Porsche 911 Cabriolet 2003 Review
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- Porsche 911 2003
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For most of the year, seat heaters are pretty much a waste of time in Australia.
But there are some days when they're essential. And not just on a snow road.
Driving a Porsche 911 Cabrio last week was one of those occasions.
The sun was up but the temperature was down, so it was the seat heaters which made the difference between a top-down fun run and another day peeking out of a quick coupe into a chilly breeze.
They warmed our backs, took the edge off the winter chill, and ensured the 911 Cabriolet made it on to the list of memorable events of 2003.
Any time you get a blast in a 911 is a good day, because nobody makes sharper-edged sports cars than the famed and famous German brand, but the top-down Cabrio is something special.
The test was also ideal as a celebration of the 911's 40th birthday this year.
There have been massive changes since the car hit the road in 1963, but the name and shape are classically still the same.
And so is the sports car appeal that puts the 911 at the top of many people's lotto wish list. The Carrera Cabriolet sits as best of the best for a lot of those same people, because it is a real sports car but also a convertible, as well as a 2+2 that can carry a couple of kids in the mini back seats.
The car got its last update in readiness for the 2002 model year, as part of a change to the 996 series – that's the latest label for the 911 inside Porsche – that brought a new look to the nose and some other relatively minor tweaking, including a freshened dashboard.
Importantly, the Cabriolet got a glass rear window and a "wind blocker" to cut turbulence in the cabin. The changes also moved the Cabriolet farther from Porsche's baby car, the Boxster, as if a starting price beyond $200,000 wasn't enough of a hurdle.
It was intended to confirm the 911 droptop as the essential open-air sports car.
The Cabriolet has a one-touch electric folding roof, front and side airbags, remote central locking, alloy wheels, automatic air-con, leather seats and a three-spoke sports steering wheel.
On the road
The hardest thing to remember about the Cabriolet is that it's a $200,000-plus car, which means it's only a dream machine for people who fight the commuter traffic snarl every morning.
It can do the same job, and do it just as well in the stop-start grind, but that's not the reason it exists.
It can also win an occasional traffic-light sprint, against almost anything on the road, but the open-air Porsche is at its best on the open road – even with the seat heaters on.
That's when you can squirt between curves, tackle twisties without a worry and just plain delight in the sound and response from a special sports car.
The flat-six has a unique sound, and the latest model howls when it gets towards the redline.
But it will also burble around town and the torque spread means you only have to tickle the throttle to get things going.
Overtaking, regardless of the gear, is quick and easy. And you don't need to go much beyond fourth in Australia, unless you're looking for quieter and calmer touring.
Porsche has made advances in the ride and handling of the 911, which used to scare the wits out of its owners at least once.
The early 911s were victims of wide tail-out slides on bad roads, but the 996 series grips and grips.
The front end will let you know if you're going a bit too briskly, but usually the car just follows the steering wheel.
The brakes are fantastic. And the ride is good, too, with just the right mix of sports-car firm and compliance for bumpy Aussie conditions.
The body is as taut as any convertible we've driven.
The Cabrio isn't the quietest car, which is down to the engine, huge tyres and the soft top.
It's not something you worry about in a convertible cruise, but it can be noisy in traffic.
The back seats are only for little people – or close friends on a short hop – and there isn't much boot space. Not to worry.
The roof works quickly and easily, there isn't much wind noise or buffeting – even at 110km/h – and the car is built to Porsche quality standards. That means everything works well.
It's just what you expect of this type of car.
The 911 Cabriolet does a great job and gets higher marks than its open-air rivals from Maserati, Jaguar or Ferrari.
Range and Specs
|Carrera||3.6L, PULP, 5 SP||$32,000 – 41,910||2003 Porsche 911 2003 Carrera Pricing and Specs|
|Carrera 4S Cabriolet||3.6L, PULP, 5 SP||$40,200 – 51,370||2003 Porsche 911 2003 Carrera 4S Cabriolet Pricing and Specs|
|Turbo||3.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$58,700 – 74,250||2003 Porsche 911 2003 Turbo Pricing and Specs|
|Carrera||3.6L, PULP, 5 SP||$29,600 – 38,720||2003 Porsche 911 2003 Carrera Pricing and Specs|