porsche 911 gts cabriolet review: as fabulous as you’d expect but the standard car makes more sense

Porsche 911 GTS Cabriolet test drive review droptop convertible exterior – Stuart G W Price

The purists have always seen the Porsche 911 Cabriolet as something of an anachronism. Here is a sports car famed for its athleticism, they point out, from which Porsche has shorn a chunk of structural integrity by lopping off its roof.

Then again, the 911 is also famed for its practicality and usability (well, in sports car terms, anyway). Why not extend that all-round set of talents to include al fresco motoring? Indeed, for all that purists love to hate the 911 Cabriolet, there’s no denying its popularity. According to What Car? residual value data, Cabriolets even retain their value better than the equivalent Coupe models, proving that buyers who like 911s love them with a removable roof.

No wonder Porsche has now taken an angle grinder to the 911 GTS. This sharper, more honed version of the 911 is cited by some as the most 911-y of the current 992 crop, leaner and meaner than the Carrera and Carrera S without getting into the supercar power (and price) levels of the Turbo and GT3 models. So does the Cabriolet a good GTS make – and vice versa?

Pros

  • Harder-edged and faster than the standard Cabriolet
  • Still incredibly usable
  • Comes with back seats…

Cons

  • …though they’re rather vestigial
  • Hard to justify the price premium
  • Not particularly well equipped as standard

Hey, big spender

You’ll pay just over £126,000 for the Carrera GTS Cabriolet we’re driving here, which means it commands a £13,000 premium over the Carrera S, and a whopping £25,000 over the standard Carrera, in their respective Cabriolet forms. Mind you, you can spend even more on the GTS if you opt to have it with four-wheel drive, in which case the bill comes in at almost £133,000.

porsche 911 gts cabriolet review: as fabulous as you’d expect but the standard car makes more sense

Porsche 911 GTS Cabriolet test drive review convertible droptop exterior – Stuart G W Price

For that, you get the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six powerplant as the standard car, but with a 30 per cent power boost over the Carrera S and 10 per cent more torque. You also get the wider body and track from the four-wheel-drive 911s and bigger brakes – the discs taken from the Turbo, to be precise.

The desirable Sport Chrono package, which gives you switchable driving modes and a tyre temperature readout, also comes as standard and, of course, there’s a more aggressive bodykit and sports seats. What you don’t get is the sports suspension that comes with the GTS Coupe, which is lowered by 20mm. Instead, both Cabriolet and Targa GTS models get the standard adaptive suspension from the Carrera S, which only has a 10mm drop over the ‘basic’ Carrera.

Does that really matter? Well, to answer that question, first we have to ask what Cabriolet buyers are looking for from their 911s. For certain, they aren’t looking for the last degree of precision and dynamic ability from their cars; they wouldn’t be opting for the Cabriolet if they were.

But they do still want to feel like they’re driving a Porsche, otherwise they could quite easily go off and buy one of the 911 Cabriolet’s rivals – the Lexus LC500 Convertible or Mercedes-Benz SL, for example.

You might therefore argue that the GTS Cabriolet is actually better suited to its brief than it would be if it retained the Coupe’s sports suspension, because it’s just a touch more supple – just a touch more at home as a boulevard cruiser than it would be with a roof. This is still a relatively firm-riding car, mind you; if comfort is a priority, you might be better served with the Lexus or the Merc.

Size matters

Of course, the payoff comes in the corners, where the GTS is reliably brilliant. Where front-engined GT cars feel as though they’re biting chunks out of the corner, all meaty steering and muscular grip, 911s feel lighter and more deft. The GTS feels even more so than the standard Cabrio, its nose darting neatly in toward the apex, matching precisely the angle you’ve chosen through the wheel as though you are thinking it into the bend.

porsche 911 gts cabriolet review: as fabulous as you’d expect but the standard car makes more sense

Because there’s so little weight over the wheels the steering feels immediately responsive, light and sharp, and as you squeeze on the power there’s little sense – perhaps just a touch, but no more – of the weight of the engine swinging around behind you. Instead, you simply get fuss-free traction that makes the 911 flit round onto the next straight in a way you aren’t quite expecting given its new-found breadth. Here, you can bring to bear the brawn of that wonderful engine, and this is surely one of the GTS’s greatest qualities; with more than enough power to feel truly quick, whether you’re nailing the throttle in a high gear and letting the torque do the work, or dropping a cog or two to seek out the upper echelons of the rev range.

Mind you, the 911 feels like a big car these days, especially in convertible form where the extra weight of the strengthening (required to replace the stiffness of the roof) means that you get just a little extra waft-and-crumple over crests, and just a touch more hesitance from the nose as you turn into a sharp corner hard.

And that wider body does nothing to diminish this sense; in theory, the extra track width should make the GTS feel more planted than the standard car on the road, but the truth is the Carrera S and even the Carrera offer such prodigious tenacity and body control that you’ll only really notice the difference if you’re at the ragged edge of adhesion. Which, in a car with this sort of ability, you really shouldn’t be trying to find on a public road, and you probably won’t be doing so on the track, either, because – yes, that’s right – you bought the Cabriolet.

Sibling rivalry

Indeed, the more time you spend with the GTS in Cabriolet form, the more you get the nagging sense that you might as well have saved your money and bought a Carrera S or Carrera instead.

porsche 911 gts cabriolet review: as fabulous as you’d expect but the standard car makes more sense

Porsche 911 GTS Cabriolet review test drive exterior steering convertible droptop

It’s not to say that there isn’t a difference between the GTS and the Carrera S – there is. Most notable of all is the extra grunt, although with 444bhp on tap to the GTS’s 473, and a 0-62mph time of just 0.3 seconds slower, you could hardly call the latter a slow car. Inside, the two cars are very similar, too. Away from the tweaks to the oily bits, you don’t really get any more toys with the GTS – indeed, just like the Carrera S, it feels a little spartan inside.

