by: Mike Ginsca
The options list is something that every car buyer will have to go through before purchasing any vehicle. But how different can a car get when you start ticking off the options list? Well in the case of these two Porsches, very different. Read on…
Performance – Both of these 911s are 997 generation with all wheel drive and a 3.8L flat-6 engine producing 350hp. That is where the similarities end. The cabriolet has a traditional 6-speed manual transmission that is an absolute joy to use. The clutch is light and has a distinctive biting point while the shifter is easy enough to shift with just one finger. The coupe has Porsche’s PDK 7-speed gearbox which is not as much fun as a manual for driving enthusiast but around a race track in sport+ mode, it probably would be faster. The only peeve that I have with the PDK transmission is that in normal mode, in order to save fuel, it upshifts way too early and doesn’t let the engine rev up. It makes the engine feel as though it wants to stall. The sophisticated all wheel drive system that both of these cars use sends the engine’s power primarily to the back wheels so for the most part the cars feel like just regular 911 Carrera S models. At slow speed corners however (such as hairpins), the awd system pulls the cars out with no fuss and there’s no need to worry about the tail end stepping out of line.
When driving enthusiastically from corner to corner, the steering feel and response is perfect. It almost feels as though there is no power assist in the steering when travelling at speeds upward of 60km/h. But of course it’s always there and in tight city streets it’s not the lightest of steering wheels but it won’t tire your arms out. On roads other than smooth race tracks, you definitely want to keep the PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) on normal mode because leaving it in Sport mode will rattle your brains out.
Comfort – Like the performance, the only similarity that these two cars have on the inside is the dash, everything else is completely different. The cabriolet has… well, a convertible top with a trillion miles of headroom. Having said that, the coupe actually has a large amount of headroom as well even for a 6’5” person like myself. The seats are the other day and night difference between these two Porsches. The cabriolet has more traditional seats with soft black leather and nearly infinite power adjustability. The coupe however has 1-piece, unadjustable, carbon fibre seats which are as bad at being comfortable as they are good at holding you in tight around corners. Room in the back seats for extra passengers is on the tight side but taking your lady friend for a weekend trip with luggage is no problem because both these cars have a decent amount of trunk space… under the hood.
Odds and Ends – The cabriolet with the manual gearbox has a feature that prevents the car from rolling backwards on a hill by holding the brakes until you feed the clutch in. I like this feature a lot and just wish that more manufacturers would implement it on their vehicles that have manual transmissions. In the looks department, this generation C4S has adopted the reflective tail lens that joins the two tail lamps and paying homage to the early 1970’s Porsche 911s. Other than that and a few tweaks to the headlights, you really can’t tell it apart from the old 996 generation 911.
These two cars started out as being identical twins from the factory but once options started to get ticked off on the options list, they became two completely different machines. The coupe is the weapon of choice for blasting around a racetrack. The cabriolet is maybe not as fast around a track but it is perfect everywhere else for the other 364 days of the year.
Special thanks to Autoform Performance Inc. for supplying these cars.
Porsche 911 (997) Carrera 4S Coupe
Porsche 911 (997) Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.