A 911 for all seasons

I spent the weekend in an automatic Porsche 911 Cabriolet - and I'm alarmingly close to being convinced.

Porsche C4SOf course, I didn't put the roof down once. With the weather alternating between horizontal rain and straight-from-Siberia blizzards, stowing the canvas would have been an exercise in extreme masochism.

But despite its combination of a folding roof and an automatic gearbox, in the form of the new PDK twin-clutch transmission, the Carrera 4S Cabriolet managed to call some of my long-held 911 preconceptions into serious question.

Like many of the ass-engined slotcar's biggest fans, I've always treated ragtop 911s with the same sort of scepticism I reserve for wooden-decked speedboats and other examples of machines that put show over go.

Yet, despite being sampled at the height of winter, I have to admit that the cabriolet pretty much won me over. Choosing the folding roof over the more manly coupe bodyshell doesn't come with a significant cost in terms of refinement or detriment to the driving experience. I stayed snug and warm throughout, and chassis flex was conspicuous by its absence.

Add the prospect of a top-down springtime blast in six months time, and the cabriolet suddenly starts to make a whole new kind of sense.

It was also the first time I'd sampled the PDK transmission. Like everyone else, I was baffled by the strange steering wheel controls, which seem to operate in completely the opposite way you'd expect them to. But treated as an automatic – as the majority of buyers are certain to, most of the time – it delivered a smooth, jerk-free driving experience, with its potential for being manually over-ridden giving it far more blokey kudos than the previous-generation Tiptronic.

Porsche's business model has always been based around perfecting unlikely niches. And by convincing me that an automatic 911 cabriolet was a good idea, the principle has been proved again.



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