Granted, you get dual-zone climate control and heated seats, but you’ll need to pay extra if you want such fripperies as adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel, or even electrically folding door mirrors. A bit hard to stomach when you consider that all of these comforts come as standard on plenty of family cars that cost a fraction of the 911’s price.

Predictably, the back seats are so small as to be nearly unusable. I tried to strap a child seat in and was left with no room for my daughter’s legs unless the passenger seat was wound all the way forward. Mind you, this is true of any 911 Cabriolet, and when the 911 had the four-seat sports convertible market to itself that was defensible. However, the advent of the new 2022 Mercedes SL, which will also have four seats, means this can no longer claim to be the most practical car of this type. The Lexus LC also offers more room in the back.

Further forward, though, the 911’s interior remains a masterpiece, with physical climate controls nestled into the crook of the centre console so that they fall at your fingertips when you’re resting your arm on the arm rest, and two columns of physical buttons down each side of the shifter that help you control the way the car reacts, and to open and close the snug, thick fabric hood, which takes around 12 seconds.

porsche 911 gts cabriolet review: as fabulous as you’d expect but the standard car makes more sense

Porsche 911 GTS Cabriolet interior test drive review droptop convertible – Stuart G W Price

Ahead of you, the gauge cluster is dominated by the large central rev counter, finished in pale grey in our test car – a £245 extra. The rest of the instruments (and the rev counter, if you don’t choose the option) are the traditional white-on-black, with speed a constant digital readout below the rev counter as well as an analogue gauge to its left.

Then there’s a customisable screen that offers up your choice of G-force readout, tyre temperatures and pressures, sat-nav display, trip counter, and other bits of vehicle information. It’s all as beautifully presented – and as beautifully made – as you’d expect from a 911. Any 911, that is. Including the Carrera and Carrera S.

The Telegraph verdict

And that, really, is where the difficulty lies with the GTS. It is, be in no doubt, an extraordinarily capable car, one endowed with a more driver-focused personality than the standard car and all the better for it.

But is its extra edge really worth the premium you pay – especially when you remember that you don’t quite get as much for your money as you do with the Coupe? Indeed, is extra edge what you really want in a convertible, anyway?

The real issue with the GTS is that the Carrera S is 99 per cent of the car, 99 per cent of the time – for 90 per cent of the price. And if all you want is the look and feel of a 911 Cabriolet, the Carrera is 90 per cent of the car for 80 per cent of the price.

If it really is the most driver-focused, two-wheel-drive 911 Cabriolet that you’re after, buy the GTS. You certainly won’t be disappointed. But if I were you, I’d save my money and look a rung down on the Cabriolet ladder. Unless you’re a purist – and as we’ve already discussed, if you are, you probably won’t be after a Cabriolet anyway – you probably won’t notice or mind the difference.

The facts

On test: Porsche 911 GTS Cabriolet PDK

Body style: Two-door convertible (also available as a two-door coupe)

On sale: now

How much? £126,870 on the road (Cabriolet range from £101,870)

How fast? 192mph, 0-62mph in 3.6sec

How economical? 26.9mpg (WLTP Combined)

Engine and gearbox: 2,981cc twin-turbo six-cylinder petrol engine, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive

Electric powertrain: N/A

Electric range: N/A

Maximum power/torque: 473bhp/420lb ft

CO2 emissions: 239g/km (WLTP Combined)

VED: £2,015 first year, £520 next five years, then £165

Warranty: 3 years / unlimited miles

Spare wheel as standard: No (not available)

The rivals

Lexus LC500 Sport Pack Plus Convertible

457bhp, 24.1mpg, £108,395 on the road

porsche 911 gts cabriolet review: as fabulous as you’d expect but the standard car makes more sense

Lexus LC500 Sport Pack Plus Convertible

On paper, the LC500 offers significantly better value than the 911 – similar power, similar fuel economy, more space, yet a much lower price. Of course, the LC500 is set up more as a big, luxurious grand tourer than a sports car, so don’t expect it to handle as well. But it can still be surprisingly deft – and it’s undoubtedly more comfortable.

Mercedes-AMG SL55 Premium Plus 4Matic

469bhp, 21.4mpg, £147,475 on the road

porsche 911 gts cabriolet review: as fabulous as you’d expect but the standard car makes more sense

Mercedes-AMG SL55 Premium Plus 4Matic – Mercedes-Benz AG

You pay an awful lot more for this version of the new SL, but you also get an awful lot more for your money – more equipment, more space, and four-wheel drive (though there is also a four-wheel-drive GTS for less cash). We’ve not driven it yet so can’t say what it’s like by comparison – but we’ll bring you a full review just as soon as we have.

Audi R8 Spyder Performance RWD

562bhp, 20.9mpg, £143,495 on the road

porsche 911 gts cabriolet review: as fabulous as you’d expect but the standard car makes more sense

Audi R8 Spyder Performance RWD

You lose the 911’s vestigial rear seats in the R8 – is that such a bad thing though, given their uselessness? What you gain here, however, is a fabulous, rollicking V10 – probably the last of its kind – with a stonking power output and a wonderful, rear-biased four-wheel-drive chassis that, while not ultimately as involving or as balanced as the Porsche’s, is still an awful lot of fun.

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