Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet — Money can buy happiness

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

In the human experience there’s nothing quite like the first time, for anything. And so it is with launching for the first time the 500-horsepower 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo outfitted with the lightning-fast dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. It’s an experience that it is not soon forgotten. Call it g-force giddiness, akin to hitting the first big drop on a roller coaster.

The only driving skill required is to hold on to the wheel, keep your right foot planted to the floor, and keep your wits about you. No need to worry about modulating the clutch and gas to keep the vehicle in line while avoiding tire burnout. No need to be skilled at shifting from first to second at red line. Launch mode in the Porsche is initiated simply by putting the shifter into Drive. Wheel spin is nearly imperceptible at full-bore launch.

There’s a split second as the twin turbo spools up and then you are slammed back into your seat. All four wheels bite into the concrete, the transmission snaps off ultra-fast shifts and 60 miles per hour arrives in around three seconds as you try to control your breathing. If you have a lot of empty asphalt in front of you, a quarter mile flashes past in around 11 seconds as speed nears 130 mph.

Even though the experience is not quite as sensational the second and third time around, the perceived need for speed in this Porsche is highly addictive; this in a sports car that is not only street legal but could very adequately serve as a daily driver. It will putter all day at 45 mph without complaint. It if asked it will drive all day at 100 mph without a whimper.

This automotive marvel comes courtesy of a rear-mounted twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter flat 6 that cranks out 500 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque, mated to the incredible Porsche dual-clutch gearbox and with standard all-wheel drive.

This Porsche has more than world-class straight-ahead performance. It has world-class driving dynamics as well. We found that the 911 turbo quickly trumped our eagerness to discover our limits behind the wheel when we reached speeds we’ve never before attempted on a couple of our favorite twisting road venues. And these are roads we have been using for nearly 20 years. The Porsche displayed its incredible prowess without the need to fully test the outer edges of our abilities in an expensive machine that we desired to return to its owner without crumpled fenders.

One of the most amazing aspects of the 911 was revealed to us simply sitting in the driveway. The interior is spacious for a sports car, ample room for a big guy. Supportive bucket seats with side bolsters that don’t cause pain on exiting are exemplary. Finding the correct driving position with the many seat settings together with a tilt, telescoping steering wheel is rewardingly easy.

And cargo capacity was amazingly large using the rear seats, which are amazingly small for a human being. Fold the seatbacks down and a nice-sized storage space opens up. Good thing, too, because the front-mounted trunk is no larger than an oversized glovebox.

You will pay thousands more for the soft top cabriolet, but if you’ve got the cash, it’s worth it. The top goes down – and up – in   mere seconds with the push of a button. It’s stowed out of sight behind the seats.

The turbo version is the most expensive of the many 911 trim levels, and the turbo cabriolet trumps them all with a base price of $144,750. The steel top 911 turbo starts at $133,750. We emphasize “start” because the options list is 162 items long and many are sure to tempt. The extensive list points out the customization possibilities Porsche offers the buyer.

For the record, the base 911 begins at $78,750 and comes with a 3.6-liter “boxer” six producing 345 horsepower. Horsepower through the trim levels rises to 385, 435 and 450 before reaching the massive 500 horsepower provided by the turbo.

Our test car came in at an eye-popping pocketbook-draining $172,905. Among the more expensive goodies were the “Doppelkupplung” (Porsche speak for the dual-clutch-automatic transmission), $4,550; ceramic composite brakes, $8,840; and 19-inch Spyder wheels with center lock, $3,835.

In addition to a vast assortment of standard features including full leather trim, a 13-speaker Bose surround system, full power heated and cooled seats and automatic wipers, the turbo model also gets as standard aggressively tuned sport suspension and unique body styling. We were impressed with the build quality and the impeccably assembled interior.

The best all-around sports car we’ve ever driven? The answer is an emphatic Porsche 911 Turbo. No doubt, we’ll probably encounter something just a bit better at some point in the future. But for now, the combination of incredible drivability at any speed is unmatched in our experience.

This Porsche not only provides an exhilarating breath-taking experience, but it offers luxury commensurate with its price, and a rewarding driving experience whether commuting to work, taking a leisurely Sunday afternoon spin with the top down or rolling across uncharted roads at 110.

The 911 turbo proves money can buy motorized happiness.

Base price: $144,750; as driven, $172,905
Engine: 3.8-liter, horizontally opposed turbocharged 6
Horsepower: 500 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 480 foot-pounds @ 1,950 rpm
Drive: four-wheel
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 92.5 inches
Length: 176.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,627 pounds
Turning circle: 35.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 4.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.7 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 24 m[g highway, 16 mpg city
0-60: 2.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Corvette ZR1, Audi R8, Nissan GT-R

The Good:
• Breath-taking acceleration
• Surprisingly fuel efficient
• Spacious, luxurious cockpit
• Beautiful styling

The Bad
• More convertible noise than expected
• A back seat made for small pets

The Ugly
• Very unaffordable except for the super wealthy