So, the next time you spend an afternoon building your fantasy Porsche fleet, maybe let your trackpad finger wander over to the Cabriolet variants. The crop-top profile might not inspire daydreams of an IROC RSR or a 964 Turbo, but the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet—when equipped correctly—is as evocative as you'd ever want a modern non-GT-series 911 to be.
|2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S and 4S Cabriolet Specifications|
|PRICE||$129,250/$147,280 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6/443 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 390 lb-ft @ 2,300 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2+2-passenger, rear-engine, RWD/AWD (4S) convertible|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||177.9-178.4 x 79.7 x 50.7-51.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.5 sec|
|TOP SPEED||190 mph|